Policy News Roundup: September 1, 2022

    Key reads

    Life expectancy continues decline due to COVID and overdose deaths

    Provisional CDC data found that life expectancy at birth in the U.S. was 76.1 years in 2021, down from 77.0 in 2020 and the lowest since 1996. There was an overall decline of 2.7 years between 2019 and 2021. The 2021 decline was primarily due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (50% of negative contribution), unintentional injuries (15.9%), heart disease (4.1%), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (3%) and suicide (2.1%). The decline for men was mostly due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (49.5%), unintentional injuries (19.1%), suicide (3.6%), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (3.4%) and homicide (2.5%). For females, the decline was primarily due to COVID-19 (51.2%), unintentional injuries (14.8%), heart disease (5.7%), stroke (3.5%) and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (2.4%). Unintentional injuries were the lead contributor to the decline for the Hispanic population (31.2%), second for the non-Hispanic Black (22.7%), non-Hispanic AIAN (21.3%) and non-Hispanic White (11.8%) populations and third for the non-Hispanic Asian population (15%). Increases in unintentional injury deaths were driven by overdose deaths.

    Source: Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2021 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

    DEA warns of "rainbow fentanyl" trend

    The Drug Enforcement Administration issued an advisory about an emerging trend of brightly-colored fentanyl. The “rainbow fentanyl,” which is being used to lure children and young people, has been seized by law enforcement in 18 states in the past month. The fentanyl comes in several forms, including pills that look like candy, powder and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk.

    Source: DEA warns “emerging trend” of brightly-colored fentanyl being used to lure youth (CBS News)

    Federal news

    White House issues proclamation for Overdose Awareness Week

    President Joe Biden issued a proclamation declaring August 28-September 3, 2022 as Overdose Awareness Week. He called on citizens, government agencies, civil society organizations, health care providers and research institutions to raise awareness of substance use disorder and combat stigmatization, promote treatment and celebrate recovery and strengthen efforts to prevent overdose, as well as remember those lost to overdose and the pain of the families left behind. The proclamation outlines the toll of the overdose crisis and actions the administration has taken to address the crisis.

    Source: A Proclamation on Overdose Awareness Week, 2022 (White House)

    FDA issues Overdose Prevention Framework

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced the FDA Overdose Prevention Framework. Its four priorities are supporting primary prevention by eliminating unnecessary initial prescription drug exposure and inappropriate prolonged prescribing; encouraging harm reduction through innovation and education; advancing development of evidence-based treatments for substance use disorder; and protecting the public from unapproved, diverted or counterfeit substances presenting overdose risks. The FDA has specific efforts and activities underneath each priority of the framework.

    Source: FDA’s Overdose Prevention Framework Aims to Prevent Drug Overdoses and Reduce Death (Food and Drug Administration)

    Rate of nonfatal opioid overdose EMS encounters rising

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research found that the rate of nonfatal opioid-involved overdose emergency medical services (EMS) encounters increased, on average, 4% quarterly from January 2018 to March 2022, from 98.1 to 179.1 per 10,000 EMS encounters. Rates increased across most sociodemographic (both sexes, all age groups except 15-24, all racial and ethnic groups except Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander) and county (all quartiles of county-level characteristics, except counties with lowest percentage of uninsured persons) characteristics. Higher nonfatal opioid overdose rates and rate increases were observed in urban counties and in counties with higher unemployment rates. Monitoring nonfatal opioid overdose trends in EMS data in near real time can help identify communities disproportionately affected and guide equitable response and prevention efforts.

    Source: Patient-Level and County-Level Trends in Nonfatal Opioid-Involved Overdose Emergency Medical Services Encounters — 491 Counties, United States, January 2018–March 2022 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

    State and local news

    New York provides $4 million to support diverse mental health workforce

    New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced $4 million in federal funding to support underrepresented students entering or enrolled in mental health degree programs at State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) campuses. SUNY and CUNY will each be provided $2 million to support tuition assistance, paid internships and direct stipends for minority and multilingual students. The partnership will incentivize minority and multilingual students enrolled at SUNY and CUNY campuses to enter in or continue paths of study that will prepare them for the mental health field. This will help address the lack of diversity in the field, which leads to disparities in the delivery of mental health care for marginalized populations.

    Source: Governor Hochul Announces $4 Million to Increase Mental Health Workforce Diversity (Governor Kathy Hochul)

    Ohio launches new website to improve naloxone access

    Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced the state’s second annual Overdose Awareness Day on August 31 and September as Recovery Month. As part this year’s observance, RecoveryOhio announced the creation of Naloxone.Ohio.gov, a new resource that provides residents with a simplified process for obtaining free naloxone. The new website makes requesting naloxone seamless for all Ohioans, including first responders, community members or distribution sites, and it enhances access to prevention and treatment information. RecoveryOhio also created an Ohio Overdose Awareness Day Toolkit for local communities and organizations to raise awareness. State flags displayed at all state buildings and public institutions were flown at half-staff.

    Source: Governor Announces Second Annual Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, Launches New Naloxone Website (Governor of Ohio)

    Delaware provides fentanyl test strips in naloxone kits

    The Delaware Division of Public Health’s Office of Health Crisis Response is announcing it will begin including fentanyl test strips in Narcan kits it distributes to the public. Test strips were considered paraphernalia unless used for clinical purposes until June 3, 2021, when a law was signed that allows for distribution of fentanyl test strips to be used by lay individuals and organizations. The division also distributes 10-pack fentanyl test strip kits through a free mail-order program.

    Source: Delaware Division of Public Health Launches New Fentanyl Test Strip Distribution (Delaware News)

    Other news in addiction policy

    Study finds cost of adding SUD coverage to Medicare nearly offset by savings

    A Legal Action Center/RTI study found that the cost to Medicare of adding substance use disorder (SUD) coverage for residential programs, intensive outpatient programs and licensed and certified counselors would be nearly offset by the savings of expanded treatment. Expanding Medicare coverage of SUD treatment would incur an additional $1.9 billion annually but would save $1.6 billion annually through reduced spending on treating medical conditions caused by untreated SUD and fewer SUD-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits. This would result in a net impact on Medicare spending of $362 million per year, approximately 0.04% of the total Medicare budget.

    Source: New Study Shows Nominal Cost of Adding Substance Use Disorder Services to Medicare (Legal Action Center)

    Behavioral Health Workforce Tracker highlights major gaps in treatment availability

    A new Behavioral Health Workforce Tracker identifies approximately 1.2 million behavioral health providers and maps their practice locations. It includes more than 600,000 behavioral health specialists (psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, addiction psychiatrists, addiction medicine specialists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists), 400,000 primary care providers who provide behavioral health care and 174,000 other physician specialists who write behavioral health prescriptions. Fifty percent of counties had no psychiatrists or addiction medicine specialists, and nearly one in four behavioral health prescribers did not see any Medicaid beneficiaries. Northeast states had the highest population per provider. While on average primary care providers wrote one-third of the number of prescriptions as specialists in 2020, their total prescription volume far surpassed that of specialists, making them a central part of the behavioral health workforce. Only 38% of the 88,070 providers with buprenorphine waivers wrote at least one buprenorphine prescription that year. Southern states have the fewest prescribers of medication for addiction treatment per capita.

    Source: New Behavioral Health Workforce Database Paints A Stark Picture (Health Affairs)

    Advocate for Change

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