Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Julio Contreras May 3, 2021

Hill Happenings

Senate Health Leaders Announce Bipartisan Push to Improve Nation’s Public Health Preparedness

On April 29, Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced the beginning of bipartisan discussions to consider how to better prepare the nation for future public health emergencies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senators will consider lessons learned from the COVID-19 response to develop bipartisan legislation that improves the nation’s public health infrastructure and medical preparedness and response programs and capabilities at the local, state, territorial, Tribal, and federal levels. Senators Murray and Burr plan to develop consensus-based policy proposals and advance legislation through Committee in the fall.

Senate Democrats Announce Earmarks Plan

On April 26, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced Democrats’ plan to reintroduce earmarks in the upper chamber. Earmarks were prohibited in Congress after bipartisan reports of misused earmarked spending prompted legislators to abandon the practice. Chairman Leahy outlined a set of procedural reforms that are intended to limit fraud and abuse of federal dollars in the revamped earmark process. The House approved a reformed earmark process earlier in the year, branded as Community Project Funding. Senate Republicans remain wary of the new earmark procedures, opting to symbolically ban the use of earmarked funds as a caucus, although some Republican Senators have indicated that they will seek earmarked funds.

FY22 Appropriations

NASTAD joined a coalition of 206 organizations and urged Congressional Appropriators to properly fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) program. The advocates highlighted the need for cross-sector efforts that cut across disease-specific funding to identify community priorities around social determinants of health. Increased funding to the NCCDPH SDOH program would allow public health departments, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations to develop integrated community programming that address the social determinants of health and improve health outcomes.

Additionally, NASTAD and the Global Aids Policy Partnership (GAPP) called on Congressional Appropriators to expand funding for global HIV/AIDS programs. The coalition of over 70 organizations urged Congress to increase U.S. investments in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and protect funding for the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. Agency for International Development HIV/AIDS program, and the CDC global AIDS program. The advocates highlighted the decrease in investments for global health over the past few years and called on Congress to reiterate the nation’s commitment to ending AIDS as a public health threat.

Coalition of Nearly 200 Organizations Urge Biden Administration to Healthcare and Equity in Next Relief Package

On April 23, NASTAD joined a broad coalition of nearly 200 advocacy organizations and sent a letter to the Biden Administration and Congressional leadership outlining a set of core values to prioritize in the next COVID-19 relief package. The advocates urge the Administration and Congress to center health care in all infrastructure discussions and negotiations, including addressing the high cost of prescription drugs and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers. Additionally, the coalition calls for the development of inclusive policies that guarantee access to affordable health coverage regardless of age, income, immigration status, and geographic location, and highlight the need to take action on addressing pre-existing health and economic inequities that led to the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, individuals with disabilities, and older adults.

Administrative Activity

Biden Administration Lifts Requirement for Prescribing Buprenorphine

On April 27, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new buprenorphine practice guidelines that remove federal certification requirements for medical practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The former practice guidelines required medical practitioners to attend additional training before becoming eligible to prescribe buprenorphine, which posed significant barriers on the accessibility of the medication and limited providers’ ability to treat OUD and prevent overdose deaths. Under the new guidelines, practitioners may treat no more than 30 patients with buprenorphine at any one time.

CDC Announces Awards for CDC-RFA-PS21-2103 Integrated Viral Hepatitis Surveillance and Prevention Funding Opportunity

On April 28, the CDC released the list of awardees under the Integrated Viral Hepatitis Surveillance and Prevention Funding for Health Departments (CDC-RFA-PS21-2103) cooperative agreement. The funding will support the capacity of states, territories, and large cities to detect and respond to viral hepatitis outbreaks; to collect and analyze data to inform the development and implementation of public health interventions to prevent and control viral hepatitis; and to support viral hepatitis elimination planning and maximize access to viral hepatitis prevention, testing, and treatment to reduce the burden of viral hepatitis in their jurisdictions.

NIH Announces 3 New Funding Opportunities for HIV Research in EHE Jurisdictions

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) published three funding opportunity announcements (FOA) under the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative that will support research to help end the HIV epidemic in EHE jurisdictions. To optimize the implementation of the research findings, the FOAs require applicants to collaborate with one or more local implementing partners and encourage applicants to consider creative, locally defined, and culturally sensitive concepts.

Resources

NIDA Blog: Addiction Should Be Treated, Not Penalized

“We have known for decades that addiction is a medical condition—a treatable brain disorder—not a character flaw or a form of social deviance. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence supporting that position, drug addiction continues to be criminalized. The US must take a public health approach to drug addiction now, in the interest of both population well-being and health equity.”

NASTAD Webinar: U=U is a Public Health Imperative!

Date: Wednesday, May 5 from 3:00 – 4:30 pm ET

NASTAD and Prevention Action Campaign are co-hosting a webinar for state, county, and city health department staff focusing on integrating U=U into their responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemicAnyone interesting in learning about integrating U=U into publicly funded HIV prevention and care programs is welcome to attend.   

Please pre-register for the webinar here. The webinar agenda is still being finalized but will include presentations focusing on U=U as a public health strategy, the latest scientific evidence supporting U=U, and a panel of representatives from four health departments that have been leading the way in endorsing and implementing U=U in their HIV testing, surveillance, prevention, and care programs.    

Notice of Funding Opportunity: Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation

NACCHO has released a funding opportunity to promote monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of syringe services programs (SSPs) and support the use of data for SSP program improvement. With support from CDC and in partnership with the University of Washington, NACCHO will provide funding (up to $98,750) and technical assistance to local health department (LHD) and community-based SSPs to strengthen M&E efforts and systems.

Applications are due May 21, 2021 at 11:59 PM PT. For additional information or to access the Request for Applications, visit here. Register for an informational webinar, to be held on Monday, April 26 at 2 PM ET, here.

Job Postings

Director I, HIV/STD Prevention and Care – Austin, Texas

Works under the general direction of the Director of the TB/HIV/STD Section (THSS) of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Performs advanced (senior-level) managerial work leading the day-to-day operations of the HIV/STD Prevention and Care Unit. The Director I would lead the day-to-day operations of an array of programmatic services that maintain and facilitate programs of the Unit. These programs include statewide programs for HIV clinical and social services; the provision of medications for the treatment of HIV and other STDs; and HIV, STD and viral hepatitis prevention.

NASTAD Senior Director, Public Health Systems – Remote/Washington, DC

The Senior Director, Public Health Systems, provides leadership and direction to NASTAD’s health care access (HCA) and health systems integration (HSI) efforts. This position leads the HCA and HSI teams providing direct supervision to these teams’ directors and the overarching work of the teams regarding programmatic, technical assistance, and capacity building activities.

NASTAD Drug User Health Team – Remote/Washington, DC

  • The Associate, Drug User Health will play a vital role in project coordination to streamline and enhance the team’s expanding drug user health portfolio. Core activities will entail administrative and logistical support to NASTAD’s Drug User Health team in the delivery of technical assistance (TA) and training to health department and community-based officials. This position works closely with the team to facilitate effective coordination and communication across multifaceted project activities and deliverables.
  • The Manager, Drug User Health will support the advancement of NASTAD’s efforts to assist health departments and community-based drug user health programs by providing technical assistance (TA) and training on effective drug user health strategies and connecting people who use drugs to HIV and hepatitis prevention and treatment programs. Core activities will include: leading collaborations and organizational partnerships to expand access to clinical care for people who use drugs; supporting the creation and release of training curricula and guidance documents; and providing tailored TA to support health department drug user health and harm reduction programs, community SSPs, and HIV and hepatitis care and treatment programs.

Public Health Administrator, HIV Prevention Engagement & Outreach Coordinator – Indianapolis, Indiana

The Public Health Administrator coordinates numerous HIV prevention programs with both high-risk and HIV positive consumers. Programming is targeted to CDC-identified priority populations including but not limited to: Communities of Color, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), Transgender; People who Inject Drugs (PWID). This position works with prevention team managers and coordinators on the planning, development and implementation programs and projects. This position assures all initiatives are compliant with funders guidance.

Disease Intervention Specialist – St. Paul, Minnesota

This posting will be used to fill two (2) positions. These positions will work as the Disease Prevention Specialists focusing on intervening and prevention of the transmission of HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia infection through educating, counseling, investigating, and facilitating the medical examination and treatment of persons with these infections, and those at highest risk for infection to prevent death and disability by initiating and maintaining HIV clinical care and antiretroviral therapy.

Statewide Deputy Medical Director, HIV/STD/Vi ral 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.

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

Democrats push to add drug pricing, Medicare measures to Biden plan

“Leading congressional Democrats are pushing to add drug pricing measures and even an expansion of Medicare eligibility to President Biden's American Families Plan after the White House left the proposals out of the $1.8 trillion package. Biden made a rhetorical call to pass drug pricing legislation in his address to Congress on Wednesday, but the administration’s decision not to include the measure in the president’s human-focused infrastructure proposal, despite pressure from Democratic lawmakers, is raising questions about his commitment.”

Do public health officials need to be political activists? A fight over an HIV crisis renews the question

“Most local health officials don’t accept their jobs expecting to be roped into political activism. Amid Covid-19, though, politics became a central element of health experts’ job descriptions. In Washington, government researcher Anthony Fauci publicly feuded with former President Trump. In many cities and states, local health departments were forced to square off against governors who resisted coronavirus mitigation strategies like business closures or mask mandates. The series of squabbles has raised the question of whether, to be effective, local health officials need to add politics to their list of day-to-day responsibilities.”

700% Spike in HIV Cases in One Ohio County

“Butler County, Ohio, experienced a 700% jump in HIV cases since January 1, compared with the same time period last year, reports WCPO 9 News. The new HIV diagnoses are linked to injection drug use. ‘While this represents just eight new cases, the percent increase is alarming and something we need to understand so we can implement prevention tactics,’ Jackie Phillips Carter, the health commissioner for Middletown, one of the main cities in Butler County, said in a statement.”

Hepatitis Detection Efforts in West Virginia Get Nearly $400K Boost

“The federal government has awarded West Virginia about $393,000 for viral hepatitis surveillance, according to an announcement from the state’s U.S. senators, Republican Shelly More Capito and Democrat Joe Manchin. Of that funding, $78,659 has been set aside to explore how the opioid epidemic affects rates of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.”

Advocacy Groups Say HIV Criminalization Law Hurts Public Health

“A law criminalizing HIV transmission has been in place in Illinois for over 30 years. Advocates fighting to get rid of the law say it hurts public health. Currently, taking part in sexual activity without a condom without disclosing an HIV-positive status is a Class 2 felony. That could mean up to a $25,000 fine, along with prison time. Chris Wade is a project coordinator and health equity advisor with the Illinois Public Health Association. He said the law discourages people from getting tested for HIV.”