Policy News Roundup: May 13, 2021

    Key reads

    House passes Family Support Services for Addiction Act

    The House of Representatives passed the Family Support Services for Addiction Act yesterday! The bill would provide funding for services to support families of those with addiction, such as training and education, therapy, assistance accessing resources, and crisis and grief support. Outcomes are better when families are involved in loved ones’ treatment and recovery. The bill now goes to the Senate (urge your Senators to pass the bill here).

    Source: Breaking News: House Passes Family Support Services for Addiction Act! (Partnership to End Addiction)

    Opioid settlement funds must be wisely spent to address addiction

    According to the Principles for the Use of Funds From the Opioid Litigation as laid out by over 30 organizations, the misuse of tobacco settlement funds shows the importance of adopting safeguards in advance of opioid settlements to preserve the funds for programs proven to reduce overdose deaths and help people with opioid use disorder recover. Many policymakers are considering setting aside their jurisdictions’ settlement money in dedicated funds, which is a start but not enough by itself to ensure that current and future leaders will use the money for its intended use. Per the Principles, policymakers setting up such dedicated funds should give priority to evidence-based programs and services proved to work, develop a multiyear budget, and publicly track and report spending.

    Source: A Real Opportunity in the Fight Against Opioid Use Disorders (Governing)

    Federal news

    Members of Congress call on Treasury to allow COVID-19 relief funds to be used to address addiction

    Reps. Spanberger, McKinley and Trone led a letter calling on the Treasury Department to allow states to use American Rescue Plan funds to combat increases in overdose deaths witnessed during COVID-19. They pressed Treasury Secretary Yellen to ensure that upcoming guidance on acceptable uses of the funds will give states the flexibility to use it to invest in prevention, treatment and recovery efforts related to the addiction crisis, recognizing the direct link between the spike in overdose deaths and the health care, economic and psychological effects of the pandemic.

    Source: Spanberger, McKinley, Trone Urge Treasury Department to Allow States & Localities to Use American Rescue Plan Funding to Combat Opioid Epidemic (U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger)

    Emergency COVID-19 relief funding for states can be used for behavioral health services

    The Treasury announced the launch of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, established by the American Rescue Plan, to provide $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial and Tribal governments, and released details on how the funds can be used. Allowable uses include supporting public health expenditures, including services to address behavioral health care needs exacerbated by the pandemic. These include mental health and substance use disorder treatment, other behavioral health services, hotlines and warmlines, crisis intervention, and services or outreach to promote access to health and social services. Funding can also be used to serve the hardest-hit communities and families, including addressing health disparities and social determinants of health, ensuring investments in housing and neighborhoods, addressing educational disparities and promoting healthy childhood environments.

    Source: Fact Sheet: The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Will Deliver $350 Billion for State, Local, Territorial, and Tribal Governments to Respond to the COVID-19 Emergency and Bring Back Jobs (U.S. Department of the Treasury)

    State and local news

    Syringe exchange that helped end an HIV crisis may close

    Scotty County, Ind., the county at the center of a devastating HIV crisis in 2015, may soon close the syringe exchange program widely credited with ending the outbreak. In 2015, the county drew national attention for its HIV outbreak largely driven by injection drug use. Critics have charged that the state government’s slow response and months-long refusal to permit needle exchanges made the crisis worse, and they argue that closing the exchange now could lead to a new wave of HIV and hepatitis C cases and increased overdoses. Many are worried it could also trigger a broader wave of closures, as Scott County’s syringe exchange paved the way for other programs to open across the country.

    Source: Years ago, a syringe exchange helped end a devastating HIV outbreak. Now it might be forced to close (STAT)

    Medical marijuana legalization efforts are advancing in conservative states

    Medical marijuana advocates are making inroads this year with conservative strongholds. Medical marijuana bills are advancing in GOP-controlled legislatures in North Carolina, Alabama and Kansas for the first time, while efforts to expand the limited existing programs in Texas, Minnesota and Louisiana are also moving. Efforts this year to legalize medical marijuana have stalled, or are likely to, in Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Nebraska. Meanwhile, advocates in Nebraska, Wyoming and Idaho are considering potential medical marijuana ballot initiatives for 2022.

    Source: America’s most conservative states are embracing medical pot (Politico)

    Testimony in West Virginia opioid trial underway

    Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, addiction medicine specialist Dr. Corey Waller, historian David Courtwright, Huntington Quick Response Team program coordinator Connie Priddy and former West Virginia chief health officer Dr. Rahul Gupta testified in the West Virginia opioid trial last week, discussing what they saw before, during and after 80 million pills were shipped to the area 2006-2014. The defendants said they reported suspicious orders to the DEA but never heard back, and that they never knew when an investigation was happening. They argued that there is no way to know if the high level of overdoses was due to illicit drug use or use of opioids as prescribed, and blamed doctors and agencies for pushing high numbers of prescriptions. Waller explained the impact of opioids on the brain, and Courtwright outlined the waves of the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, Gupta outlined the impact on the state, and Priddy and Rader testified to the impact on first responders.

    Source: Local first responders, health officials testify in first week of opioid trial (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

    Other news in addiction policy

    Parity needed to prevent tragic effects of discriminatory insurance coverage

    Patrick Kennedy explains the importance of parity, highlighting Steve Winter, who used his story to advocate for the passage of the federal parity law. Winter passed away earlier this year due to complications resulting from injuries he suffered as a child when his mother shot and paralyzed him after pausing her schizophrenia medications due to lack of insurance coverage. However, despite the passage of the parity law, insurers still create roadblocks for treatment, and experts are concerned that there is more work to do to make parity a reality.

    Source: Patrick J. Kennedy: Mental health care must be treated like health care. My friend Steve Winter showed us why. (NBC Think)

    Medicaid expansion associated with positive effects in behavioral health

    A literature review summarizing evidence from nearly 200 studies published in the past year on the impact of state Medicaid expansions under the ACA found positive effects of expansion across a range of categories, including behavioral health. Expansion is associated with improvements in access to care and outcomes related to substance use disorder (SUD) and other mental health care. It was associated with increased insurance coverage among adults with SUD and improved the payer mix of SUD-related visits (e.g., declines in uninsured patients and increases in Medicaid-covered patients). Expansion increased receipt of prescriptions for medications of opioid use disorder and led to opioid treatment facilities being more likely to offer these medications and comprehensive mental health services.

    Source: Building on the Evidence Base: Studies on the Effects of Medicaid Expansion, February 2020 to March 2021 (Kaiser Family Foundation)

    Pass the Family Support Services for Addiction Act

    The House of Representatives has passed the Family Support Services for Addiction Act! Urge your Senators to do the same to provide critical support to families of those with addiction by sending a letter through this form.

    Act now
    By Partnership Staff
    May 2021

    Published

    May 2021