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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 Epidemic the Focus of Senate Hearing on Wednesday

January 28, 2016 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Wednesday, Senators, Governors, federal administrators and law-enforcement officials all testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for stronger efforts to combat the nation’s opioid and heroin abuse epidemic. The hearing focused largely on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524/ H.R. 953) – which invests millions of dollars in needed funding for prevention, treatment and recovery supports. Despite strong bipartisan support, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) delayed a vote on the bill until next week, noting that “we’re not there yet, but we are working hard.”

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Sect. of Agriculture Vilsack to Lead Charge Addressing Opioid Epidemic, Other Issues in Rural States

January 21, 2016 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

This week, President Obama announced Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will lead a new interagency effort focused, in part, on addressing the growing heroin and opioid epidemic sweeping the nation. Secretary Vilsack, the President’s longest serving cabinet member, has been charged with developing policy solutions that build on successful work being completed at the state and local level to combat the use and abuse of opioids and heroin, along with other issues that affect rural states.

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New Bill Would Invest Millions in Curbing Nation’s Opioid Epidemic

January 14, 2016 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A new bill in the Senate would invest over half a billion dollars in emergency funding to help curb the nation’s opioid and heroin abuse epidemic. The funding measure – introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – would provide supplemental emergency funding to critical programs in the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services.

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CMS Announces Availability of New Medicare Part D Opioid Drug Mapping Tool

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

In the midst of a national opioid epidemic, a new tool from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allows providers to track the number of opioid prescription claims in their communities, counties and states. The tool – The Opioid Heat Map – shows local level data of de-identified Medicare Part D opioid prescription claims, comparing it to data across the country. With this new tool, providers will now be able to see real time Medicare data on the prescription of opioids across the country.

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Senate HELP Committee Holds First Mental Health, Substance Use Hearing of the Year

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Bianca Desai

Policy and Practice Improvement Intern

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing with three top government officials to discuss priorities, challenges, and opportunities facing the mental health and substance use treatment community. This is the first in a series of hearings examining the federal government’s role in supporting and funding behavioral health programming. Key issues raised during the hearing include: the results of the RAISE study, federal efforts surrounding suicide prevention, and the cultivation of the behavioral health workforce.

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Obama Announces Efforts to Combat Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse Epidemic

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

On Wednesday, President Obama announced his administration’s latest efforts to combat the growing opioid and heroin abuse epidemic. His announcement, made in Charleston, West Virginia, outlined steps to increase patients’ access to lifesaving treatment and expand the training of prescribers of opioids and other controlled substances. Of particular importance, the President’s initiative aims to increase the use and distribution of naloxone as well as double the number of providers prescribing buprenorphine across the country.

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House Passes Legislation to Strengthen Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

September 10, 2015 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The U.S. House this week voted to reauthorize a program that helps states monitor the dispensing of opioid painkillers and other controlled substances. First established in 2005, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program uses prescribing data to track potentially problematic patterns in the use and/or prescribing of these drugs.

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White House Announces Initiative to Prioritize Addiction Treatment

August 20, 2015 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The White House announced this week its Heroin Response Strategy, a new initiative that will encourage and incentivize collaboration among public health and law enforcement officials in an effort to shift the emphasis from punishment to the treatment of people with addictions. Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy, said the initiative is part of the Administration’s goal to “expand community-based efforts to prevent drug use, increase access to treatment, and reduce overdose deaths.”

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New Federal Funding Will Increase Access to Substance Use Disorder Treatment

August 20, 2015 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently awarded funding to eleven states and numerous Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to help increase patient access to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services, focusing on treatment for opioid use disorders. Funding administered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will be available to states to expand the use of FDA approved medications in combination with evidence-based behavioral therapies—commonly referred to as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).

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Bipartisan Mental Health, Substance Use Bill Introduced in Senate

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of nearly 20 Senators re-introduced a mental health and substance use awareness and treatment improvement bill. The legislation reauthorizes important programs in suicide prevention, mental illness awareness and de-escalation trainings, and opioid use disorder treatment services.

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House Bill Aims to Reduce Deaths from Drug Overdoses

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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the House would authorize millions of dollars in overdose prevention programming and research in an effort to curb the growing trend of opioid overdose deaths. The Stop Overdose Stat Act of 2015, introduced by Representative Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) with 26 cosponsors, would support prevention programs to reduce drug overdose deaths, create a task force to recommend a national public health campaign to Congress, and authorize funding to research and test new treatment and prevention methods.

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House Legislation Increases Awareness, Access to Opioid Addiction Treatments

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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

A bill recently introduced in the House helps increase patient awareness and access to all treatment options for opioid addiction. The bill, the Opioid Addiction Treatment Modernization Act, was introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and cosponsored by Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR).

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Sens. Ayotte, Donnelly Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Opioid and Heroin Abuse

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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) have reintroduced legislation that will promote the responsible treatment of pain through prescription opioids, as well as take steps to prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse. The Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act of 2015 (S. 1134) aims to improve healthcare providers’ and public health officials’ ability to prevent prescription drug abuse; support law enforcement efforts to remove heroin from the streets; give more first responders access to life-saving naloxone (used to counter the effects of opioid overdose), and increase awareness among health care providers, patients, and the public about prescription opioid abuse and heroin.

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New Senate Bill Aims to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Last week, Senator Tom Udall (R-NM) reintroduced legislation aimed at combatting prescription drug abuse and misuse. The bill, cosponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN), would increase patients’ access to prevention services and treatment; strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs; strengthen training for medical professionals; and authorize new grant programs to increase patient assessment and referral for potential drug abuse.

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“Good Samaritan” Legislation Aims to Reduce Opioid Overdose

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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation that would offer legal protections to first responders, family members and volunteers who are educated to administer opioid overdose prevention drugs. The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act was introduced by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

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CMS Encourages Use of Medicaid Health Homes to Address Opioid Dependency

January 22, 2015 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released an issue brief exploring options states can use to address opioid dependency among Medicaid enrollees, including through medication assisted treatment (MAT) and the Medicaid health home state plan amendment option.

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SAMHSA Releases Guidance on Administering Naltrexone for Opioid Use Disorder

January 15, 2015 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

This week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) released guidance on the clinical use of extended-release injectable naltrexone for treatment of opioid use disorder. The publication is meant to serve as a guide for primary care physicians providing information on assessing patients’ need for treatment, the administration of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the process of patient monitoring, and considerations for whether and when to end MAT.

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NIDA Invites Public Input on Strategic Plan, Drug Abuse Research Priorities

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is now accepting public comments on its Strategic Plan, which outlines a framework for the research it will support over the next five years.

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HELP Committee Members Urge Continued Efforts to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse

December 31, 2014 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) led HELP committee senators in sending letters to national, state and local leaders calling for continued commitment to curbing the prescription drug abuse crisis. The letters highlighted the committee’s key priorities to combat this problem and asked for recipients to keep the HELP Committee informed of ongoing efforts to solve this growing epidemic.

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DEA Authorizes Pharmacies, Other Entities as Take-Back Sites for Unused Prescription Drugs

September 11, 2014 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Disposing of unwanted prescription painkillers may soon be easier for consumers under new rules issued this week by the Obama Administration. On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a final rule allowing hospitals, pharmacies, medical clinics and other entities to serve as authorized drop-off sites for unused prescription drugs for the first time. The rule also authorizes long-term care facilities to collect unused prescription drugs from residents of those facilities, and prescription drug users everywhere will be allowed to directly mail-in their unused medication to authorized collectors.

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