New Bill Expands Access to Telehealth for Mental Illness, Substance Use Disorder
New legislation introduced in Congress this week would expand access to telemedicine for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. The Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act of 2019 (S. 2244/H.R. 4131) would amend regulations for the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 and specifically name community mental health centers and addiction treatment centers as eligible sites to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine.
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House Passes Short-Term CCBHC Extension, Bill Now Heads to White House
On Tuesday, the House approved a short-term extension of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration in Medicaid. The legislation now heads to the White House for President Trump’s review and signature. The bill would extend the program until Friday, September 13, 2019. This extension is yet another legislative victory for the CCBHC program and one on which we will look to build momentum for a long-term extension and expansion in the fall. The National Council thanks Congress and the countless advocates whose work has expanded access to high-quality, community-based treatment through the CCBHC program.
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National Council Supports the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act
The National Council for Mental Wellbeing Board of Directors has determined to support the bipartisan Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act (H.R. 2482), which would expand access to medication-assisted treatment, the “gold standard” of addiction treatment when prescribed in conjunction with regular counseling. The National Council thanks the bill authors Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ted Budd (R-NC), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Mike Turner (R-OH) for their work on this critical issue.
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New Legislation Introduced to Increase MAT Access in Correctional Facilities
More than 50 percent of incarcerated individuals in the U.S. meet criteria for substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD). Last month, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to increase treatment for OUD among incarcerated individuals and address the issue that inmates are 40 times more likely to die from a fatal opioid overdose in the first two weeks following release. The Community Re-Entry through Addiction Treatment to Enhance (CREATE) Opportunities Act (S. 1983) would establish a grant program to provide more medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options while incarcerated and continued access to care upon release.
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Congressional Roundtable Addresses Increasing Threat Within Opioid Epidemic
On Tuesday, the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force held a roundtable discussion on an increasing threat within the opioid epidemic: fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Synthetic opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, causing over 28,000 deaths in 2017. The roundtable meeting focused on expanding the behavioral health workforce, new criminal justice interventions, innovative pharmacological treatments, and recently proposed legislation.
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Medicaid Myths: Debunking Common Misconceptions of the Medicaid Program
Last week, the Partnership for Medicaid, a nonpartisan advocacy coalition including the National Council, hosted a congressional staff briefing to discuss and unravel some of the most common misconceptions about the Medicaid program and its beneficiaries. The briefing focused specifically on individuals who receive health care via Medicaid and its impact on their lives. The diverse panel of speakers provided an overview of how millions of Americans benefit from the Medicaid program and how Medicaid expansion has led to increases in coverage, access to care and improved health outcomes for beneficiaries.
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Bipartisan House Bill Would Support College Students Living with Addiction
The Campus Prevention and Recovery Services for Students Act of 2019 (H.R. 3591), introduced late last month, would help institutions of higher education support students experiencing substance use disorder (SUD). The bill aims to implement evidence-based programs, promote collaboration between schools and state treatment agencies, and encourage integration between primary care, mental health and SUD services in campus-based health centers. The National Council applauds Representatives David Trone (D-MD), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Chris Pappas (D-NH), John Joyce (R-PA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), and Michael Guest (R-MS) for their leadership on this issue.
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New Opioid Crisis Response Bill Introduced in Both Chambers
This week, a group of 95 Democrats in the House and Senate re-introduced a bill that would invest $100 billion in federal funds over ten years to better address the opioid overdose epidemic, which took almost 48,000 American lives in 2017. The Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act (S. 1365/H.R. 2569) includes provisions to strengthen standards for recovery residences, establish new grant programs to help individuals living with addictions find or maintain employment, and incentivize states to cover the full range of addiction services in their Medicaid programs. The National Council thanks the CARE Act’s sponsors for their work to provide desperately needed resources that will expand addiction treatment capacity nationwide.
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White House Releases More Details on National Drug Control Strategy
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the White House responsible for coordinating the nation’s response to drug-related issues such as the opioid overdose epidemic, released its Performance Reporting System last week, which established nine measurable goals and objectives meant to be achieved by 2022. The goals include reducing the number of drug overdose deaths, increasing prescriber education on best practices and clinical guidelines, and expanding access to evidence-based addiction treatment options.
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Legislation Eliminating Buprenorphine Waivers Introduced in House
A bipartisan piece of legislation has been introduced in the House that would remove restrictions on health providers to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication proven effective in treating opioid use disorder. The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (H.R.2482) would eliminate the requirement for medical providers to obtain a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to treat opioid use disorder with buprenorphine or any other Schedule III, IV or V drug. Currently, practitioners must apply for the waiver in order to prescribe buprenorphine specifically to treat addiction, even though they may be able to prescribe the medication for other reasons.
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House Panel Approves FY 20 Health Funding Levels
On Tuesday, the appropriations subcommittee that covers health care programs approved funding levels for federal health spending for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. As expected, the bill largely ignores proposed cuts from President Trump’s budget and assumes that Congress will reach a deal to avoid upcoming budget caps. As currently written, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill would prioritize efforts to address the opioid crisis and increase medical research.
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National Council Comments on Proposed Recovery Housing Guidelines
Last week, the National Council provided official comments to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the agency’s proposed Recovery Housing Guidelines. The guidelines are the result of requirements included in the SUPPORT Act of 2018, a wide-ranging opioid package, for the federal government to identify and disseminate best practices for operating recovery housing. While the guidance is intended to help states increase the availability of quality recovery housing, the National Council raised numerous concerns that the guidance would instead reduce access to recovery housing and undermine existing recovery housing standards and certification programs.
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Lawmakers Reintroduce 42 CFR Part 2 Overhaul
Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced a bill in both the House and the Senate that would amend federal laws related to the sharing of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records. The bills (S. 1012/H.R. 2062) would change 42 CFR Part 2, the section of the federal code related to this issue, to align it with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Identical bills have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress but have subsequently failed to pass due to opposition from privacy advocacy groups and a handful of legislators.
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Congressional Briefing Urges Congress to Empower Addiction Workforce
Addiction workforce advocates presented on the Hill this week as part of a congressional staff briefing exploring opportunities for Congress to better equip front-line providers to prevent and treat opioid and other addictions. The hearing featured testimony from Mary-Catherine Bohan, representing a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) from New Jersey, who shared how the CCBHC model is transforming her clinic’s ability to hire addiction treatment professionals and serve more patients.
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White House ONDCP Releases First National Strategy under Trump
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the White House responsible for coordinating the nation’s response to drug-related issues such as the opioid overdose epidemic, last week released its first National Drug Control Strategy since President Trump took office. The strategy calls on federal agencies to focus their efforts on preventing individuals from initiating use of illicit drugs, providing adequate evidence-based treatment for individuals living with addiction, and reducing the availability of illicit drugs via law enforcement activities.
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HRSA Releases Information About SUD Workforce Program
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently accepting clinician applications for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program. The program offers up to $75,000 in student loan repayment for clinicians who work at least three years providing substance use treatment at an approved site. Applicants that have a DATA-2000 waiver to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder, work in an opioid treatment program or are licensed or certified in substance use interventions, will receive priority. Applications will be accepted on or before February 21, 2019.
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CCBHC Expiration Presents “A Looming Crisis” for Addiction Care
Since launching in mid-2017, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) have dramatically improved access to community-based addiction care in the eight states where they operate, particularly opioid addiction services. CCBHCs have hired hundreds of new addiction-focused clinicians, expanded medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other addiction services, and reduced patient wait times. However, with the CCBHC program set to end in mid-2019, access to lifesaving treatment could be lost. A new National Council report shows that the end of the CCBHC demonstration would result in massive program closures, staff layoffs and reduced addiction treatment access for patients. The National Council is calling on Congress to act quickly to extend the life of this critical program.
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Surgeon General, SAMHSA Release Updated Report on Challenges Fighting Opioid Epidemic
Last week, the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the jointly developed Spotlight on Opioids, aiming to provide an update on opioid use and amplify discussion about substance use disorders (SUD) generally. In a statement announcing the report, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar expressed support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), while the Surgeon General and the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, called out several challenges impacting efforts to curb the crisis, including persistent societal stigma, workforce shortages and a lack of workforce supports.
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SAMHSA Releases National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), providing the nation with a snapshot of the ongoing opioid epidemic and mental health update across the country. The report found that 1 in 12 American adults (18.7 million) had a substance use disorder (SUD) and that 1 in 5 (46.6 million) had a mental illness. More than 8.5 million, though, were found to have both a SUD and mental illness.
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Senate Reaches Opioid Deal, Vote Delayed
Senate leaders have finalized a sweeping legislative package aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, clearing the way for a Senate vote next week. The Senate had hoped to vote on the measure on Thursday, but inclement weather from Hurricane Florence caused the vote to be cancelled. The bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act (S. 2680) comprises more than 70 bills reported out of five Senate committees and touches on many elements of the epidemic. The bill’s provisions support many National Council priorities including expanding access to addiction treatment, strengthening the addiction treatment workforce, improving behavioral health information technology and more.
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