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Archive: Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

Capitol Connector
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.

New Opioid Crisis Response Bill Introduced in Both Chambers

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Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

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

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Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

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

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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

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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New Report Details How Opioid Crisis Funds Are Being Used

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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) has published the first comprehensive report reviewing the estimated $11 billion allocated by the federal government for 57 different federal programs to address the opioid epidemic in 2017 and 2018. Funding has been used for a wide array of state-based programs, but states have primarily focused on creating treatment networks for opioid use disorder (OUD), financing treatment for at-risk individuals, making naloxone accessible and bolstering the addiction workforce. Unsurprisingly, the report found that Medicaid and Medicaid expansion have been critical in addressing the opioid epidemic. BPC recommends the federal government focus on sustainability, transparency, improved coordination among federal offices, and increased flexibility for states to address their unique needs.

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Congressional Briefing Urges Congress to Empower Addiction Workforce

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

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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CMS’ Medicaid Guidance Describes Non-Opioid Options for Pain Management

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Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

A new informational bulletin from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suggests a range of strategies for states to promote non-opioid chronic pain management options within their Medicaid programs by leveraging waivers, bundled payments, and other mechanisms. The bulletin builds upon previous CMS guidance to highlight successful programs already in place in some states and to describe Medicaid authorities at states’ disposal.

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White House ONDCP Releases First National Strategy under Trump

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Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

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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CMS Releases 2020 Medicare Advantage and Part D Draft Call Letter

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D draft call letter for 2020, which outlines changes to Medicare plan policies and payments each year.

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What to Watch in Health Care in 2019

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

The 116th Congress began on Thursday amid a government funding lapse that has shut down roughly 25 percent of the federal government. Democrats are set to lead the House chamber for the first time since 2010, while Republicans remain in control in the Senate. While legislation may be move less quickly in the new divided Congress, lawmakers will still face a number of “must-pass” bills that include health care priorities. Additionally, the Trump Administration will continue to shape the health care landscape with Medicaid waivers and potential payment reforms. Here is a preview of what’s ahead in health policy in 2019.

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President Trump Signs Opioid Package into Law

October 25, 2018 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, President Trump signed into law a sweeping bipartisan opioid package (H.R. 6) passed by the House and Senate earlier this year. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT Act) promotes many National Council priorities, including expanding access to treatment, strengthening the behavioral health workforce and supporting behavioral health information technology. While the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act is an important step toward curbing the opioid epidemic, a more comprehensive response that invests in the full continuum of addiction services is needed to address the nation’s addiction crisis.

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Opioid Package Expands Telemedicine for Behavioral Health

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Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

New provisions that would expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) via telemedicine were included in the sweeping package of opioid legislation (H.R. 6) that has been passed by Congress and now awaits the President’s signature. The National Council for Behavioral Health applauds Congress for acting on this issue and taking up our recommendations, and remains committed to further expanding access to these evidence-based treatments through telemedicine.

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Latest DEA Guidance Offers Little “New” Information for Community Behavioral Health Providers

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) jointly released guidance on telemedicine and the prescribing of opioids for treatment of opioid use disorder. The National Council has long been advocating for changes to be made to DEA regulations restricting how behavioral health medications that are controlled substances can be prescribed via telemedicine. While the guidance is meant to promote the use of telemedicine during the opioid crisis, it offers little “new” information and instead reiterates what is and is not permitted under current law.

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Congress Reaches Final Opioid Crisis Deal

September 27, 2018 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, House and Senate leaders announced an agreement on legislation to address the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. The bipartisan agreement (H.R. 6) supports many National Council priorities, including expanding access to treatment, strengthening the behavioral health workforce and supporting behavioral health information technology. The package also reveals the fate of controversial measures on the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) rule and the privacy of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records that Congressional lawmakers and staff have worked through over the last several weeks.

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House Passes Huge Health Spending Bill

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan “minibus” package for fiscal year 2019 Defense-Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bills, which include funding for federal mental health and addiction programs. Notably, the bill (H.R. 6157) would increase funding for some mental health and addiction programs as well as provide around $3.8 billion to specifically to address the opioid addiction crisis. The “minibus” also included a stopgap spending measure to fund the rest of the government into early December. With the Senate having passed the bill last week, the bill now heads to President Trump, who has said that he will sign the measure by September 30th to avert a government shutdown.

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Surgeon General, SAMHSA Release Updated Report on Challenges Fighting Opioid Epidemic

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

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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Opioid Legislation Nearing Finish Line Following Passage of Senate Bill

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Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

The Senate passed its version of a sweeping legislative package to address the opioid crisis on Monday in a 99 to 1 vote. The bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act (S. 2680) supports many National Council priorities, including expanding access to treatment, strengthening the behavioral health workforce and supporting behavioral health information technology. The House and Senate will now need to reconcile the differences between the two different versions of legislation to finalize a bill for the President’s signature.

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Senate Passes Massive Health and Defense Spending Bill

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan “minibus” package for fiscal year 2019 Defense-Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bills, which include funding for federal mental health and addiction programs. Notably, the bill (H.R. 6157) would increase funding for some mental health and addiction programs as well as provide around $3.8 billion to specifically to address the opioid addiction crisis. With the House expected to vote on the package next week, Congress hopes to finalize the federal health care budget and avoid a government shutdown before the September 30th spending deadline.

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Senate Reaches Opioid Deal, Vote Delayed

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

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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Senate Passes FY 19 Health Appropriations

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a joint Defense and Labor-HHS appropriations bill that would increase federal health spending in the upcoming fiscal year. Notably, the bill would increase funding for some mental health and addiction programs as well as provide around $3.7 billion to specifically to address the opioid addiction crisis. House and Senate members now face a time crunch to reconcile their appropriations bills before a September 30th funding deadline and potential government shutdown.

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House Passes Final Opioid Package

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Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

After months of work on the topic, the House of Representatives last Friday passed a wide-ranging package of legislation aimed at addressing various facets of the opioid crisis. The bipartisan Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act (H.R. 6) combines 58 individual previously-passed bills that focus on topics ranging from expanding access to opioid addiction treatment to encouraging the adoption of alternative forms of pain management and more. Attention now turns to the Senate as legislators are building their own version of an opioid package, which will need to be reconciled with the House version before being signed into law by the president.

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