Biden Releases Budget Proposal, Recommends Funding Increases for HHS, VA to Address Opioid Epidemic

On Friday, the Biden Administration released a full budget proposal for FY 2022. In the proposal, they recommend providing $10.7 billion—an increase of $3.9 billion over the current level—for the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct research, prevention, treatment, and recovery support services to combat the opioid epidemic. The White House noted that a portion of that funding should be used for targeted investments to support Native Americans, older Americans, rural populations, and other populations with unique needs. The budget proposal also includes $621 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs Opioid Prevention and Treatment Programs.

Articles & Resources

White House – FY 2022 President’s Budget

White House – Fact Sheet: The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2022

NIH Leadership Testimony at Labor, HHS Appropriations Hearings includes Opioid Issues

Last week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees’ Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittees each held a hearing on the NIH’s FY 22 budget request. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins testified at both hearings and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Dr. Nora Volkow testified at the House committee hearing. In both hearings, Dr. Collins noted NIH’s continued focus on research to help address opioid use disorder and other issues related to pain and addiction. In the House committee hearing, Vice Chair Lucille Roybal Allard (D-CA) noted her interest in using pediatric clinical trials networks to identify ways to treat neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. In response to a question from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Dr. Volkow said that she recognizes that kratom—a plant-based substance with psychotropic effects—might have some value as a non-opioid pain treatment, but requires more research. In the Senate hearing, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) also asked about how NIH is supporting research on opioid alternatives, to which Dr. Collins responded by highlighting NIH’s participation in the multi-agency Helping to End Addition Long-term (HEAL) Initiative. The Biden Administration’s FY 22 budget proposal includes a $9 billion increase over NIH’s current year budget, $2.5 billion of which would go to existing Institutes and Centers and $6.5 billion that would be used to create the new Advanced Research Projects Agency – Health (ARPA-H).

Articles & Resources

House, Labor HHS Subcommittee – Hearing: FY 2022 Budget Request for the National Institutes of Health

Senate, Labor HHS Subcommittee – Hearing: National Institutes of Health’s FY22 Budget and the State of Medical Research

Bipartisan Measure to Fund Substance Use Treatment Introduced in Senate

Last week, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Life Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment (LifeBOAT) Act. The bill would fund substance use treatment facilities and workforce recruitment and training by establishing a $0.01 stewardship fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredients in a prescribed pill. Prescription medication with active opioid ingredients that are used for medically assisted treatment of substance use disorder would be exempt from the fee, and opioid medications prescribed to treat pain in cancer and hospice patients would be eligible for a stewardship fee discount or rebate. In a press release, Senator King said “we know that treatment can help our friends and neighbors who are struggling with substance use disorders enter recovery and lead – but there simply aren’t enough resources to provide the treatment needed to address this threat.  This legislation can change that, using the source of the problem to help fund a solution. This bill will make critical investments in our nation’s treatment facilities, allowing us to open up more beds, hire more treatment professionals, and take a long-overdue step to save lives.”

Articles & Resources

Senator Joe Manchin – Manchin, Romney Introduce Bipartisan Lifeboat Act to Establish Stewardship Fee to Support Substance Use Treatment

LifeBOAT Act

Delay of Drug Czar Nomination Raises Concerns for Advocacy Groups

The Biden Administration is receiving criticism from advocacy organizations that are frustrated by the delay in nominating a director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). More than 40 anti-addiction groups signed onto a letter expressing concern over the delay, citing the rise in drug overdose deaths over the past year. Biden is said to be considering two candidates for the drug czar role: Acting ONDCP Director Regina LaBelle and Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical & Health Officer at March of Dimes. Ms. LaBelle has been in the acting director role since January and previously worked as the program director for the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative. Prior to joining March of Dimes in 2018, Dr. Gupta served as the public health commissioner for West Virginia, a state that has been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic. ONDCP is a component of the Executive Office of the President and is responsible for coordinating federal drug policy. The head of ONDCP—often referred to as the “Drug Czar”—runs the office and reports to the President.

Articles & Resources

Politico Pro – Biden Pressured to Nominate Drug Czar Amid Surging Overdoses

What We Read Last Week

Several articles were published last week pertaining to the opioid epidemic, covering a variety of different components of the issue. Links to relevant articles are provided below.

Articles & Resources

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – MDHHS, MVAA collaborate with EMS to provide veteran-centric resources in the Leave Behind Naloxone Program

Pew Charitable Trusts – States Can Reduce Barriers to Prescribing Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder

Senator Shelley Moore Capito – Capito, Manchin Announce $200k For Recovery Point Of Huntington for Substance Use Prevention, Treatment

The Hill – San Francisco could break drug overdose record

The Washington Post – Opioid deaths surged during coronavirus pandemic in D.C., Virginia and Maryland

UC San Diego Health – Older Adults with Functional Impairments Linked to Prescription Drug Use/Misuse

The Register-Herald – Former DEA agent: Drug wholesalers didn’t report a decade of suspicious pain pill orders

The Lancet – Rethinking Chronic Pain

Orlando Sentinel – As drug overdoses soar, new push to enlist employers to help struggling workers

This Week’s Calendar

In the week ahead, there are no relevant events or hearings noticed at this time. In the event that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

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