House Committee Convenes Panel on State Efforts to Address the Opioid Crisis

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on how states have used federal funds to address the opioid epidemic. Representatives from five state departments of health spoke on successes through increased Medication-Assisted Treatment, Medicaid expansion, and interventions for justice-involved populations, as well as the critical need for further financial investment, prevention efforts, and flexibility in funding to provide resources for all addictions, not only opioids.

Representatives DeGette (D-CO), Ruiz (D-CA), Castor (D-FL), Schakowsky (D-IL), Brooks (R-IN), Guthrie (R-KY), Kennedy (D-MA), Sarbanes (D-MD), Kuster (D-NH), Pallone (D-NJ), Clarke (D-NY), Tonko (D-NY), Latta (R-OH), Walden (R-OR), Burgess (R-TX), Griffith (R-VA), and McKinley (R-WV) were all in attendance and asked questions of the witnesses.

The Representatives highlighted significant Congressional wins for opioid funding, including the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Actincreased funding for mental health and addictions care in the 2020 Federal Budget, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), and the 21st Century Cures Act.

Witnesses included:

  • Nicole Alexander-Scott, Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Monica Bharel, Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  • Kody Kinsley, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Christina Mullins, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
  • Jennifer Smith, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs

The witnesses noted that, while overdose deaths are decreasing overall, states need more flexibility in funding and are still facing increased rates of people dying from poly-substance overdose. As Chairwoman DeGette remarked during the hearing, “The crisis has continued to evolve and the challenges we face continue to evolve along with it… States, federal agencies, and Congress must remain vigilant.”

Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO of the National Council, recently discussed the need for federal action on broader addiction: “It’s great that Congress is paying attention to opioids, but there are other problems that we need them to pay attention to – everything from alcohol to stimulants.” In the hearing, Mr. Kinsley of North Carolina stated that the Substance Abuse and Prevention Treatment block grant is one of the few methods of funding through which his state can comprehensively address all addiction. Many in attendance also urged Congress to develop permanent funding streams, rather than relying on short-term grants.

Other key topics noted during the hearing were workforce shortages, recovery housing, and interventions for justice-involved populations. Both Members of Congress and witnesses highlighted the need for loan repayment programs, increased workforce, and expanded telehealth services.

Click here for testimony from the Members of Congress and witnesses, as well as a video of the hearing.

Guest Author

Malka Berro
Policy Associate
National Council for Mental Wellbeing