Policy News Roundup: May 26, 2022

    Key reads

    Annual report finds highest ever combined rates of death due to alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2020

    Trust for America’s Health and Well Being Trust released their annual Pain in the Nation report. It found that deaths associated with alcohol, substances and suicide took the lives of 186,763 Americans in 2020, a 20% one-year increase in the combined death rate and highest number of substance use deaths ever recorded for a single year. Combined rates increased in all 50 states except New Hampshire. For the first time, two states (West Virginia and New Mexico) surpassed 100 deaths per 100,000 residents. The report includes recommendations for federal, state and local governments. These include investing in programs that promote health and prevent substance use and suicide; addressing the substance use and overdose crisis; and transforming the mental health and substance use prevention system.

    Source: Pain in the Nation 2022: U.S. Experienced Highest Ever Combined Rates of Deaths Due to Alcohol, Drugs, and Suicide During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Trust for America’s Health)

    Federal news

    House Energy and Commerce Committee advances mental health legislative package

    The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced six health care bills to the House floor, including a mental health package, the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022. The Committee voted to authorize several amendments, including one from Rep. Tonko (D-N.Y.) to eliminate the buprenorphine waiver requirement (MAT Act) and one from Rep. Trahan (D-Mass) to require prescribers of controlled substances to take a one-time training on substance use disorder (MATE Act). The package addresses issues including crisis care services and 988 implementation, screening and treatment for maternal mental health and substance use disorder, block grant funding for states, behavioral health services for American Indians and Alaska Natives, reauthorization of several federal prevention and treatment grant programs, housing services, stigma, treatment restrictions and access, workforce, parity and insurance coverage and youth behavioral health.

    Source: House panel advances pack of health bills (Politico); House E&C Committee advances ARPA-H, mental health package to House floor (Politico)

    SAMHSA announces funding for Centers of Excellence and State Opioid Response grants

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced several new funding opportunities for Centers of Excellence. It announced $15 million for a 3-year grant to establish a Center of Excellence for Building Capacity in Nursing Facilities to Care for Residents with Behavioral Health Conditions to strengthen the delivery of behavioral health care to residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. A $3.5 million 5-year grant program will develop an AANHPI Center of Excellence to advance behavioral health care for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities and reduce disparities. Another $2 million is available to establish a National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness, which will develop and disseminate information, guidance and training on the impact of social media use on youth, especially the risks to their mental health. SAMHSA also announced $1.5 billion in State Opioid Response grant funding to states and territories to help address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis.

    Source: HHS Announces New Funding Opportunity to Strengthen Behavioral Health Services in Nursing Homes and Other Long-Term Care Facilities (SAMHSA); HHS Announces Funding Opportunity for New Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (SAMHSA); HHS Announces $2 Million Funding Opportunity to Establish National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness (SAMHSA); Biden Administration Announces $1.5 Billion Funding Opportunity for State Opioid Response Grant Program (SAMHSA)

    Surgeon General issues advisory on health worker burnout and wellbeing

    Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a new Surgeon General’s Advisory highlighting the urgent need to address health worker burnout. It lays out recommendations to address the factors underpinning burnout, improve health worker wellbeing and strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure. Topline recommendations include transforming workplace culture to empower health workers and be responsive to their voices and needs; eliminating punitive policies for seeking mental health and addiction care and ensuring on-demand counseling and after-work hours care are more accessible; protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of all health workers; reducing administrative burdens; prioritizing social connection and community as a core value of the health care system; and investing in public health and the public health workforce. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at Children’s National Hospital on improving the mental health and wellness of health care workers.

    Source: New Surgeon General Advisory Sounds Alarm on Health Worker Burnout and Resignation (Department of Health and Human Services)

    SAMHSA announces Recovery Innovation Challenge

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced its first-ever behavioral health Recovery Innovation Challenge, which aims to identify innovations developed by peer-run or community-based organizations and their partners that advance recovery. Participants are encouraged to share details about the practices they are using to advance recovery and demonstrate how they have expanded upon SAMHSA’s definition of recovery or helped overcome challenges in incorporating recovery into behavioral health services/systems.

    Source: HHS Announces Its First-Ever Behavioral Health Recovery Innovation Challenge (SAMHSA)

    FDA says review of e-cigarettes will not be completed until 2023

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided its first update to the District Court for the District of Maryland on its progress on reviewing e-cigarette applications. The FDA identified 240 applications for products made by large vape companies, including Juul, Vuse and NJOY, that had been filed by the September 2020 deadline. Without providing details on when companies would hear decisions, the FDA said it expected to have more than half of those applications finished by June 30, 2022 and completely finished by June 30, 2023. In response to the delay (the court-ordered deadline for the FDA to finish reviewing the applications was September 2021), a group of 11 senators sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf urging him to cease the FDA’s enforcement discretion on unreviewed e-cigarettes by immediately removing the products from store shelves until their review is completed.

    Source: FDA provides minimal update on vape decisions at e-cig summit (Politico); Durbin, Senators To FDA Commissioner: Remove All Unauthorized E-Cigarettes From Market Immediately (Dick Durbin)

    Legislation to integrate behavioral health into primary care introduced

    Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are introducing the Improving Access to Behavioral Health Integration Act, which would integrate behavioral health in primary care. The bill would establish a federal grant program and prioritize support for practices that integrate and expand those services, especially in underserved areas. It would require the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to develop evidence-based metrics and reporting requirements for behavioral health care.

    Source: First in Pulse: Senators Launch Mental Health Bill (Politico)

    State and local news

    Delaware governor vetoes marijuana legalization

    Delaware Governor John Carney vetoed a bill to legalize marijuana. Carney reiterated his previously expressed concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana. He said he continues to support medical marijuana and decriminalization of marijuana but does not believe that promoting or expanding use of recreational marijuana is in the best interest of the state, especially its young people. It is unclear whether Democratic lawmakers will try to override the veto, which would be a rare occurrence.

    Source: Delaware Gov. John Carney vetoes marijuana legalization bill (Associated Press)

    Fentanyl crisis taking hold on Native American reservations

    Fentanyl has taken root in Montana and in communities across the Mountain West during the pandemic, after formerly being prevalent mostly in the eastern U.S. Overdose deaths are disproportionately affecting Native Americans. Part of the reason is that Native Americans have relatively less access to health care resources. With the drug supply so toxic, it requires resources, knowledge, skills and funds to stay safe. The Indian Health Services has been chronically underfunded. Little care is available, and local treatment centers that do exist do not always have the needed medical expertise or offer medications for addiction treatment. While some tribes such as Blackfeet Nation are taking steps to try to increase access to treatment and address the crisis, underlying issues such as poverty, housing, food insecurity and trauma will take longer to fix.

    Source: The Blackfeet Nation’s Plight Underscores the Fentanyl Crisis on Reservations (Kaiser Health News)

    Other news in addiction policy

    Deaths rising from fentanyl-laced pills purchased on social media

    Deaths from fentanyl-laced pills being sold to teens and young adults on Snapchat, TikTok and other social media apps are on the rise. Suppliers are using social media and messaging apps with privacy features such as encrypted or disappearing messages. Dealers and young buyers usually spot each other on social media and then directly message each other. The Ad Council announced a campaign last week to roll out this summer, funded by Snap, Meta and Google, to alert teens and young adults about the dangers of fentanyl. Social media platforms like Twitter, TikTok, Twitch and Reddit are expected to provide landing zones for the warnings. Social media platforms have started to step up policing on their sites, shutting down dealers’ accounts and redirecting people seeking drugs to addiction services.

    Source: Fentanyl Tainted Pills Bought on Social Media Cause Youth Drug Deaths to Soar (New York Times)

    Advocate for Change

    Ask your representative to support the Strength Kids’ Mental Health Now Act, which would help address the youth behavioral health crisis by fostering improvements across the full continuum of pediatric mental health and substance use disorder care.

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    May 2022