Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir October 9, 2018

Hill Happenings

Opioid Package

The Senate passed the bipartisan bill combating the opioid crisis, SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act with a 98-1 vote. Included in the bill is $40 million for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) programs to track and treat infections associated with illicit drug use, such as HIV and hepatitis. The President is expected to sign the legislation into law soon. The House Energy and Commerce Committee provided a section by section summary. NASTAD will work with various community partners to advocate for the full $40 million to be appropriated to this important work. NASTAD signed onto a letter from the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose thanking Congress for the passage of bipartisan legislation.

Administration Activities

NASTAD Joins Letter Calling on Secretary Azar to Present a Comprehensive Budget Request for Children and Families at the Border

NASTAD, along with 111 other organizations, signed a letter from the Coalition for Health Funding addressed to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar regarding the use of transfers to care for unaccompanied migrant children and the need for a budget request to adequately address the crisis. Funding to care for immigrant children is being transferred directly from money appropriated in fiscal year 2018 for public health and medical research, including $5.7 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and $3.8 million from the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP). The letter urges HHS to make public its plan to respond to and recover from this public health crisis, and to request that Congress provide the funding necessary, through annual or supplemental appropriations legislation, to ensure the health and wellbeing of children and families in the Department’s care.

CDC Launches 2nd Edition of Hepatitis C Online

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releasedthe updated Hepatitis C Online, a free, up-to-date comprehensive educational resource for healthcare providers that covers diagnosing, monitoring, and managing HCV infection. Free CME credits and CNE contact hours are available for 33 lessons. In addition, the site features an in-depth HCV medications section, nine clinical calculators, and individual or group progress tracking.

SAMHSA Administrator Argues against Fentanyl Test Strips

Following a study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, which found that people who test illegal opioids for fentanyl before using are five times more likely to engage "in safer drug use behaviors" when the test is positive, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator Elinore McCance-Katz urged caution on the use of fentanyl test strips.

“These statistics are indeed alarming and the desire to quickly halt these increases in deaths seems reasonable; however, is encouraging people who use drugs to test them first for ‘safety’ the answer? Can’t the nation do better?”, wrote the SAMHSA Administrator.

The strips can help people using drugs avoid an opioid overdose by screening for the extremely powerful synthetic opioid that increasingly is mixed into heroin and other street drugs without the buyer's knowledge. About 29,000 opioid-related deaths in 2017 involved fentanyl, according to provisional CDC data. NASTAD is supportive of a full-range of harm reduction strategies. 

Job Opportunities

Deputy Medical Director, HIV Prevention & Treatment

The Tennessee Department of Health is currently seeking a Deputy Medical Director position for its HIV Prevention and Treatment program. This position is in the Division of Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness (CEDEP), HIV/STD/Viral Hepatitis Program and will oversee statewide public health initiatives related to HIV prevention and treatment in the state of Tennessee.

Chief for the Center for Viral Hepatitis

The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) is looking for a new Chief for the Center for Viral Hepatitis. The position is in the MDH’s Department of Infectious Disease & Environmental Health Services and will serve as the Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau's leader for the Center for Viral Hepatitis. The Chief will provide overall direction, oversight, and coordination for multiple programs and efforts of the Center to address hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment. 

Deputy Assistant Secretary

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is seeking a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the National Vaccine Program Office. This position is located in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health (ASH), National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO), located in Washington, D.C.

Upcoming Conferences

2018 National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care & Treatment

The 2018 Ryan White Conference on HIV Care & Treatment will be held December 11-14, 2018 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Late registration for the conference is open until Friday. 

Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) 2018 Clinical Conference

The RWHAP Clinical Conference will be held on December 9-11 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The conference is open to any RWHAP-funded clinical prescriber--Parts A-F.  Registration for the Clinical Conference is now available.

2019 National HIV Prevention Conference

The 2019 National HIV Prevention Conference will be held March 18-21, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Check out the updated website for more information about tracks and to view the tentative conference schedule. 

2019 HIV Diagnostics Conference

The 2019 HIV Diagnostics Conference will be held in Atlanta on March 25-28, 2019. The conference will address advances in diagnostic testing, and strategies for using test technologies in public health programs and clinical practice. The conference program this year expands beyond HIV testing, and incorporates STI and HCV testing technologies and strategies, with an emphasis on integrating testing programmatically. As with past conferences, there will be a mix of oral presentations, panel discussions, and poster sessions. We strongly encourage health department HIV, HCV, and STI testing program managers and other staff consider submitting an abstract, attending the conference.  Abstract submission for the conference is open.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) is offering a limited number of scholarships to support travel to the 2019 HIV Diagnostics Conference. HD program staff (i.e. non-laboratorians) are eligible. Priority goes to those that have an accepted abstract.

News Bulletin

Governor Jerry Brown Vetoes Supervised Consumption Services Bill, Rejecting Long-Proven Strategy to Reduce Overdose Deaths

“Late last night California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 186 which would have allowed San Francisco to open overdose prevention services that would let drug users use controlled substances under the supervision of staff trained to treat and prevent drug overdose and link people to drug treatment, housing and other services. AB 186, authored by Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), passed the California Assembly and Senate earlier this year.”

amfAR Releases Analysis of HIV and Hepatitis C Testing at Substance Abuse Facilities

amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, has published an analysis of data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that calculates the number of substance abuse facilities across the country that offer HIV testing or HCV testing. Their analysis found that only 28 percent of facilities in the country test for HIV, including only 22 percent of facilities in CDC-defined “vulnerable counties.” The findings are similar for Hepatitis C with only 28 percent of facilities testing for HCV nationally including 25 percent of facilities in CDC-defined “vulnerable counties.”