Free COVID Tests and N95 Masks, $13M in Funding for Rural Communities

Capitol Building at sunset

IN THE NEWS

There will be at least another 90 days of the Public Health Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last Friday, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Xavier Becerra, extended the Public Health Emergency, which was set to expire January 16, 2022, for an additional 90 days. The Public Health Emergency, which has been renewed 9 times, will now expire on April 14, 2022.

Main Stories:

  • Free At-Home COVID Tests and N95 Masks Available for Individuals
  • HHS Announces $13 Million for Behavioral Health Access in Rural Communities
  • Bipartisan Group of House Members Urge Leadership to Pass Fentanyl-Related Legislation
  • Webinar on Workforce Shortage
  • New Center of Excellence Learning Collaborative

Free At-Home COVID Tests and N95 Masks Available for Individuals

The Biden Administration launched the program this week, allowing the public to request tests online at Covidtests.gov or by phone at 1-800-232-0233. Each household can receive 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests per residential address. The tests are expected to ship between 7 and twelve days after the order is placed. For more information, click here. Additionally, the Biden Administration also announced that it will be sending 400 million N95 masks next week to local pharmacies and health centers to distribute to adults for free.

HHS Announces $13 Million for Behavioral Health Access in Rural Communities

On Tuesday, HHS announced the availability of $13 million in funding to address health inequities in rural America. This funding will be distributed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through their Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) in the form of direct grants and technical assistance. These funds will be used to support comprehensive prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery interventions in rural communities, with a focus on promoting the goals of the recent overdose prevention strategy.  Eligible applicants must apply online by April 19, 2022, to be considered.

Bipartisan Group of House Members Urge Leadership to Pass Fentanyl-Related Legislation

Last week, a bipartisan group of 38 members of Congress wrote a letter to House leadership urging the consideration of legislation to permanently classify fentanyl as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Currently, fentanyl is only temporarily classified as a Schedule I substance through February 18, 2022. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report finding that more than 100,000 deaths were due to opioid overdose between April 2020 and April 2021.

Webinar on Workforce Shortage

At a webinar on Monday, January 31, from 1:00-2:00 pm ET, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, in collaboration with Health Management Associates (HMA), will present on immediate actions states can take to expand current capacity and build a more stable mental health and substance use treatment workforce in the future. Join us to hear from a panel of experts as they discuss policy solutions focused on clinical care delivery models and digital solutions to improve delivery of care through COVID-19 and beyond. To register click below:

New Center of Excellence Learning Collaborative Launched

The Center of Excellence is launching an exciting Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) learning collaborative to expand and scale oral health integration models. Through this free collaborative, you will have the chance to hear from experts and engage with other mental health and substance use treatment organizations in peer-to-peer learning opportunities designed to advance initial steps toward better coordination and integration of oral health within mental health and substance use care. Review our Frequently Asked Questions and register below to join an upcoming Office Hour to learn more on January 25, 3:00-4:00 pm ET. If interested, apply by next Friday, January 28.

ADVOCACY CORNER

Sign up for Advocacy Alerts. Are you interested in advocating for behavioral health? Sign up for the National Council’s advocacy alerts and become part of an engaged network of advocates advancing behavioral health policy on the federal and state levels. Learn more about our current advocacy efforts by following us on Twitter at @NationalCouncil.

HAPPENING ON THE HILL

Senate HELP Committee Approves Califf FDA Nomination.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing and subsequently voted to approve the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf to become Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Califf’s nomination will now be advanced to the full Senate for final consideration.

Guest Author

Mollie Laird
Associate
Federal Policy