Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Julio Contreras April 12, 2021

Hill Happenings

FY2022 Appropriations

NASTAD joined a coalition of 191 organizations and called on Congressional Appropriators to increase funding for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), which coordinates CDC’s work on Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). The advocates highlight the urgent need for increased investments in health programs that address the social and economic conditions, including housing, employment, food security, and education, that contribute significantly to an individual’s health outcomes over their lifetime. The coalition calls for increased funding to support cross-sector collaborations between public health departments and community-based organizations that address SDOH.

Biden Health Nominees to Undergo Senate Panel Hearing

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on April 15 on the nominations of Andrea Palm for Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The nominees would play a key role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, undoing Trump-era policies like Medicaid work requirements, and advancing the Biden Administration’s public health agenda.

Administrative Activity

Biden Administration Releases FY2022 Discretionary Funding Request

On April 9, the Biden Administration released the long-awaited Executive Budget Proposal, a non-binding document that typically serves as a starting point for appropriations negotiations on the hill. The Administration released a “skinny budget,” providing only top-line funding levels for federal agencies and a framework detailing the Administration’s spending and policy priorities. A detailed fiscal budget proposal will be released later this spring, most likely in May.

The Department of Health and Human Services overall funding request was $131.7 billion, an increase of $25 billion or 24%. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, where HOPWA sits, received a 15% increase. The budget request notes that the President wishes to invest $670 million in funding for the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative, which is an increase of $267 million over the current level. While the breakdown of funding by programmatic area is not available, the skinny budget notes that investments will be made in the CDC, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to “reduce new HIV cases aggressively while increasing access to treatment, expanding use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP), and ensuring equitable access to services and supports.” 

Additionally, the budget request notes that the President would like to invest $10.7 billion dollars into combatting the opioid crisis across the government. NASTAD will be working to ensure that some of this funding goes to harm reduction services. The overall funding amount for the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention has not yet been released. However, an increase of 22% overall was requested for CDC.  The overall funding amount for HRSA is not available at this time. 

NASTAD will continue to advocate with Congress to secure the highest funding amounts possible for HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious disease and drug user health programs. NASTAD will continue to provide updates throughout the process. 

CDC Announces that Federal Funds Can Be Used to Buy Fentanyl Test Strips

On April 7, the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that federal funding may now be used to purchase rapid fentanyl test strips (FTS). The policy change will allow overdose response programs funded through the CDC and SAMHSA to purchase FTS to support harm reduction services. FTS enable drug users to determine whether drugs have been mixed or cut with illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a key driver of rising drug overdose deaths, and reduce the possibility of drug overdose.

CDC Declares Racism a Public Health Threat

On April 8, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky declared racism a serious public health threat. In the statement, Walensky pointed to the life-long negative effects perpetuated by structural inequities and racial discrimination on the mental and physical health for people of color. Walensky committed the agency to studying the impact of race and social determinants on health outcomes, announced new investments in the health of racial and ethnic minority communities, and launched a new web portal on “Racism and Health.”

National Public Health Week

On April 5, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation to commemorate the start of National Public Health Week. Biden noted the increased significance of National Public Health Week in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented levels of public health efforts that have been leveraged to address the pandemic. Additionally, Biden reiterated the Administration’s commitment to investing in the nation’s public health system.

NIH Experts Call for Accelerated Research to Address Concurrent HIV and COVID-19 Pandemics

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), called for unprecedented collaboration to accelerate basic and clinical research on HIV and COVID-19. Fauci highlighted the critical need caused by the disruptions to the delivery of HIV treatment and prevention services during the pandemic and pointed to mounting evidence that specific comorbidities in people with HIV are linked to greater COVID-19 severity. In particular, Fauci and the authors of the article published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases call for basic research on the interactions between HIV and SARS-CoV-2 and clinical studies to evaluate outcomes for people co-infected with HIV and SARS-CoV-2.

HHS Secretary Announces Expanded COVID-19 Vaccine Program

On April 7, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that all health centers funded through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be eligible to participate in the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program. The Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program directly allocates COVID-19 vaccines to HRSA-supported health centers that serve underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. According to the statement, approximately 70 percent of those who have received a vaccine through the program are racial or ethnic minorities. The policy change will qualify up to 1,470 health centers nationwide.

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) is observed each year on April 10 to educate the public about the impact of HIV on young people. Addressing HIV among American youth is a key part of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States. NYHAAD provides the opportunity to work collaboratively to build a baseline of health education, including HIV awareness, among today’s youth. Click here to read a blog post from Senior HIV Advisor and Chief Operating Officer for Ending the HIV Epidemic, Harold J. Phillips, MRP, on the importance of comprehensive sexual education for youth.

Resources

Updated CDC Guidance: Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection

“The Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of Children Living with HIV (the Panel) has reviewed previous versions of the Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection and revised the text and references. Key updates are summarized below.”

Chembio Donates Free DPP® HIV-Syphilis Tests to NCSD Members

Chembio has donated DPP® HIV-Syphilis Tests to the National Coalition of STD Directors to help fight the ongoing HIV and Syphilis epidemics here in the US. The goal is to supply our dual HIV-Syphilis test to the areas hardest hit by these infections. This includes facilities such as Local Health Departments, STD Clinics, Family Planning Clinics, Women’s Health Clinics, PrEP Clinics, etc. that could benefit from having access to these tests. Click here to apply. All supplies are subject to availability of stock.

Job Postings

Statewide Deputy Medical Director, HIV/STD/Viral Hepatitis -- Nashville, Tennessee

Primary responsibilities include leadership and oversight of programs related to HIV prevention and treatment in Tennessee. This position will supervise and provide mentorship to the directors of HIV Prevention and Surveillance and the Ryan White Part B program. Utilize data to guide program and policy development and will provide clinical and programmatic oversight for the implementation of all related prevention and treatment activities. Requires management and leadership skills.

COVID-19 Project Manager – Richmond, Virginia

The Virginia Department of Health is seeking a COVID-19 Project Manager in the Office of Epidemiology. This position works with various stakeholders to organize resources, communicate on projects, and provide reports to various levels of leadership. The COVID-19 Project Manager is primarily responsible for implementing project management processes, organizing timelines, communicating updates, escalating issues that are identified, and providing various reports that provide updates regarding the project’s status.

Clinic Operations Director—Baltimore, Maryland

The Clinic Operations Director position falls within the Division of Population Health and Disease Prevention at Baltimore City Health Department in the Bureau of Clinical Services and HIV/STI prevention. It reports directly to the Bureau Administrator of the Bureau of Clinical Services and HIV/STI Prevention. The medical direction of the clinics are led by 4 medical directors and 2 clinical chiefs. The clinic operations director will work in tandem with the medical directors and report to the bureau administrator. All 8 leadership positions work in an integrated and collaborative partnership. The Clinic Operations Director will oversee all operational aspects of the two clinics, as well as their integration into other aspects of the health department and coordination with other health department programs.

Assistant Commissioner - Health Department – Baltimore, Maryland

The Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) is seeking an Assistant Commissioner to lead the Bureau of Communicable Disease and Outbreak Control. This senior management position will lead a talented team responsible for communicable disease investigation, outbreak control and emergency preparedness programming. The incumbent will also be responsible for developing and implementing agency wide policies related to health department readiness to respond to public health emergencies. The incumbent will report directly to the Deputy Commissioner for BCHD’s Division of Population Health & Disease Prevention.   

Communicable Disease Epidemiologist – Cheyenne, Wyoming

This position will serve as the Communicable Disease AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Coordinator, Wyoming TB Controller, and Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) for the Communicable Disease (CD) Treatment Program.  Assist in outbreak response to ensure the safety of Wyoming residents; by interviewing cases for exposure information, updating news outlets on the progress of outbreak control, analyzing exposure data utilizing epidemiological and statistical methods.

Department of State Health Services, Program Informatics and Evaluation Group – Austin, TX

  • Epidemiologist III - designs and implements statistical analyses appropriate for epidemiologic and programmatic data with a focus on HIV prevention programming.
  • Program Specialist V - performs advanced (senior-level) consultative services for the Program Informatics and Evaluation Group within the integrated HIV/STD/TB Surveillance and Prevention unit of DSHS
  • Research Specialist V - conducts highly advanced (senior-level) research and analysis of program evaluation and epidemiologic data associated with HIV, particularly routine testing for HIV in clinical settings

Open Positions – New York State

The New York State Department of Health, in partnership with Health Research, Inc, has various job openings, including some within the AIDS Institute. Please visit this link to learn about their current opportunities.

News Bulletin

Biden rescinds Trump-approved Medicaid work requirements in Michigan, Wisconsin

“President Biden this week rescinded former President Trump’s permission for Michigan and Wisconsin to institute work requirements for recipients of Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent letters on Tuesday to public health officials in Michigan and Wisconsin announcing the administration will revoke its approval for mandates for Medicaid recipients to work, go to school or attend job training in order to receive the health care coverage.” 

CDC inquiry sought on HIV outbreak in WVa’s largest county

“U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday submitted a congressional inquiry with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding an HIV outbreak in West Virginia’s largest county. The West Virginia Democrat asked for the inquiry on behalf of the Kanawha County Commission two months after a CDC official warned that the county’s outbreak was ’the most concerning in the United States.’”

Biden pushes Congress to boost public health, pandemic preparedness funding

“The Biden administration is asking Congress to bolster public health funding yet again — a call the White House says is necessary to prepare the country for the next pandemic and address public health crises that have been pushed amid Covid-19.

Biden called for a $1.6 billion funding increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a boost that represents almost a quarter of the agency’s current budget — to help increase core public health capacity at the federal and state level. The money could also be used to help build out public health data infrastructure and train new public health experts.”