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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.

House Subcommittee Examines Slate of SUD Legislation

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Shelley Starkey

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “Combating an Epidemic: Legislation to Help Patients with Substance Use Disorders.” The Subcommittee heard from a slate of panelists including officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as professionals from various health providers and national advocacy organizations. The hearing also included discussion of a slate of 14 bills covering a broad range of approaches to address the addiction crisis in America.

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Experts Weigh in on Continued Efforts to Address Opioid Epidemic

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Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, The Hill convened policymakers and medical experts to discuss steps to expand access to treatment and help those living with opioid addiction begin the journey toward long-term recovery. During a conversation with Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons praised the National Council for its work to bridge the gap between mental health and addiction treatment and highlighted the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/ H.R. 1767) as a legislative effort to address these issues.

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ONDCP Releases 2020 National Drug Control Strategy and Rural Toolkit

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) recently released its annual report on the National Drug Control Strategy as well as a new toolkit to assist rural communities in responding to the addiction crisis. The 2020 National Strategy prioritizes increasing access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and supporting those in recovery with peer services, access to housing, training, education, and employment.

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GAO Report Highlights Barriers to MAT Access in Medicaid

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Shelley Starkey

Although Medicaid is one of the largest sources of coverage for individuals receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT), an evidence-based best practice for treating opioid use disorder (OUD), there remain some roadblocks for patients to access the life-saving treatment. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week highlighting state and federal policy barriers for Medicaid enrollees to access MAT. GAO also included recommendations that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensure that states comply with federal requirements to cover MAT medications.

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House Committee Convenes Panel on State Efforts to Address the Opioid Crisis

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on how states have used federal funds to address the opioid epidemic. Representatives from five state departments of health spoke on successes through increased Medication-Assisted Treatment, Medicaid expansion, and interventions for justice-involved populations, as well as the critical need for further financial investment, prevention […]

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House Bill Would Increase Provider Education for MAT

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Shelley Starkey

Policy Associate

The Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act (H.R. 4974) would standardize substance use disorder (SUD) training for providers that prescribe Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) scheduled medications, such as those used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The bipartisan bill, introduced in the House last week, would help to increase access to high-quality care for individuals living […]

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Congressional Roundtable Addresses Increasing Threat Within Opioid Epidemic

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

On Tuesday, the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force held a roundtable discussion on an increasing threat within the opioid epidemic: fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Synthetic opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, causing over 28,000 deaths in 2017. The roundtable meeting focused on expanding the behavioral health workforce, new criminal justice interventions, innovative pharmacological treatments, and recently proposed legislation.

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New Opioid Crisis Response Bill Introduced in Both Chambers

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Shelley Starkey

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

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

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

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

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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