Policy News Roundup: March 24, 2022

    Key reads

    National Poison Prevention Week more important than ever

    Partnership to End Addiction’s Vice President of Prevention Research and Analysis Linda Richter explains the importance of National Poison Prevention Week this week. With the continuing opioid crisis and growth in flavored marijuana, nicotine, and alcohol products packaged in appealing and child-friendly ways, incidents of childhood exposures to addictive substances are increasingly common. She makes recommendations for addressing this, including around awareness campaigns, child-resistant packaging requirements, clamping down on child-appealing packaging and marketing, warnings on product labels, legal immunity for caregivers who report a childhood exposure, and safe storage and disposal.

    Source: As Regulations Protecting Youth from Addictive Substances Remain Loose and Erratic, National Poison Prevention Week has Never Been More Important

    Diverted buprenorphine can still save lives

    The potential for diverted buprenorphine to save lives outweighs potential harms of its use. The lifesaving effect of buprenorphine remains even when it is being diverted, and diverted buprenorphine offers a stepping stone for people to seek medical care. A large proportion of those seeking medication for addiction have tried buprenorphine they have been given by a friend or bought on the street. For those who have reasons to distrust the medical system, diverted buprenorphine from a close contact offers an important gateway into treatment. While buprenorphine carries a risk of overdose, it is remote compared to that posed by fentanyl and offers a safer option for people who use drugs. The availability of diverted buprenorphine may help increase access for communities historically excluded from medically directed buprenorphine. However, additional work must be done to bridge the gap in care for these populations as a long-term solution.

    Source: The case for decriminalizing the street sale of buprenorphine (STAT)

    Federal news

    988 Implementation Act introduced in Congress

    Reps. Cárdenas, Matsui, Blunt Rochester, Fitzpatrick, Moulton, Napolitano, Beyer and Raskin introduced the 988 Implementation Act (summary), which would provide federal funding and guidance for states to implement their crisis response infrastructure ahead of the July launch of the new national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, 988. The bill would solidify funding for 988 and a national backup system to ensure a timely 24/7 response to callers anywhere in the country; provide funding for community-based crisis response, including local call centers, mobile crisis teams and crisis centers; and support crisis workforce development with increased funding for training and scholarships. It would also require all health insurance plans to cover crisis services; allow all states to have the opportunity to establish Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics; implement a national suicide prevention awareness campaign; and provide technical assistance for states to implement crisis services and support research for continuous quality improvement.

    Source: Cárdenas Leads Introduction of Bipartisan 988 Implementation Act (Congressman Tony Cárdenas)

    Senate committee holds hearing on federal mental health and addiction programs

    The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on strengthening federal programs to address mental health and substance use disorder. Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Carole Johnson, National Institute of Mental Health Director Joshua Gordon and National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora Volkow testified. The witnesses and senators discussed issues including youth mental health, treatment access, research and data, workforce, integration of behavioral health care, 988 implementation, the surge of fentanyl and methamphetamine, parity and insurance coverage and maternal mental health.

    Source: Strengthening Federal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Programs: Opportunities, Challenges, and Emerging Issues (U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions)

    FTC releases report on e-cigarette sales and advertising

    The Federal Trade Commission released its first-ever report on e-cigarette products, which found surging e-cigarette sales and advertising that are likely to damage youth’s health. The report is based on 2015-2018 industry data and shows that total e-cigarette sales, including both disposable units and those using changeable cartridges, increased more than six-fold from $304.2 million to $2.06 billion in those three years. The sales of fruit and other flavored e-cigarette cartridges increased seven-fold, and nicotine concentrations in disposable e-cigarette products increased by nearly 60%. Spending on advertising and promotion more than tripled, from $197.8 million to $643.6 million.

    Source: The Federal Trade Commission’s First Report on E-Cigarette Sales and Advertising Reveals Disturbing Trends Affecting the Health of Young Americans (Federal Trade Commission)

    Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults reported current use of a tobacco product in 2020

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2020, 19% of U.S. adults (47.1 million) used any tobacco product. Cigarettes were the most commonly used (12.5%), followed by e-cigarettes (3.7%). Among those reporting current use, 17.3% used two or more products. The prevalence of current use was higher among men; adults 65 and older; non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native adults and non-Hispanic adults categorized as “other” race; adults in rural areas; those whose highest level of educational attainment is a GED; those with an annual household income of less than $35,000; lesbian, gay or bisexual adults; uninsured adults or those with Medicaid; adults with a disability; and those who had regular feelings of anxiety or depression. The prevalence of overall tobacco product use, combustible tobacco product use, cigarettes, e-cigarettes and use of multiple tobacco products decreased between 2019 and 2020.

    Source: Tobacco Product Use Among Adults – United States, 2020 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

    State and local news

    Rhode Island reaches settlement with Teva and Allergan

    Rhode Island reached settlements valued at $107 million against Teva and Allergan to resolve claims over their roles in fueling an opioid crisis in the state. The settlements include $28.5 million in cash, plus one million naloxone nasal sprays and 67,000 30-pill bottles of Suboxone pills over 10 years. Opening arguments in the trial against Teva were set to begin earlier this week.

    Source: Rhode Island reaches $107 mln opioid settlements with drugmakers (Reuters)

    Illinois announces new State Overdose Action Plan

    Illinois Governor Pritzker announced the 2022 State of Illinois Overdose Action Plan, a comprehensive, equity-centric outline for combatting the opioid crisis. The plan prioritizes outreach to and engagement with individuals at risk for fatal and nonfatal overdose due to multiple drugs, including synthetic opioids, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other substances. Several of the activities in the plan are already underway, including a mobile van to deliver medication for addiction treatment, a Harm Reduction Summit and learning collaboratives supporting sheriffs and their community health partners in reducing recidivism and post-release overdoses. Pritzker also named a Chief Behavioral Health Officer, who will coordinate with state agencies to develop recommendations for the ideal state infrastructure for behavioral health.

    Source: Governor Pritzker Launches Overdose Action Plan, Names Chief Behavioral Health Officer (Illinois.gov)

    Arkansas launches new methamphetamine prevention campaign

    The Arkansas Department of Human Services launched the “Me Over Meth” prevention campaign to raise awareness of the threat of methamphetamine. It is aimed at building community capacity to eradicate methamphetamine in the state. As part of the campaign, the department will hold a “Me Over Meth” prevention-focused conference offering practical information and best practices on educating Arkansans and preventing meth use in local communities; provide a downloadable toolkit that includes graphics, flyers and social media content promoting the “Me Over Meth” message; and launch a website dedicated to providing more information and resources about meth use, prevention and recovery.

    Source: DHS Launches ‘Me Over Meth’ Prevention Campaign (Arkansas Department of Human Services)

    Other news in addiction policy

    Report details perspectives of people who use drugs during the pandemic

    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a report on the personal experiences of people who use drugs during the pandemic, including their experiences navigating health services, their personal goals and their areas of greatest need, in their own words. Many shared their concerns about the unpredictability of the drug supply and increased isolation, mental health challenges and anxiety about and likelihood of overdose. Another theme was the work of harm reduction organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing access to sterile syringes and naloxone. People shared their perspectives on innovative programs to deliver medications for addiction treatment during the pandemic. The largest barriers to accessing treatment, harm reduction or general health services were related to transportation accessibility and the safety of public transportation.

    Source: New Report Shares Perspectives of People Who Use Drugs During the Pandemic (Johns Hopkins)

    People who use substances must be included in emergency response plans

    Addiction treatment systems struggle to adapt during disasters due to their unwieldy and restrictive nature. As the U.S. confronts the health effects of climate change and related hazards, government agencies, policymakers and medical and public health professionals must include the needs of people who use substances and those with addiction in their preparedness planning. This should include increasing and diversifying methadone access points by expanding take-home doses and dispensing it in community pharmacies and mobile units; enabling waivered prescribers to provide buprenorphine to more patients by eliminating patient caps; and funding and implementing low-barrier harm reduction programs that offer naloxone, safer use supplies, supervised consumption and other evidence-based interventions. The plans must also address the needs of people with alcohol use disorder and other substance use disorders.

    Source: Emergency response systems must not overlook people with substance use disorders (STAT)

    Advocate for Change

    Ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the Opioid Treatment Access Act to remove barriers and increase access to methadone, a life-saving treatment for opioid addiction.

    Act Now


    March 2022