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 Legislative & Policy Corner

Congress Passes CR, Yet Another Government Shutdown Averted

With only minutes to spare, the Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) before the midnight deadline on Dec. 9.  The House had passed the bill on Dec. 8. The CR lasts through Apr. 28 and continues level funding for most government programs with a 0.19% across-the-board cut. The CR also includes $500 million in funding for states to address the opioid crisis and $170 million in funding to address the Flint water crisis. It includes:

  •  $20 million for a Lead Exposure Registry to collect data on lead exposure and an Advisory Committee to review programs, services, and research related to lead poisoning prevention;
  • $15 million in additional funding for CDC's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program to conduct screenings and referrals for children with elevated blood lead levels;
  • $15 million in additional funding for Healthy Start to reduce infant mortality and improve perinatal outcomes. 

When the new Congress convenes in 2017, they will be tasked with both finishing a funding package for the remainder of FY17 (from Apr. 28-Sept. 30) and beginning work on FY18 appropriations. 

21st Century Cures Act Passes Congress, Also Addresses Opioid Crisis and Mental Health Reform

Last week, the House and Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which was combined with other bills to address the opioid crisis and mental health reform. The Cures section of the bill is aimed at encouraging medical innovation through increased investment at NIH and streamlining drug and device approval processes. This section also includes a provision supported by AMCHP to create a task force charged with identifying and addressing gaps in knowledge and research regarding safe and effective therapies for pregnant and lactating women.

The section of the bill addressing the opioid crisis provides $1 billion over two years for grants to states – through the state agency responsible for administering the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block Grant – to supplement opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities, such as improving prescription drug monitoring programs, implementing prevention activities, training health care providers and expanding access to opioid treatment programs.

Finally, the mental health reform section contains several provisions related to maternal and child health including:

  • Establishment of a grant program for states to create, improve or maintain programs for maternal depression screening, assessment and treatment services
  • Establishment of a grant program focused on intensive early intervention for infants and young children who are at risk of developing or are showing signs of mental illness
  • Reauthorization of Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Strategies grants to states and tribes, and establishment of suicide prevention and intervention program grants for adults
  • Reauthorization of the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative
  • Reauthorization of grants for substance use disorder treatment and early intervention for children and adolescents to provide early identification and services
  • Reauthorization of and update to programs to provide comprehensive community mental health services to children with social emotional disorders

 President Obama has signaled his support for this legislation and is expected to sign it into law shortly.