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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.

CARA Passes the Senate, Now Heads to White House

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Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

With near-unanimous support, the Senate approved the first standalone legislation to address our nation’s opioid and overall addiction crisis on Wednesday night. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) now heads to President Obama for his signature, and we hope that he will sign it quickly. We thank Congress for recognizing the problem and taking action, and we are particularly grateful to CARA’s champions in the House and Senate whose tireless efforts helped bring this bill to passage.

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Opioid Conference Convenes, Makes Progress on Final Bill

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Members of the opioid conference committee continued efforts to finalize the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act this week. During discussions, members from both parties offered and withdrew amendments, making clear the two parties are working closely together to find common ground on a final CARA bill. Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton (R-MI) noted at the conclusion of Wednesday’s meetings that a final version of the bill could be ready for consideration by the end of the week.

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HHS Announces Latest Actions to Address Opioid Abuse

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week announced several new initiatives to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic. These include: raising the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) prescriber cap to 275 patients per practitioner, delaying proposed reporting requirements for providers, and announcing more than a dozen new scientific studies on opioid use and abuse. HHS is also seeking feedback on how to improve and expand government prescriber education and training programs to prevent opioid misuse and overdoses.

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CARA Authors Urge Comprehensive Approach to Compromise

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

In a letter to their colleagues on the opioid conference committee, authors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) urged a holistic approach to negotiations. The letter – signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) – demonstrates the broad, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for achieving results to combat the nation’s opioid abuse crisis. Conference negotiations will resume next week when Congress is back in session.

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Advocates Provide Input, Send Letters to Opioid Conferees

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

As members of the House and Senate begin meeting to hammer out differences in their respective opioid bills, advocates are stepping up to have their voices heard. Over the last few weeks, the National Council has joined a chorus of patient protection and advocacy organizations in sending letters of thanks, guidance and request to members of the opioid conference. These letters are just the latest in a series of advocacy efforts to ensure the passage of a comprehensive, effective and well-funded opioid package.

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National Council Issues Template Comments on Medication-Assisted Treatment Rule

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

New proposed rules from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) aim to increase access to opioid use disorder treatment while reducing the opportunity for medication diversion. SAMHSA included within the proposed rule specific questions for stakeholders from the field to answer about the potential impact of certain regulatory changes like the prescriber limit for medication assisted treatment, practitioner training, and more.

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What’s next for CARA and other addiction bills?

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the House, in a series of near-unanimous votes, approved a package of bills to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. The move came close on the heels of the Senate’s passage of a related bill—known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act or CARA—in March. Together, these actions set the stage for congressional passage of the first standalone addiction-focused bill in recent memory.

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House of Representatives Begins Voting on Opioid Bills

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The House of Representatives returned to session this week and began approving a number opioid-related measures. While the Senate passed a single bill in March – the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524) – the House has taken a piecemeal approach passing over a dozen bills, covering a spectrum of opioid use prevention, treatment and recovery.

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House Committees Approve Opioid Legislation

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Wednesday, two House committees overwhelmingly passed a number of opioid-related bills, setting the stage for time on the House floor this May. The two committees – the House Judiciary Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee – are the lead committees of jurisdiction on measures related to curbing the nation’s opioid epidemic. House leadership has made clear its plans to combine these separate initiatives into one bill that will ultimately resemble the Senate-approved Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

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House Panel Moves on Opioid Legislation

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved a dozen bills related to opioid abuse treatment, prevention and recovery supports. Speaking on the prospects for an opioid bill in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) indicated that while the House will take up several amendments related to opioid legislation, the final product will ultimately resemble the Senate’s measure, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

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Finalized CMS Policy Increases Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

New policies from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will require Medicare Part D formularies to allow access to medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders such as buprenorphine, naloxone and naltrexone. The policy is a response to President Obama’s October call to action, having the federal government identify barriers to treatment for opioid use disorders. CMS said it will continue to review utilization management and formulary tiering to ensure access throughout Medicare Part D.

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White House, HHS Announce Major Actions on Opioid Epidemic

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Tuesday, President Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services announced a series of initiatives to address the nation’s ongoing and growing opioid epidemic, including: expanding the use of medication-assisted treatments like buprenorphine; finalizing regulations related to parity and needle exchange programs; and announcing new grants to combat the use and abuse of opioids.

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Behavioral Health: It’s Hot on the Hill

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Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing

In Washington, we are in the midst of the most proactive and important public policy shift in over a generation. From the implementation of the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration, to continued funding for Mental Health First Aid, to the Senate’s recent approval of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act – longstanding National Council priorities are beginning to see the attention they so rightfully deserve.

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Comprehensive Addiction Bill Passes Senate

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Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy & Advocacy

In a near-unanimous vote, the Senate today approved the Comprehensive Addictions and Recovery Act, the first standalone bill to pass the Senate in years. Known as CARA (S.524), the legislation authorizes much-needed funding for evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery programs to help Americans struggling with addiction to heroin or opioids. The bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 94-1 and now moves to the House for consideration.

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Addictions Reform Bill Nears Vote on Senate Floor

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A comprehensive addiction reform bill is likely headed for a floor vote in the US Senate – the first standalone addictions bill to receive such a vote in years. This week, the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524) has been the center of attention in the Senate, receiving a number of proposed amendments as the full chamber considers the bill. A long-standing policy priority of the National Council, CARA authorizes much-needed funding in evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery supports to help Americans struggling with addiction to heroin or opioids.

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Bipartisan Opioid Bill Would Allow Patients to Partially Fill Prescriptions

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral opioid bill would allow patients the right to partially fill opioid prescriptions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 70 percent of adults who misuse prescription opioids get them from friends and relatives. The Reducing Unused Medications Act (S. 2578/H.R. 4599) – introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Steve Stivers (R-OH) – aims to limit the over- prescription of opioids and curb the nation’s growing opioid abuse epidemic.

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Senate Committee Explores Solutions to U.S. Opioid Epidemic

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Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy and Advocacy

On Tuesday, the influential Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to examine addiction to opioids, continuing a string of notable legislative action aimed at finding solutions to the opioid epidemic in America. The hearing was convened to connect opioid abuse to mental health reform and explore changes that could be made to federal policies regarding opioid abuse.

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House Kicks Off Budget Season, HHS Defends FY2017 Budget Request

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Appropriations season is officially underway on Capitol Hill, with Obama Administration officials defending their FY2017 budget requests before Congress this week. On Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell participated in her third hearing this month, highlighting key health components of the President’s budget request before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Secretary’s comments focused on many important topics, including: expansion of the Excellence in Mental Health Act, evidence-based solutions to the nation’s opioid epidemic, and state Medicaid expansion and reform to ensure needed coverage of millions of Americans.

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National Council Hosts Convening of State Medicaid Agencies to Address Opioid Epidemic

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Earlier this week, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing hosted a convening of state Medicaid agencies, substance use agencies, and state associations for specialty behavioral health providers to explore the ways in which states can better work together to address the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. The convening was hosted in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Open Society Foundations and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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What’s Coming Down the Hill? An Update on Congress in 2016

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Over the last several months, Capitol Connector has written over 50 stories about mental health and substance use legislation in the 114th Congress. From bill introductions to committee hearings to votes, every major development has been shared with our readers. And in two weeks, when President Obama submits to Congress the final budget recommendations of his administration, mental health and addictions will again take center stage. So where do all of these bills stand? What should be expected from Congress in the run up to Election Day 2016?

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