Congressional Corner




March 8, 2018

Federal Funding Update

Congress continues work on an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government for FY18. The current continuing resolution expires on March 23. As of today, there is no additional information on progress.

This Week’s Hearings

On March 8, the Senate HELP committee held a hearing: “The Opioid Crisis: Leadership and Innovation.” Gov. Larry Hogan (MD) and Gov. Kate Brown (MA) were the two witnesses. ASTHO will provide a summary in next week’s Congressional Corner.

In addition, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing: “Examining U.S. Public Health Preparedness for and Response Efforts to Seasonal Influenza.”

Witnesses included: Rick A. Bright, deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response, director of the Biomedical Advances Research and Development Authority, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, HHS; Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH; Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner; and Anne Schuchat, acting director of CDC.

ASTHO will provide a summary in next week’s Congressional Corner.

Upcoming Hearings

The House Oversight Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment will hold a hearing on March 12 entitled: “The Historic 2017 Hurricane Season: Impacts on the U.S. Virgin Islands.” The hearing will take place at the Legislature of the Virgin Island Capitol Building, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

The House Committee on Appropriations, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on March 15 on HHS’s FY19 budget. The HHS Secretary Alex Azar is the witness.

Telebriefing on Opioids (summary provided by Cornerstone Government Affairs)

On March 6, CDC held a telebriefing addressing the 30 percent rise in emergency department visits in 16 states for opioid overdoses from third quarter 2016 to third quarter 2017. This is reported in the most recent Vital Signs report. Featured on the telebriefing was Anne Schuchat, acting director of CDC and Jerome Adams (alumnus-IN), U.S. Surgeon General.  

Schuchat stated that overdoses have increased everywhere in the United States, both in rural and urban areas, among individuals over 25 years old, as well as with men and women. She highlighted that the Midwest has experienced a 70 percent increase in opioid overdose emergency department visits. Wisconsin experienced a particularly striking increase of 109 percent. Not close behind was Delaware, which had a 105 percent increase in overdose visits. Schuchat also noted that several states experienced a decrease in overdoses, but these decreases were statistically insignificant. The most dramatic decrease was in Kentucky, which saw a 15 percent reduction. Schuchat ended her statement by highlighting the importance of using naloxone for overdose prevention.

Adams noted the Administration’s three goals in relation to the opioid epidemic: (1) saving lives, (2) decreasing supply, and (3) decreasing demand. Adams also noted the importance of naloxone and stated that first responders and community members need access to naloxone to address the alarming rates of overdose. He also suggested that, in addition to linking patients to treatment centers, local emergency departments should provide naloxone that patients can take home, along with training on how to administer it.

Adams highlighted the need to educate the public and destigmatize addiction. Moreover, he emphasized prevention, stating that it is important to promote safe use, storage, and disposal of opioids, in addition to safe prescribing methods. Finally, he emphasized the need for coordination between public safety and law enforcement to address the illicit drug supply.