Policy News Roundup: October 20, 2022

    Key reads

    Addressing food insecurity could help address the opioid crisis

    Partnership to End Addiction’s Linda Richter and University of North Carolina’s Diana Fishbein explain that an earlier and broader approach to substance use prevention is needed. While seemingly removed from the opioid crisis, reducing family food insecurity and child hunger could have profound effects on the opioid crisis. Children who grow up in households where they face adverse experiences or financial insecurity are at greater risk of developing addiction. Children born into poverty or financially unstable households are more likely to have caregivers who are stressed, have fewer social supports and struggle with mental health and addiction. Poverty can also physically alter a child’s brain. The strain that food and income insecurity puts on families, combined with reduced access to quality and affordable health care, can increase the likelihood of mental health and substance use disorders. Interventions to reduce adverse childhood experiences and family stressors are critical for tackling the overdose and youth mental health crises.

    Source: Ending hunger could be the first step toward ending the opioid epidemic (The Hill)

    Biden and Congress have opportunities to combat the overdose crisis

    Former Office of National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director and Treatment Research Institute founder Tom McLellan, Legal Action Center President and Director Paul Samuels and Partnership to End Addiction Chief External and Government Relations Officer Marcia Lee Taylor outline steps the federal government must take to address the overdose crisis. The Department of Health and Human Services and Drug Enforcement Administration should work with Congress to make permanent federal telehealth flexibilities for addiction services and medications, including allowing audio-only calls, buprenorphine prescriptions via telehealth without an initial in-person visit and increased methadone take-home doses. Congress should pass the Medicaid Reentry Act, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should issue guidance to states and approve all pending waivers submitted by states to allow Medicaid coverage for inmates prior to release. Modernizing Medicare to cover the full continuum of addiction services and be subject to parity requirements is essential. Congress should also pass the MAT Act to eliminate the buprenorphine waiver requirement.

    Source: Opportunities for Biden and Congress to combat the overdose crisis right (The Hill)

    Federal news

    SAMHSA announces $15 million for CCBHCs

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act for states to develop and transform certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs). In addition to the nearly $300 million awarded in September for CCBHCs, $15 million in additional funding is now being announced for CCBHC planning. This round of planning grants kicks off national CCBHC expansion under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and will expand access to planning grants for CCBHCs to all 50 states. Ten states (Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania) were selected from among 24 that received one-year planning grants. The remaining 40 states and D.C. are eligible to submit applications to develop CCBHCs. In early 2023, up to 15 states will be awarded up to $1 million for one-year planning grants, and from those, ten will be selected to be in the actual CCBHC demonstration, starting in 2024.

    Source: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Millions of Dollars in New Funds for States to Tackle Mental Health Crisis (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

    There is bipartisan agreement on the need to address mental health, but not how to do so

    Lawmakers in both parties are working to address mental health. President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act this summer, which authorized nearly $12 billion for behavioral health. The House passed the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act in June with a bipartisan majority. The Senate Finance Committee released a draft bill last month to expand the mental health workforce. Republicans and Democrats agree that they need to do more on mental health but disagree on how much to invest. Representative David Trone, co-chair of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Taskforce, is making the case to Republican colleagues that the rural areas they tend to represent have fewer resources to deal with the situation. The Taskforce produced 106 pieces of legislation this session. The House passed 22, and Biden signed 7. Some bills the House passed lack Republican support and will not resurface if Republicans gain control next year (e.g., Mental Health Matters Act, Mental Health Justice Act).

    Source: Worried about mental health? You’re not alone. (Politico)

    FDA and DOJ seek injunctions against e-cigarette manufacturers

    The Department of Justice, on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), filed complaints for permanent injunctions in federal district courts against six e-cigarette manufacturers. These cases represent the first time FDA has initiated injunction proceedings to enforce the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act’s premarket review requirements for new tobacco products. Each of the defendants failed to submit premarket applications for their e-cigarettes and have continued to illegally manufacture, sell and distribute their products, despite previous warnings from the FDA.

    Source: FDA, DOJ Seek Permanent Injunctions Against Six E-cigarette Manufacturers (Food and Drug Administration)

    DOJ awards $340 million to address the overdose crisis

    The Department of Justice announced more than $340 million in grant awards to help combat the substance use crisis. The Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention are distributing millions of dollars to address prevention, treatment and recovery support service needs for individuals with addiction. OJP’s National Institute of Justice is supporting research and evaluation of veterans treatment courts. OJP is awarding $44 million to help communities respond to public safety and public health emergencies, including crises that result from addiction. Funding will also help support youth and their families affected by the opioid and polysubstance use epidemic. Funding will also go to juvenile and adult drug courts, veterans courts and family treatment courts, treatment in correctional facilities, prescription drug monitoring programs, reentry programs, data collection and analysis, etc.

    Source: Justice Department Awards More Than $340 Million to Address Substance Use Disorders and Fight the Overdose Epidemic (Department of Justice)

    State and local news

    Free fentanyl test strips are available throughout Wisconsin

    The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced that 120,600 fentanyl test strips have been distributed to organizations across the state. The first phase of the program is a partnership with tribal nation health clinics, county health and human services departments, county and municipal health departments and organizations that work with people who inject substances. The participating organizations are handing out packages containing a test strip and instructions at no cost. Other types of organizations are expected to be eligible in future phases. The first phase is funded by $1.25 million from the American Rescue Plan. Additional fentanyl test kits and naloxone doses will be purchased and distributed with funds from opioid litigation settlements.

    Source: Free Fentanyl Test Strips Now Available Statewide (Wisconsin Department of Health Services)

    Colorado will vote on a ballot initiative that would allow psychedelic plants and mushrooms

    Colorado could become the second state after Oregon to allow the use of certain psychedelic substances that are illegal under federal law. The measure would allow adults to grow, possess and use mushrooms containing psilocybin and psilocin and decriminalize mescaline (except peyote cactus), ibogaine and dimethyltryptamine (compound in ayahuasca brew). It would require the state to create regulations for facilities where adults 21 and older can buy and take the psychedelics under supervision. Selling them outside of those facilities would remain illegal. Supporters argue that the plants have potential mental health benefits and that mushrooms are not addictive and pose no public safety risk. Opponents caution that still-developing research should not be used to legitimize the legalization of psychedelic mushrooms and plants for medical or recreational use. They point to research on negative effects from psilocybin and stress that just because it is derived from plants does not make it safe.

    Source: 5 Things to Know About Colorado’s Psychedelics Ballot Initiative (Kaiser Health News)

    Prevention Point sees demand rise

    Prevention Point, Philadelphia’s only needle exchange program, has seen the number of people seeking services skyrocket during the pandemic. Prevention Point, which offers medical, behavioral health and prevention services, helped more than 36,000 individuals June 2021-June 2022, a three-fold rise from the 12,000 receiving help in 2019. More than 10 million used needles were collected, the first time in the group’s three-decade history that more syringes were collected than distributed (8.8 million). 1,261 hepatitis C tests were given, up 65% over three years. There were 463 placements in emergency housing and substance use treatment, a 55% increase over the last fiscal year. Prevention Point is seeking more funding to meet the area’s growing need.

    Source: Philadelphia needle exchange Prevention Point sees surge in demand (Axios)

    Other news in addiction policy

    Health organizations ask for a national emergency declaration in children's mental health

    The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association sent a letter with over 130 signatories to the Biden administration asking that they do more to address the mental health needs of children, specifically requesting they issue a National Emergency Declaration in children’s mental health. Doing so would galvanize existing critical funding streams and support to help ensure that all children and adolescents can access the full continuum of behavioral health care. The letter comes a year after the groups declared a National State of Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. The letter calls for a robust and comprehensive mental health workforce strategy that prioritizes training pediatric mental health and primary care professionals, including promoting relational health and trauma-informed care approaches.

    Source: Health Organizations Urge the Biden Administration to Declare a Federal National Emergency in Children’s Mental Health (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)

    Parents struggle to find and pay for children's mental health care

    Many families struggle to find and pay for mental health care for their children. There are too few providers, and fewer who accept insurance. Many families refinance their houses, drain college savings or borrow from family. Some try to get coverage for their children under Medicaid, which sometimes means reducing their income to qualify. Some relinquish custody so that their kids can become wards of the state. Others forgo care. The lack of data on the problem keeps people in the shadows and makes it hard to hold insurers accountable for legal obligations they have to pay for mental health care or to argue for policy changes. The growing reliance on out-of-network care for mental health treatment is a national trend, despite federal and state parity laws. Greater enforcement at the state and local levels is needed.

    Source: Kids’ Mental Health Care Leaves Parents in Debt and in the Shadows (Kaiser Health News)

    Advocate for Change

    October marks the anniversary of the Parity Act. Although the Parity Act passed 14 years ago, weak implementation and enforcement of the law contributes to discriminatory and inadequate insurance coverage for mental health and addiction services.

    Send a letter to your members of Congress urging them to support legislation to strengthen parity enforcement before the end of the year.

    Act Now


    October 2022