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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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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
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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

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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

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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
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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
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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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Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Holds Discussion on Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

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Malka Berro

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

On Monday, September 25th, the Congressional Bipartisan Heroin Task Force held a roundtable discussion on the role of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) in combatting the opioid epidemic. The roundtable — led by task force co-chairs Reps. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Annie Kuster (D-NH) — received insights from two industry professionals on the importance of PDMPs.

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ONDCP Announces $89 Million in Awards for Drug-Free Communities

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Malka Berro

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

Last week, the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced the award of $89 million to the Drug-Free Communities Program (DFC). This award will support 719 community-based drug-prevention coalitions, making it the largest number of single-year grant awardees since the program’s founding in 1997.

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Opioid Commission Report Delayed, New Pharmaceuticals Partnerships Formed

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Malka Berro

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis made news this week with a series of important announcements. First, Commission Chairman Governor Chris Christie announced the commission’s final report would be delayed by one month, pushing the release date to November 1st. Second, he announced a public-private partnership between pharmaceutical companies and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop non-addictive pain treatment therapies.

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SAMHSA, HRSA Announce Awards for Prevention, Treatment of Opioid Addiction, SMI

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Malka Berro

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a series of awards totaling nearly $350 million to fund increased access to mental health and addiction services. One cohort of awards supports efforts combat the nation’s opioid addiction crisis, funding local and state organizations. The second cohort supports increased access to mental health and substance use services at federally qualified health centers. Funds for these grants were authorized in part by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016.

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President Trump Calls Opioid Crisis a ‘National Emergency’

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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Last week, President Trump called the opioid addiction crisis a “national emergency.” While this is an important step towards fulfilling the White House’s Opioid Commission primary recommendation, no official declaration of emergency has yet been made. An official declaration would give the federal government additional authority to quickly free up funds to respond to the epidemic.

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White House Opioid Commission Publishes Interim Report, Recommendations

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Malka Berro

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

On Monday, July 31, the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis published its interim report. It included nine recommendations President Trump can take to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, to prevent deaths and provide more accessible and informed methods of treatment for opioid addiction. With 142 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, the Commission called on the President to declare a state of national emergency. Rumors indicate the President may make this declaration as early as Thursday (8/3) evening.

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Senate Confirms SAMHSA Asst. Secretary, Surgeon General

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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted to confirm a slate of President Trump’s HHS nominees including Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz as the first-ever Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and Dr. Jerome Adams as the new Surgeon General. Prior to the vote, the committee held a hearing to vet both nominees were on their experience and qualifications. The full Senate is expected to take a vote on both nominees in the near future.

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