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House Appropriations Subcommittee Evaluates Response to Opioid Crisis; HAP to Hold Regional Workshops on the Issue

April 06, 2017

The U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies recently held a hearing to evaluate the federal response to the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic and learn how to coordinate federal funding to support effective efforts to help impacted families.

Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) spoke about the magnitude of the nation’s opioid abuse crisis and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) discussed the federal government’s obligation to react to this crisis with urgency. Subcommittee members asked questions to better inform the federal funding response to the opioid crisis.

Individuals providing testimony shared recommendations born out of their experience and expertise in the treatment and prevention field, including:

  • Nancy Hale, president and CEO of Operation UNITE, who shared her organization’s experience working to address Kentucky’s prescription opioid abuse crisis. Hale noted that arrests alone cannot solve the problem and that short-term treatment cannot produce long-term outcomes.
  • Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, senior economist and co-director, drug policy research center, RAND Corporation, shared research which found that evidence-based treatment (including Medication-Assisted Treatment) must be part of the federal response and that federal spending on state prescription drug monitoring program implementation has been effective at decreasing the supply of prescription opioids.
  • Bill Guy, an advocate with Parents Helping Parents, shared the story of his 34-year-old son who died of a heroin overdose and the inadequate access to treatment.
  • Barbara Cimaglio, deputy commissioner, Vermont Department of Health, recounted lessons learned from Vermont’s effort to reach the goal of treatment on demand. Vermont’s “hub and spoke” service delivery model increased access to Medication-Assisted Treatment and saved the state money by decreasing costlier interventions.

Chairman Cole noted that Congress will continue to work with state and local leadership to support what works in their communities and thanked witnesses for their recommendations and leadership about this important issue.

HAP is encouraged that Congress wants to continue to be an active partner in this effort and believes that policymakers must allow for flexibility in addressing this public health crisis. A one-size-fits-all approach does not address the complexity of opioid abuse, but rather the implementation of community-specific best practices.

HAP will continue its work with member hospitals, health systems, and other key stakeholders to adopt meaningful policy changes to improve the health care community’s response to the opioid epidemic with a focus on:

  • Preventing new cases of opioid addiction by promoting safe prescribing, and implementing the state’s prescription drug monitoring program
  • Treating people who already are addicted by expanding access to treatment and recovery
  • Increasing access to life-saving overdose medications
  • Focusing care for moms and infants impacted by opioid abuse
  • Reducing the supply of opioids in our communities

In addition, HAP will host a May 4 workshop in Warrendale, and a May 17 workshop in East Stroudsburg to provide clinical leaders, stakeholders, and community partners with an overview of how Pennsylvania as a state is reacting to combat the opioid epidemic and what patient safety and quality leaders can do to help. Both programs will feature Pennsylvania’s Physician General, Dr. Rachel Levine, who will offer her insights at the state level. Information about both programs is available at HAP’s website.

For more information about HAP’s physician efforts related to the opioid epidemic, contact  Michael J. Consuelos, MD, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration. For more information related to state legislation related to the opioid epidemic, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.

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