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Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Linda Rosenberg Speaks at National Addictions Rally in Philadelphia

July 28, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Tuesday, National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg participated in a series of events on mental health and addictions in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention. A similar event had taken place in Cleveland the week before. In Philadelphia, Ms. Rosenberg participated in rallies and moderated expert panels discussing the present and future policies of mental health and addiction advocates. From expanding the ACA to enforcing parity to funding CARA, the daylong event in Philadelphia highlighted the achievements of the last decade and laid the foundation for continued progress in the future.

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Success of CARA Inspires More Addiction Legislation

July 21, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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Jacquelyn Sommer

National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A day after congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), Senators Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced legislation that would encourage providers to use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The Prescription Drug Monitoring Act would limit state grants directed to combat opioid use to states that require prescribers to use a PDMP.

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CARA Passes the Senate, Now Heads to White House

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Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

With near-unanimous support, the Senate approved the first standalone legislation to address our nation’s opioid and overall addiction crisis on Wednesday night. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) now heads to President Obama for his signature, and we hope that he will sign it quickly. We thank Congress for recognizing the problem and taking action, and we are particularly grateful to CARA’s champions in the House and Senate whose tireless efforts helped bring this bill to passage.

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Opioid Conference Convenes, Makes Progress on Final Bill

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Members of the opioid conference committee continued efforts to finalize the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act this week. During discussions, members from both parties offered and withdrew amendments, making clear the two parties are working closely together to find common ground on a final CARA bill. Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton (R-MI) noted at the conclusion of Wednesday’s meetings that a final version of the bill could be ready for consideration by the end of the week.

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HHS Announces Latest Actions to Address Opioid Abuse

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week announced several new initiatives to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic. These include: raising the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) prescriber cap to 275 patients per practitioner, delaying proposed reporting requirements for providers, and announcing more than a dozen new scientific studies on opioid use and abuse. HHS is also seeking feedback on how to improve and expand government prescriber education and training programs to prevent opioid misuse and overdoses.

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CARA Authors Urge Comprehensive Approach to Compromise

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

In a letter to their colleagues on the opioid conference committee, authors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) urged a holistic approach to negotiations. The letter – signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) – demonstrates the broad, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for achieving results to combat the nation’s opioid abuse crisis. Conference negotiations will resume next week when Congress is back in session.

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Advocates Provide Input, Send Letters to Opioid Conferees

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

As members of the House and Senate begin meeting to hammer out differences in their respective opioid bills, advocates are stepping up to have their voices heard. Over the last few weeks, the National Council has joined a chorus of patient protection and advocacy organizations in sending letters of thanks, guidance and request to members of the opioid conference. These letters are just the latest in a series of advocacy efforts to ensure the passage of a comprehensive, effective and well-funded opioid package.

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National Council Hosts Addictions and Vocation Briefing on Capitol Hill

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Lea Simms

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

On the heels of Hill Day, the National Council, on Tuesday, hosted a congressional staff briefing addressing the importance of offering employment services simultaneous to addiction treatment. The diverse panel represented nonprofit, public, and privately-funded treatment centers giving the packed audience of congressional staffers insight into how funding and recovery services can be replicated in their states. Using case studies and client stories, the speakers highlighted the stability that employment provides and the importance of holistic treatment for reintegration into the community.

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National Council Issues Template Comments on Medication-Assisted Treatment Rule

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

New proposed rules from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) aim to increase access to opioid use disorder treatment while reducing the opportunity for medication diversion. SAMHSA included within the proposed rule specific questions for stakeholders from the field to answer about the potential impact of certain regulatory changes like the prescriber limit for medication assisted treatment, practitioner training, and more.

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What’s next for CARA and other addiction bills?

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the House, in a series of near-unanimous votes, approved a package of bills to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. The move came close on the heels of the Senate’s passage of a related bill—known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act or CARA—in March. Together, these actions set the stage for congressional passage of the first standalone addiction-focused bill in recent memory.

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House Panel Moves on Opioid Legislation

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved a dozen bills related to opioid abuse treatment, prevention and recovery supports. Speaking on the prospects for an opioid bill in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) indicated that while the House will take up several amendments related to opioid legislation, the final product will ultimately resemble the Senate’s measure, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

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Finalized CMS Policy Increases Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

New policies from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will require Medicare Part D formularies to allow access to medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders such as buprenorphine, naloxone and naltrexone. The policy is a response to President Obama’s October call to action, having the federal government identify barriers to treatment for opioid use disorders. CMS said it will continue to review utilization management and formulary tiering to ensure access throughout Medicare Part D.

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White House, HHS Announce Major Actions on Opioid Epidemic

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Tuesday, President Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services announced a series of initiatives to address the nation’s ongoing and growing opioid epidemic, including: expanding the use of medication-assisted treatments like buprenorphine; finalizing regulations related to parity and needle exchange programs; and announcing new grants to combat the use and abuse of opioids.

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CARA: What’s Next?

March 17, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524), also known as CARA. This was the first major success in the long process of turning a bill into a law. It is a tremendous accomplishment and should be celebrated as such by advocates across the country. But the fight is not over yet. There is still much to be done to see this bill through to passage.

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Behavioral Health: It’s Hot on the Hill

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Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing

In Washington, we are in the midst of the most proactive and important public policy shift in over a generation. From the implementation of the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration, to continued funding for Mental Health First Aid, to the Senate’s recent approval of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act – longstanding National Council priorities are beginning to see the attention they so rightfully deserve.

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Addictions Reform Bill Nears Vote on Senate Floor

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A comprehensive addiction reform bill is likely headed for a floor vote in the US Senate – the first standalone addictions bill to receive such a vote in years. This week, the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524) has been the center of attention in the Senate, receiving a number of proposed amendments as the full chamber considers the bill. A long-standing policy priority of the National Council, CARA authorizes much-needed funding in evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery supports to help Americans struggling with addiction to heroin or opioids.

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New Senate Bill Would Expand Bed Limit of Residential SUD Treatment

March 3, 2016 | Addictions | Medicaid | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A new bill in the Senate would modify existing Medicaid payment prohibitions and expand the bed limit for residential treatment facilities serving persons with substance use disorders. Known as the “Institutes of Mental Disease (IMD)” exclusion, this payment exclusion prevents Medicaid from providing federal matching funds for services provided in residential substance use settings with more than 16 beds, hindering patients’ access to care. The Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion (CARE) Act – introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Angus King (I-ME) – would increase the bed limit in these settings from 16 to no more than 40, greatly expanding the number of facilities capable of servicing this population. The Medicaid CARE Act would allow facilities to offer treatment services for up to 60 consecutive days.

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Bipartisan Opioid Bill Would Allow Patients to Partially Fill Prescriptions

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral opioid bill would allow patients the right to partially fill opioid prescriptions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 70 percent of adults who misuse prescription opioids get them from friends and relatives. The Reducing Unused Medications Act (S. 2578/H.R. 4599) – introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Steve Stivers (R-OH) – aims to limit the over- prescription of opioids and curb the nation’s growing opioid abuse epidemic.

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Senate Committee Explores Solutions to U.S. Opioid Epidemic

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Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

On Tuesday, the influential Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to examine addiction to opioids, continuing a string of notable legislative action aimed at finding solutions to the opioid epidemic in America. The hearing was convened to connect opioid abuse to mental health reform and explore changes that could be made to federal policies regarding opioid abuse.

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HHS, SAMHSA Propose Modernization of Substance Use Records Rule

February 11, 2016 | Addictions | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released proposed regulatory changes to the confidentiality of patients’ substance abuse disorder records, also known as 42 CFR Part 2. The proposed regulations aim to modernize and better facilitate health information sharing within new health care models while maintaining the privacy of patients being treated for substance use and abuse. The National Council is currently reviewing the 144-page proposed regulation and consulting legal experts to identify the potential implications of these suggested changes.

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