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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 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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Trump Announces More Action on Opioids at Summit

Shelley Starkey

Last Thursday, the White House held an Opioid Summit to discuss the Administration’s strategy for tackling the ongoing opioid crisis, which claimed more than 42,000 American lives and accounted for roughly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016. During his remarks, President Trump said, “The Administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong.” There was limited discussion of specific proposals, but it is expected the White House may bolster law enforcement agencies to carry out opioid-related activities.

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House Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Epidemic Response

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee convened a hearing on potential solutions to address the opioid epidemic on Wednesday. The hearing featured testimony from National Council member, Richard Nance, who presented recommendations for improving access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the gold standard of opioid addiction treatment, via telemedicine. The hearing was the first of three hearings devoted to crafting a broad legislative package to curb the use of prescription and illicit opioids.

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Eight Opioid Bills and CARA 2.0 Slated for Consideration in Congress

Shelley Starkey

In the midst of an ongoing epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid addiction, which largely drove the more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016, Congress is eagerly seeking solutions. Both the House and the Senate introduced a flurry of bills aimed at combating the opioid epidemic from many angles. The Senate is working on follow-up legislation to the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), while the House is considering a package of eight opioid-focused bills.

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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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