Federal Initiatives to Address the Opioid Crisis

President Obama speaks at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit
President Obama plans to deliver a speech at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit on 3/29 at 2:15 PM EST. The President’s remarks will discuss the actions currently being taken to prevent the spread of opioid use disorders and will examine future potential policies for expanding access to treatment.

Read more about President Obama’s speech here.

View the speech here.

President Obama Announces Additional Actions to Address the Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Epidemic
President Obama will announce the following policies during today’s speech at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit:

  • HHS will issue a proposed rule increasing the buprenorphine treatment cap from 100 to 200 patients for qualified physicians treating opioid use disorders.
  • HHS will release $94 million in new funding to 271 Community Health Centers – expected to help treat approximately 124,000 new patients with substance use disorders.
  • SAMHSA will release $11 million in funding opportunities to expand medication-assisted treatment in up to 11 States.
  • President Obama will sign a memorandum authorizing the creation of a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force to be chaired by the Domestic Policy Council. The Task Force will be held to an October 31 deadline to ensure that important parity protections are implemented.
  • HHS will finalize a rule bolstering mental health and substance use disorder parity in Medicaid and CHIP.

Other actions are detailed here.

Guidance for Syringe Service Programs (SSPs)
Congress reversed a longstanding ban on the usage of federal funds for SSPs in late 2015. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released new guidance for State, local, and tribal health departments seeking to fund SSPs through federal grant money. The guidance states that health departments are now able to use federal funding to create or enhance SSPs to help prevent the spread of HIV and viral hepatitis. It is important to note that while federal funds can be used for a large array of services, they cannot be used to purchase sterile needles or syringes.

HHS will require that health departments consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine whether there is a need for SSPs in their jurisdiction. Once consulted, CDC will decide whether health departments are eligible to apply for SSP funding from their respective federal agencies.

Read the full guidance document here.

CMS finalizes rule dealing with mental health and substance use disorder parity for Medicaid and CHIP
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have announced the finalization of a rule strengthening mental health and substance use disorder parity for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries. The rule was released in conjunction with President Obama’s visit to the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta. The rule intends to expand access to evidence based treatment by providing States flexibility in managed care delivery mechanisms while requiring Medicaid beneficiaries are able to access mental health and substance use disorder benefits in a similar way to other medical benefits. Plans are required to provide information on mental health and substance use disorder benefits, including determination of medical necessity criteria, under the new rule. States must now disclose the rationale behind any denial of reimbursement for mental health and substance use disorder benefit claims. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2016.

View the final rule here.