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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.

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 Pellitt

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 Pellitt

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 Pellitt

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 Pellitt

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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House Health Committee Convenes Hearing on 42 CFR Part 2

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee convened a hearing on 42 CFR Part 2 – regulations pertaining to the disclosure and sharing of a patient’s substance use treatment records. The bill in question, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 3545) intends to amend federal regulation related to substance use health records, aligning it with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, the law that governs privacy standards for other health care records. The Subcommittee is expected to vote on this legislation in the near future.

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Briefing Showcases Mental Health First Aid and Opioid Epidemic

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Tuesday, May 8th, the National Council for Behavioral Health hosted briefings on Capitol Hill to highlight the importance of Mental Health First Aid training in helping communities respond to opioid overdoses and other substance use and mental health crises. The briefing introduced Congressional staff to Mental Health First Aid’s opioid overdose education and naloxone training component. The day’s panel included law enforcement, firefighters/paramedics and community educators from across the U.S. who discussed the impact that Mental Health First Aid has had on their communities and departments.

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House Subcommittee Approves 56 Opioid Bills

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved 56 of the 63 opioid bills pending before the Committee in a largely bipartisan fashion. The wide-ranging package of opioid bills includes many National Council priorities such as expanding access to substance abuse treatment through telemedicine, building up the addiction treatment workforce and encouraging quality standards for recovery housing. This week’s Subcommittee vote keeps the full Committee on track to advance legislation to the House floor no later than Memorial Day.

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Opioid Crisis Response Package Moves Forward in Senate

Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously voted to approve the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, a large, bipartisan package of potential solutions to the ongoing crisis. The bill (S. 2680), introduced by Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), would next have to be approved by the full Senate before heading to the House for additional consideration and debate.

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Opioid Legislation Takes Center Stage in House and Senate

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, both chambers of Congress spent time negotiating legislation to combat the opioid crisis. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee held a second hearing on the draft Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. Simultaneously, the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee held its final opioid-focused hearing to review 30-plus bills focused on opioid-related coverage and payment issues in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Committee leaders Chairman Walden (R-OR) and Chairman Alexander (R-TN) appear to want to move quickly, aiming for floor votes by the summer.

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Senate Releases Draft of Opioid Crisis Package

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee leadership released a large package of legislation related to the opioid crisis aimed at strengthening addiction treatment access, developing non-opioid pain medications and creating new programs to curb the crisis. This package, called the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, builds on the series of hearings the Committee has convened since October 2017. It also comes on the heels of opioid response strategies released by the White House and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. Both the House and the Senate aim to markup their respective bipartisan legislative packages before summer.

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HHS Secretary Appoints New Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy

Samantha Sears

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

On March 29th, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced the reassignment of Dr. Brett Giroir to serve as senior opioid advisor at HHS. Dr. Giroir, who previously served as HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, will now oversee the department’s opioid-related policies. Giroir is a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which supports national improvement of behavioral health.

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House Subcommittee Assesses New Opioid Legislation

Shelley Starkey

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held its second in a series of three hearings to discuss legislative solutions to address the ongoing opioid crisis. The hearing, entitled “Combating the Opioid Crisis: Prevention and Public Health Solutions,” took place over two days, covered 25 bills, and consisted of four panels of witnesses including: federal agency heads, individuals in recovery and opioid treatment experts. The hearing demonstrates lawmakers continued interest in taking additional steps this year to address the opioid crisis — beyond the provisions included in the 2018 omnibus spending bill.

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President Trump Announces Opioid Crisis Response Plan

Shelley Starkey

On Monday, President Trump unveiled his plan to put a stop to the opioid epidemic that claims thousands of American lives every year. The President’s plan addresses multiple contributing factors including: reducing over-prescribing of opioid pain killers, cutting off illicit drug supplies, improving access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services, and ramping up prevention efforts. It is unclear whether Congress will appropriate funding for these initiatives, as both chambers are currently considering their own strategies. 

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Senators Advocate for Funding to Combat Opioid Overdose Among American Indian Population

Samantha Sears

Policy and Practice Improvement Intern

Federal and state officials testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last week to discuss solutions to combat the high prevalence of opioid use and overdose among American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN). The panelists shared the latest statistics for opioid use and overdose among this population and advocated for additional funding for key government programs that expand treatment and recovery services.

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