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Congress Passes Government Funding Bill; Provides New Resources for Public Health

March 23, 2018

Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate passed a $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government through fiscal year 2018 and makes investments in key public health initiatives, including efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, respond to behavioral health challenges, advance the discovery of new medical innovations, and promote public health preparedness. The President has indicated that he has signed the legislation into law.

The federal funding bill includes nearly $4 billion in federal resources to fight the opioid epidemic and seeks to:

  • Improve law enforcement efforts
  • Support treatment and prevention activities
  • Stop the flow of illegal drugs
  • Direct help to rural communities and veterans
  • Expand the mental health and substance abuse workforce

Specifically, the bill provides more than $1 billion in grant funding for states, setting aside specific funding for states like Pennsylvania that have the highest mortality rate related to opioid use disorders, and enhances opioid surveillance and prevention activities such as the use of prescription drug monitoring programs.

A targeted initiative will support the opioid response in rural communities by improving access to substance use disorder providers, increasing the use of telehealth, integrating behavioral health, and strengthening cross-sector community partnerships.

Funding also is directed to expand the mental health and substance abuse workforce, including master’s level social workers, psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, psychology doctoral interns, and behavioral health paraprofessionals.

The bill increases funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $3 billion, increasing the total NIH budget to $37 billion. Within that, the NIH is directed to conduct research on opioid addiction support and new opioid therapies.

Important to the hospital community, the bill increases the Hospital Preparedness Program funding by $10 million to $265 million, and increases funding for pandemic influenza preparedness, the National Disaster Medical System, and the acquisition of medical countermeasures.

The Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program, which helps support the training of pediatricians in freestanding children’s hospitals, receives an additional $15 million in funding, totaling $315 million.

Importantly, the CHGME funding increase positions the program for reauthorization. On Thursday, Senator Bob Casey (D, PA) led a bi-partisan, bi-cameral delegation in introducing legislation, S. 2597 / H.R. 5385, that would provide a five-year reauthorization for the program at a funding level of $330 million.

HAP will monitor the implementation of new federal funding and identify opportunities for Pennsylvania hospitals to best use federal resources to support access to care.

For more information, please contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP's vice president, federal advocacy.

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