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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.

What’s Coming Down the Hill? An Update on Congress in 2016

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Over the last several months, Capitol Connector has written over 50 stories about mental health and substance use legislation in the 114th Congress. From bill introductions to committee hearings to votes, every major development has been shared with our readers. And in two weeks, when President Obama submits to Congress the final budget recommendations of his administration, mental health and addictions will again take center stage. So where do all of these bills stand? What should be expected from Congress in the run up to Election Day 2016?

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House Subcommittee Approves Amended Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Lawmakers on a key health subcommittee yesterday approved amendments to Representative Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, sending the bill on to consideration by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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Senate HELP Committee Holds First Mental Health, Substance Use Hearing of the Year

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Bianca Desai

Policy and Practice Improvement Intern

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing with three top government officials to discuss priorities, challenges, and opportunities facing the mental health and substance use treatment community. This is the first in a series of hearings examining the federal government’s role in supporting and funding behavioral health programming. Key issues raised during the hearing include: the results of the RAISE study, federal efforts surrounding suicide prevention, and the cultivation of the behavioral health workforce.

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Obama Announces Efforts to Combat Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse Epidemic

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Wednesday, President Obama announced his administration’s latest efforts to combat the growing opioid and heroin abuse epidemic. His announcement, made in Charleston, West Virginia, outlined steps to increase patients’ access to lifesaving treatment and expand the training of prescribers of opioids and other controlled substances. Of particular importance, the President’s initiative aims to increase the use and distribution of naloxone as well as double the number of providers prescribing buprenorphine across the country.

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Introduction of Behavioral Health Legislation Continues on Capitol Hill

October 15, 2015 | Addictions | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Adding to a growing number of bills targeting addiction, Members of Congress this month introduced two new pieces of legislation. The Stop the Overuse Problem Already Becoming a Universal Substance Epidemic (STOP ABUSE) Act (H.R. 3719) authorizes multiple grants to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic including grants to support treatment alternative to incarceration programs.

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National Council, Hazelden Betty Ford Host Congressional Briefing on Opioid Epidemic

October 8, 2015 | Addictions | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Tuesday, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy co-sponsored a congressional staff briefing focusing on efforts to address the national opioid crisis through expanded and improved education for doctors and other prescribers. The briefing was hosted by the House and Senate Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse.

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Congress Continues Focus on Substance Use and Mental Health Issues

October 8, 2015 | Addictions | Workforce | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The 114th Congress has introduced dozens of substance use and mental health bills addressing a wide range of issues in behavioral treatment services and funding. This week, two more bills were added to that total. This continued commitment to addressing and enhancing our nation’s behavioral health public safety net is a tremendous sign for consumers, providers, and advocates across the country.

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Senate HELP Committee Moves on Mental Health, Addictions Legislation

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee turned its attention to mental health and addictions legislation this week, voting on and approving two bills and scheduling a hearing for a third later this month. These efforts are an encouraging sign of the progress being made on Capitol Hill and bring hope to advocates on what can be accomplished during the 114th Congress.

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HHS Announces Effort to Revise Patient Caps for Buprenorphine Prescribers

September 24, 2015 | Addictions | Workforce | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) held a two-day, 50-state convening of state representatives to identify needed federal policy changes to prevent opioid overdose and abuse. During the course of the discussion, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced the agency’s intention to revise current caps limiting the number of patients that can be seen by buprenorphine prescribers.

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26th Annual Recovery Month Luncheon Commences Recovery Month

September 17, 2015 | Addictions | Comments
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Jessica Friedel

National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Last Thursday, the 26th Annual Recovery Month Luncheon was held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. Hosted by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Young People in Recovery, Transforming Youth Recovery, and the Association of Recovery Schools, the event served as a celebration of past achievements and the growing national momentum for changes to come.

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National Council Releases Details on Addictions Track for Hill Day

September 3, 2015 | Addictions | Hill Day | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

At Hill Day 2015, October 5-6, 2015, you’ll get the inside scoop on policy trends that are reshaping the way addiction providers do business. Join us to hear from federal officials, national policy experts and health plans about their vision for the future of addiction care—and what we need to do to get there.

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Hundreds March on Washington in First Ever Destination Dignity March

August 27, 2015 | Addictions | Justice | Parity | Take Action | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Monday, hundreds gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. calling for dignity, rights and support for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness and addictions. The inaugural Destination Dignity March focused on raising public awareness of these illnesses and the systematic discrimination individuals living with these disorders face in the public health and criminal justice systems. The march was organization by a coalition of mental health and addiction advocacy organizations, including the National Council.

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Bipartisan Mental Health, Substance Use Bill Introduced in Senate

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of nearly 20 Senators re-introduced a mental health and substance use awareness and treatment improvement bill. The legislation reauthorizes important programs in suicide prevention, mental illness awareness and de-escalation trainings, and opioid use disorder treatment services.

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CMS Issues Opportunity for Substance Use Delivery Transformation, Including Limited IMD Coverage

July 27, 2015 | Addictions | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued a State Medicaid Director (SMD) letter outlining new service delivery opportunities for individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD). The letter highlights a new opportunity for states to use Section 1115 waivers to test Medicaid coverage of a full continuum of addiction treatment settings, including settings that would otherwise be prohibited under the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion.

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Comprehensive Criminal Justice, Substance Use Bill Introduced in the House

July 9, 2015 | Addictions | Justice | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Members of the House have introduced comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation that includes provisions specifically relevant to mental health and substance use treatment services. The Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act (H.R. 2944) authorizes the use of medication-assisted treatment, supports problem-solving courts including drug courts and veterans treatment courts, and funds the implementation of performance-based residential reentry centers.

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Efforts to Treat Addictions Disorders Continue to Grow on Capitol Hill

May 28, 2015 | Addictions | Medicaid | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Attention to addiction treatment and recovery continues to grow on Capitol Hill. Last week, members of the Senate introduced three new bills and sent two bipartisan letters to the Obama Administration calling for increased efforts to curb the addiction and opioid epidemic sweeping our nation. These efforts are an encouraging sign of the progress being made on Capitol Hill and bring hope to advocates on what can be accomplished during the 114th Congress.

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Breaking Addiction Act Introduced in House

April 30, 2015 | Addictions | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Legislation to expand Medicaid patients’ access to residential substance use treatment has been introduced in the House by a group of Ohio lawmakers. The Breaking Addiction Act (H.R. 1988) would direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to approve state applications for Medicaid 1115 waivers to cover services in certain residential settings.

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The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Needs Your Help: National Call-in Day

April 30, 2015 | Addictions | Take Action | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, the National Council is uniting with advocates and organizations across the country in support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). CARA is the most expansive bipartisan legislation to date for addiction treatment and recovery support services, and we need your help urging Congress to pass this important bill!

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New Senate Bill Aims to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Last week, Senator Tom Udall (R-NM) reintroduced legislation aimed at combatting prescription drug abuse and misuse. The bill, cosponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN), would increase patients’ access to prevention services and treatment; strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs; strengthen training for medical professionals; and authorize new grant programs to increase patient assessment and referral for potential drug abuse.

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National Council Submits Comments on SAMHSA Block Grant Application

March 12, 2015 | Addictions | Federal Budget | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

This week, the National Council submitted comments to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on its draft FY 2015-2016 Block Grant application. The draft application introduced several important changes from prior years, including a provision that would allow the Substance Abuse and Prevention Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant to be used to cover co-payments for people in substance use treatment.

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