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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.

Trump Releases Budget Proposal, Seeks Medicaid Cuts and Opioid Funding

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Monday, President Trump unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request — detailing his Administration’s legislative and regulatory priorities for next year. The document revives last year’s failed attempts to block grant Medicaid, boosts spending to combat opioid addiction, and outlines other major health care priorities. As with most presidential budgets, this proposal stands little chance of being enacted into law as written. Instead, the President’s budget proposal will act more as a messaging tool to Congress, which just passed a major budget deal boosting defense and non-defense discretionary spending limits last week.

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Senate Strikes Budget Deal with Opioid, Health Care Funding

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, Senate leaders released a major bipartisan budget deal to lift the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending. The deal is accompanied by a short-term spending package for the purposes of preventing a government shutdown and giving lawmakers time to draft specific appropriations bills. The deal sets federal spending for the next two years, boosting both defense and non-defense spending by a combined $300 billion. Importantly, the deal also provides $6 billion in funding to battle opioid addiction, a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and renewal of community health center funding and Medicare extenders.

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CMS Proposes Medicare Changes to Address Opioids

Shelley Starkey

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released its proposed changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans for 2019, which include a few provisions to combat the opioid crisis. These changes come in reaction to the soaring opioid prescription and substance use disorder rates among Medicare beneficiaries. CMS is accepting public comments through March 5, and will publish its final rule on April 2.

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Trump Talks ACA, Drug Prices and Opioids During SOTU

February 1, 2018 | ACA | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump used his first State of the Union address to tout repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, reiterate his promise to reduce prescription drug prices and vow to address the opioid epidemic with an enhanced focus on criminal justice. Although the speech lacked health care specifics, the address did serve to highlight President Trump’s most pressing health care priorities heading into his second year as Commander-In-Chief.

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ONDCP Could See 95% Budget Cut

Shelley Starkey

The White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) faces a second threat of losing 95 percent of its budget under President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 proposal, according to Politico. Defunding ONDCP would directly contradict the Administration’s declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, as the office is responsible for coordinating the federal response to the crisis. The National Council opposes this proposal, and will continue to work to ensure proper funding for this important office.

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Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Crisis

January 11, 2018 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Shelley Starkey

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hosted a hearing titled “The Opioid Crisis: An Examination of How We Got Here and How We Move Forward.” Discussion amongst committee members and the single witness centered heavily on supporting community-based solutions to quell the opioid epidemic beginning at the local level.

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HHS Nominee Appears Before Senate Finance Committee

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing on Monday on the nomination of Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). This is the second hearing on his nomination Mr. Azar has participated in. In late 2017, he appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The Finance Committee will vote on his nomination in the coming weeks.

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Opioid Use among Teens at Historic Low with Vaping and Marijuana on the Rise

Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results highlighting historic lows of cigarette, heroin and methamphetamine use and increases in vaping and marijuana use among adolescents. The study surveyed over 47,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade in both public and private schools nationwide on their substance use and attitudes towards particular drugs.

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Capitol Hill Hearings Examine Patient Brokering, Addiction in Appalachia, and Cures Act

Shelley Starkey

Congress hosted an assortment of hearings this week related to mental health and addiction. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee heard from SAMHSA Assistant Secretary Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz on the ongoing implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act as it pertains to mental health programs, and two separate House subcommittees examined aspects of the opioid epidemic, specifically the rise of patient brokering and opioid addiction in Appalachia.

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Senate Subcommittee Convenes Hearing on Opioid Epidemic

Shelley Starkey

On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing to discuss the opioid epidemic and how Congress should address prevention, treatment, and recovery for opioid use disorders. The hearing convened national leaders on the issue, including the representatives of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Discussion highlighted the expansion of the Certified Community Health Center (CCBHC) demonstration as a way to dramatically expand opioid addiction treatment capacity in more states.

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Nominee for HHS Secretary Testifies Before Senate HELP Committee

Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar expressed his priorities if confirmed as Secretary, which include tackling the opioid epidemic, and was met with mixed feelings from committee members. Azar will sit for another hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee, which will vote on advancing his nomination for a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor.

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Indiana Seeks Solutions to Opioid Crisis

November 21, 2017 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Mauranda Upchurch

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

Earlier this month, community leaders from Indiana hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss recent statewide action to battle the opioid crisis. The meeting was centered around understanding the prevalence of opioid addiction, what funding and resources are currently available to combat addiction in the state, and the introduction of the Responding to the Addictions Crisis program, a $50 million commitment by Indiana University to find new solutions to address opioid addiction.

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House Bill Aims to Increase Transparency, Research On Effective Opioid Crisis Responses

Shelley Starkey

Last week, Representative Bob Latta (R-OH), along with three Republican cosponsors, introduced a bill that would create a public electronic database of information and strategies to combat the opioid crisis. The Indexing Narcotics, Fentanyl and Opioids (INFO) Act (H.R. 4284) would create a position of Federal Coordinator within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to oversee the implementation and coordination of this public database in partnership with other government agencies.

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House Bill Seeks to Increase Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

Shelley Starkey

In September, Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced a bill that would expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorders. The Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act (H.R.3692) would allow new provider types to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication utilized in MAT, and would increase the number of patients that qualified physicians could treat.

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Opioid Commission Recommends More Treatment in Final Report

November 2, 2017 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Thursday, the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis published its final report. It calls for a dramatic expansion of addiction treatment capacity, but fails to make any specific recommendations for new funding. Without additional funding, it is extremely unlikely that any of the Commission’s 56 recommendations can be realized.

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CMS Issues New Guidance on Waivers of IMD Rule

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a letter to State Medicaid Directors outlining a new waiver process to allow Medicaid payment of a broad range of services for opioid and other substance use disorders (SUD), including residential treatment. The letter, issued in response to President Trump’s declaration of an opioid public health emergency, promises states a “more flexible, streamlined” 1115 Medicaid waiver approval process to accelerate state’s ability to respond to the opioid epidemic. While this move could present an opportunity for states to expand their continuum of care for addiction, strict budget neutrality requirements and heightened state reporting requirements may prove too burdensome for states to realistically pursue this option.

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Senate Democrats Introduce Bill to Combat Opioid Crisis

Shelley Starkey

Last week, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the “Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act.” The bill calls for Congress to invest $45 billion toward prevention, detection, surveillance, and treatment of opioid addiction. This legislation seeks to combat an epidemic that took the lives of over 33,000 Americans in 2015. The National Council applauds the Senators for their leadership on this issue, and looks forward to supporting their efforts to see this bill through Congress.

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President Trump Declares Opioid Epidemic a Public Health Emergency

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Earlier today, President Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. While the National Council is pleased to see the President recognize the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, today’s announcement comes without any new funding to respond to the epidemic and the specifics of the declaration are still unclear.

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House Committee Holds Hearing on Combating the Opioid Crisis

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The House Energy and Commerce Committee convened a hearing to review the federal government’s response to the opioid epidemic on Wednesday. Lawmakers sought a status update on the implementation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the 21st Century Cures Act, and various grant initiatives and from the heads of the top agency leads within the Department of Health and Human Services. The hearing reflected a bipartisan consensus that more resources are needed to tackle a disease that claims the lives of 91 Americans every day.

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National Council to Co-Host Congressional Briefing on Opioid Epidemic and Medicaid

September 28, 2017 | Medicaid | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

On Tuesday October 3rd, the National Council will co-host a congressional staff briefing in conjunction with Hill Day 2017. The briefing – sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) – will highlight the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation and Peg’s Foundation’s  Spring Paper Series: a series of research papers focusing on critical topics like the nation’s opioid epidemic, criminal justice reform and Medicaid behavioral health policies.

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