Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Julio Contreras October 12, 2021

Hill Happenings

Reconciliation and FY2022 Appropriations

FY2022 spending negotiations on the Hill have stalled as lawmakers contend with competing fiscal cliffs. On September 30, Congress avoided a government shut-down by finalizing a continuing resolution (H.R. 5305) to extend federal funding through December 3, affording Democrats more time to negotiate on topline spending numbers for the fiscal year 2022 (FY2022) spending bills and key health provisions in the Build Back Better Act, like drug price negotiation and closing the Medicaid coverage gap.  

In addition to the FY2022 spending deadlines, lawmakers are grappling with the Department of Treasury’s forecast that the US government will default on its debt on October 18 unless Congress takes action to suspend or raise the debt limit. On October 7, the Senate approved a temporary debt limit increase through December 3 (S. 1301), which is expected to pass the House and become law. However, the short-term fix tees up another high-stakes fiscal cliff in December as Democrats will again face the FY2022 spending and debt limit deadlines.  

NASTAD will continue to monitor the FY2022 appropriations process to advocate for the highest funding levels on behalf of HIV and hepatitis programs.

Administrative Activities

CDC Distributes Historic 5-Year Investment for DIS Workforce

On October 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it distributed funding for the first year of the CDC Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) Workforce Development Supplement. The DIS funding, afforded by the American Rescue Plan in May 2021, will strengthen the DIS workforce so that the U.S. can respond to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and support 21st century disease control and prevention by expanding, training, and sustaining a response-ready DIS workforce over the next five years. The funding supplements CDC’s “Strengthening STD Prevention and Control for Health Departments” (STD PCHD) (RFA-PS19-1901). All 59 current recipients of STD PCHD applied for and received funding for the supplement’s year one $200,000,000 award.

Biden Administration Releases Title X Final Rule

On October 7, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Population Affairs (OPA) released a final rule that reverses recent changes to the Title X program, the nation’s only federally-funded family planning program. The final rule largely restores the program to its operating conditions in 2019 prior to the Trump-era changes, which undermined the Title X provider network by forcing abortion providers out of the program. In preparation for the updated program changes which go into effect on November 8, the Administration is will soon issue notice of funding opportunities that will enable the full breadth of family planning providers to re-enter the program.  

Francis Collins Announces Retirement from as Director of NIH

On October 5, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced that he would retire from the health research agency by the end of the year. Dr. Collins is the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director, having served three U.S. presidents over more than 12 years. He garnered broad bipartisan Congressional support for NIH research, growing NIH’s budget by 38% during his 12-year leadership. Dr. Collins proposed and established bold initiatives — extending from fundamental basic science to translational science to focused projects — to tackle some of the most pressing health issues facing Americans, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, opioid use disorder, rare diseases and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to becoming the NIH director, Dr. Collins served as the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993-2008, where he led the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.

Resources

HRSA NOFO: Ending the HIV Epidemic - Primary Care HIV Prevention

Application Deadline: Tuesday, December 14

TA Webinar: Thursday, October 28 at 2 pm ET

HRSA released the fiscal year (FY) 2022 Ending the HIV Epidemic - Primary Care HIV Prevention (PCHP) Notice of Funding Opportunity (HRSA-22-104). HRSA will invest approximately $50 million in health centers located in the targeted geographic locations where a majority of new HIV infections occur, as identified by the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative. FY 2022 PCHP will support expanding HIV prevention services that decrease the risk of HIV transmission in underserved communities, focusing on supporting access to and use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Health centers with service delivery sites in the targeted geographic locations that did not receive FY 2020 PCHP or FY 2021 PCHP funding will be eligible to apply. Technical assistance (TA) resources are available on the PCHP TA webpage.

CDC MMWR: HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis Awareness and Referral to Providers Among Hispanic/Latino Persons

CA Governor Newsom Signs Hepatitis Bill

On October 4, California Governor Newsom signed AB 789 into law, making California the first state in the country to provide all adults voluntary screenings for hepatitis B and C in an effort to save lives and close disparities in diagnosis and treatment. The bill, which received unanimous, bipartisan support in the Legislature, requires all clinics that provide primary care services to offer adults a voluntary hepatitis B and C screening test according to the latest USPSTF recommendations, and to provide care or refer for care and treatment according to AASLD practice guidelines for persons tested positive. The lawmakers hope that the increase in hepatitis screening and linkage to care in California will help to reduce health disparities for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black communities in California, which bear the highest disease burden in the state.

Job Postings

Communicable Disease Unit Surveillance Program Manager – Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Wyoming Department of Health, Public Health Division, Communicable Disease Unit is seeking a Communicable Disease Surveillance Program Manager for Cheyenne. This position will serve as the Communicable Disease (CD) Surveillance Program Manager and senior epidemiologist for the Communicable Disease Unit. This position oversees public health surveillance of four disease areas (HIV, STD, TB, and Viral Hepatitis).  This position will monitor disease trends and utilize surveillance data to coordinate public health activities.  

Public Health Informaticist, California Department of Public Health – Richmond, CA

The Public Health Informaticist position is assigned to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Control Branch, and is located at the CDPH campus in Richmond, CA, with consideration for a telework schedule. Under the general supervision of the STD Control Branch, Surveillance and Data Management Unit Chief, the Informaticist supports the design and implementation of disease prevention and control activities related to HIV, STDs, and viral hepatitis (especially hepatitis C virus (HCV)). 

HIV Section Administrator, Bureau of Communicable Diseases -  Tallahassee, Florida

This position in the Florida Department of Health is a highly responsible position as the HIV/AIDS Section Administrator for the HIV/AIDS Section reporting directly to the Chief of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases. This position is responsible for all aspects of the HIV program including providing direction and functional supervision of staff responsible for HIV Prevention, Patient Care, Surveillance and Quality Improvement initiatives for the state of Florida. The position also has the responsibility of coordinating statewide efforts for program planning and culturally competent community engagement efforts.

Hepatitis Surveillance Data Analyst – New Orleans, Lousiana

This position is responsible for the data analysis activities for the Louisiana Office of Public Health STD/HIV/Hepatitis Program (SHHP), in the Hepatitis Surveillance unit. Data utilized for Hepatitis Surveillance activities include Hepatitis laboratory data, Case Report Forms, Provider Report Forms, Linkage to Cure data, investigation data, Medicaid data, and data from related sources and programs. This position will implement and coordinate data analysis activities to monitor and evaluate progress toward meeting hepatitis elimination within the state. All activities must be completed in accordance with the security and confidentiality guidelines required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHHP.

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.

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

Lack of Housing Linked to HIV, HCV Spikes Among People Who Inject Drugs

“People who inject drugs were 39% more likely to acquire HIV and 64% more likely to acquire hepatitis C virus (HCV) if they were unstably housed or unhoused compared with those who had a safe, stable place to live, according to a meta-analysis published in Lancet Public Health…This may be the first systematic review and meta-analysis specifically looking at the impact of housing on HIV and HCV acquisition rates.”

Hochul Signs Bills to Combat Opioid Epidemic, Vows ‘Study’ on Safe Injection Sites

“Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of bills aimed at combatting the opioid addiction epidemic Thursday, Oct. 7, and said she would “study” opening long-stalled safe injection sites in the Empire State. Hochul green-lit five pieces of legislation that will make it easier for people suffering from addiction to get treatment, and she told of her own late teenage nephew Michael who died from an overdose after injecting opiates laced with fentanyl six years ago…The laws are all methods of what advocates call “harm reduction,” which aims to remove the negative social and legal consequences of drug use rather than criminalize people who consume illegal substances.”

A global fight looms over Kratom, a possible opioid alternative

“A World Health Organization meeting next week could determine the future of kratom, a widely available herbal supplement some tout as an alternative to opioid painkillers, in the U.S. and elsewhere. Kratom, a plant indigenous to Southeast Asia, produces narcotic-like effects when smoked or taken in liquid or capsule form. Its advocates say the substance is a promising replacement for opioids that could help wean people addicted to those drugs, which killed nearly 70,000 people in the U.S. in 2020.”