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    Policy News Roundup: February 1, 2024

    Key reads

    White House officials say prison populations must be included in opioid epidemic solutions

    ONDCP Director Gupta and White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director Tom Perez say in this opinion piece that the Biden/Harris administration is working toward a vision in which every jail/prison is equipped to provide medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and reentry tools. Many state and local correctional leaders want to offer MOUD, but concerns about cost have held them back. The administration is therefore providing training, technical assistance and financial support to help them expand access at the state and local levels. It is also expanding access to treatment within all 122 federal Bureau of Prisons facilities. CMS is helping states leverage Medicaid to treat substance use disorder within correctional walls. Sixteen states have already used this opportunity, and the administration urges the remaining 34 to do the same.

    Source: We cannot ignore our prison population as we battle the opioid epidemic (The Hill)

    Expert says Congress must take action on opioid prevention efforts

    Libby Jones, program director of the Overdose Prevention Initiative at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, writes on actions Congress should take in 2024 to work toward closing the treatment gap. Congress must prioritize legislation that expands access to medication treatment and consider specific intervention points that can reach people most at risk of an overdose, accounting for racial and geographic inequities and addressing the incarcerated population. In 2024, Congress should reauthorize and expand the SUPPORT Act, which contains policies that can increase access to treatment and much-needed funding for community-based treatment and recovery support; expand access to methadone by passing the Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act; and advance the Reentry Act and the Due Process Continuity of Care Act to broaden access to treatment in jails and prisons by allowing Medicaid coverage of health services prior to release from incarceration.

    Source: Congress needs to act on overdose prevention (The Hill)

    Federal news

    Bipartisan legislation introduced to control illegal sale of tianeptine

    Reps. Panetta (D-CA) and Pfluger (R-TX) introduced the Scheduling Tianeptine and Analogues Now to Defend (STAND) Against Emerging Opioids Act. It would add tianeptine and all of its analogues to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal to sell without a prescription. Tianeptine is currently widely available at convenience stores, smoke shops and across the internet. The FDA would still have the ability to approve the substance for medical use at its discretion.

    Source: Bipartisan legislation unveiled to crack down on ‘gas station heroin’ (The Hill)

    Snapchat owner supports Kids Online Safety Act

    Snap is backing the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), the first company to publicly split from its trade group NetChoice days before the company’s CEO prepares to testify in Congress. The bill would direct platforms to prevent the recommendation of harmful content to children, such as posts on eating disorders or suicide. KOSA co-sponsors Sens. Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) applauded Snap’s endorsement. None of the other platforms have taken public positions supporting KOSA to date. NetChoice opposes it. Snap’s divergence from its trade association could put pressure on other platforms to change their stance. A Snap spokesperson said its safeguards already align with KOSA, including setting teens’ accounts to the strictest privacy setting, providing tools for parents to set safety controls on the app, and limiting the collection and storage of kids’ data.

    Source: First tech platform breaks ranks to support kids online safety bill (Politico)

    SAMHSA releases a new consumer guide on peer support professionals

    SAMHSA released a new consumer guide offering people with past or current problematic substance use a straightforward explanation of the roles, values and work environments of professional peer specialists. The guide will help readers understand who professional peer specialists are, what they do in various work settings, and how to access and pay for their services. Through visual aids illustrating the integration of peer specialists into the treatment and recovery landscape and practical forms readers can fill out, the guide will help facilitate a strong start toward collaboration with a peer specialist.

    Source: Consumer Guide: How Can a Peer Specialist Support My Recovery From Problematic Substance Use? For People Seeking Recovery (SAMHSA)

    State and local news

    West Virginia House sends bipartisan-backed bill decriminalizing test strips to governor

    The West Virginia House passed a bill that would decriminalize drug test strips, sending it to the governor’s desk. Gov. Justice has not said publicly whether he supports the bill, which has received bipartisan support. The bill follows a law signed by Justice in 2022 that decriminalized fentanyl test strips. This bill is meant to ensure all test strips will be available to people who need them, without lawmakers having to pass new legislation every time a new substance or test strip is developed.

    Source: Bill decriminalizing drug test strips in opioid-devastated West Virginia heads to governor (AP)

    Washington DEA division saw 250% more fentanyl pill confiscations than in 2022

    The DEA Washington Division, which covers DC, Maryland and Virginia, confiscated more than 639,000 fentanyl pills and 189 pounds of fentanyl powder in 2023, a more than three-fold increase in the number of fake pills laced with fentanyl seized in 2022. The division recorded a 119% increase in meth seizures.

    Source: DEA Washington Division Saw a Surge of Over 250% in Fentanyl Pill Seizures in 2023 (DEA)

    States in western U.S. take opposite approaches to child welfare responses involving substance use

    Late last year, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously to strike down the state’s “Tender Years Doctrine,” a legal standard that has long permitted courts to more easily remove children under 6 from home due to parental substance use. The doctrine relies on an assumption that substance use will necessarily lead to child maltreatment for the youngest children. Now, as with cases involving older kids, child welfare agencies must prove in court that a parent’s substance use presents a safety risk to the child. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington are considering a bill that would grant sweeping new powers to doctors and police officers when “high-potency synthetic opioids” are found in a child’s home, regardless of age. Authorities would have the right to remove children from their parents without a court order, if government custody is deemed “necessary to prevent imminent physical harm.” The bill would instruct courts during a foster care removal hearing to “give great weight” to the presence of substances like fentanyl in a home. It would also create new guidance and a risk assessment tool for child welfare workers weighing child safety in such cases.

    Source: Western States Wrestle With a Child Welfare Response to Addictive Drugs (The Imprint)

    Some schools are using surveillance and harsh punishment to crack down on student vaping

    Schools nationwide have invested millions of dollars, including federal COVID emergency relief money, in monitoring technology installed to crack down on e-cigarettes, often without informing students. Marketing materials have noted the sensors, at a cost of over $1,000 each, could help fight COVID by checking air quality. Some districts pair sensors with surveillance cameras. When activated by a vaping censor, those cameras can capture every student leaving the bathroom. Some schools have strict zero-tolerance policies with severe consequences, including being sent to alternative schools, misdemeanor citations, suspensions, fines and felony charges for vapes containing THC. The sensors are marketed primarily for detecting vape smoke or THC but can also monitor for sounds such as gunshots or keywords indicating possible bullying. Schools may also use funds from the Juul settlement.

    Source: Schools are using surveillance tech to catch students vaping, snaring some with harsh punishments (AP)

    Other news in addiction policy

    Experts say California state advisory panel is hampering research on substance use disorder

    California researchers are advocating for Governor Gavin Newsom (D) to dissolve the Research Advisory Panel of California, which they say is impeding research on substance use disorder. More than 70 leading addiction researchers and advocates wrote a letter to Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, writing that the RAPC is a “nonviable obstruction to essential research and public health activities in California.” Experts say that this panel harms vulnerable residents, especially the state’s unhoused population, from receiving access to to substance use disorder treatment, and delays trials by 5-10 months. State legislation would have to be passed for the panel to be disbanded.

    Source:  Addiction researchers want to kill powerful California panel (San Francisco Chronicle)


    February 2024