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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.

President Trump Signs Opioid Package into Law

October 25, 2018 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, 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

Shelley Starkey

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

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, 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

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, 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

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, 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

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, 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

Shelley Starkey

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

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, 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

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, 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

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, 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

Shelley Starkey

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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SAMHSA Releases $1 Billion in Opioid Grant Applications

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congress’ investment of $1 billion for opioid addiction services is now available for states to access through a grant application with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). This funding was allocated in the recent omnibus budget agreement and is in addition to the $500 million provided in the Opioid State Targeted Response (Opioid STR) grants for FY 2018. State agencies will have until August 13th to submit an application to SAMHSA detailing how they will use the funds to support current state efforts to combat opioid abuse. While providers cannot apply for the funds directly, they should engage with their state officials to discuss addiction services that could be strengthened in their community.

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National Loan Forgiveness Program Expands to Include SUD Sites

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently accepting provider applications to become a National Health Service Corps (NHSC)-approved site. New this year, the NHSC has added addiction treatment facilities to the list of eligible sites for loan forgiveness, providing an incentive for professionals to seek jobs at these facilities. This move represents a change to the NHSC program that the National Council has been advocating for on behalf of its members. The NHSC provides loan forgiveness to over 10,000 eligible health care professionals across the country in exchange for their service in underserved communities. 

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House Sends More Opioid Bills to the Senate

Shelley Starkey

The House of Representatives this week picked up where it left off in its efforts to advance legislation to address the opioid crisis. The latest House-passed bills will be combined with those that were passed last week to create a comprehensive package for the Senate to consider. Bills that advanced this week include some controversial measures to loosen the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) rule and 42 CFR Part 2, which governs the privacy of substance use treatment records. Other measures that passed related to the expansion of parity protection, and prevention, treatment, and recovery for opioid use disorders.

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House Passes First Wave of Opioid Bills

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the House of Representatives kicked off a two-week focus on legislation to address the nation’s opioid crisis. The House passed dozens of measures this week and is slated to vote on more opioid legislation next week with the hopes of advancing a comprehensive package to the Senate. Bills that advanced this week included efforts to expand: telemedicine prescribing for medication-assisted treatment, student loan forgiveness for addiction treatment professionals, the use of electronic health records by behavioral health providers and recovery housing best practices.

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Senate Judiciary & Finance Advance Opioid Bills

Shelley Starkey

As a part of the Senate’s larger efforts to address the ongoing opioid epidemic, two committees discussed their own legislative solutions this week. The Senate Finance Committee considered and approved the Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act of 2018 on Tuesday, and the Senate Judiciary advanced the Preventing Drug Diversion Act. These bills will join a host of others that are making their way to the Senate floor, although a timeline on their further consideration is currently unclear.

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Senate Committees Moving on Opioid Legislation

Shelley Starkey

Following an action-packed week for opioid-related legislation in the House, multiple Senate committees took up the mantle this week, hosting hearings, releasing new bills and considering legislation ahead of the Memorial Day recess. As bills advance out of committees, the full Senate is expected to consider the large package of opioid legislation later this summer. Meanwhile, similar efforts in the House are expected to make it to the floor in the coming weeks. The collective work of both chambers of Congress seek to address the opioid crisis from a number of fronts including prevention, treatment and recovery.

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House Committee Sends Opioid Package to House Floor

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee reviewed remaining opioid legislation to be included in a large package aimed at addressing the opioid crisis, an effort which began last week in the full Committee. The Committee approved 32 bills, a week after approving another 25 opioid measures, bringing the total up to 57. Bills that advanced this week include provisions to loosen both the Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) rule on residential substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and privacy rules governing SUD treatment records, promote best practices for recovery housing and to ensure mental health and SUD parity in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

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Ways & Means Advances Bipartisan Opioid Proposals

Samantha Sears

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

The House Committee on Ways & Means Wednesday approved seven bipartisan bills aimed at reducing opioid misuse and abuse in Medicare. The package would expand Medicare coverage of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), promote non-opioid alternatives for pain management and require Part D plans to have drug management plans for Medicare beneficiaries at risk of opioid addiction. The bills now move to the House floor, joining dozens of other opioid-related bills approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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House Committee Continues Work on Opioid Package

Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its first of two hearings to consider a large package of legislation aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. The full Committee approved 25 of the 56 bills that had advanced from the Health Subcommittee, and is slated to review the remaining legislation next week with the hopes of advancing a comprehensive package to the House floor by Memorial Day. Bills that advanced this week included efforts to expand: telemedicine prescribing for medication-assisted treatment, student loan forgiveness for addiction treatment professionals and use of electronic health records by behavioral health providers.

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