Coalition News

NATIONAL. NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett and Chicago health commissioner Julie Morita (Pulse Check)

The nation heard from President Donald Trump on Wednesday, who again urged Republicans to repeal the ACA. Congress continues to loudly battle over the law, and governors have spoken out too.

But one voice that’s been largely ignored: Local health leaders. And on this episode of PULSE CHECK, two big city health commissioners — New York City commissioner Mary Bassett and Chicago commissioner Julie Morita — join POLITICO’s Dan Diamond to explain how Republicans’ plan would hit their cities, why they prioritize "health" over "health care" and how they're addressing persistent social inequality. They also walk through what it’s like to be a city health commissioner — a role that both describe as their dream job.

Listen here.

HOUSTON. Houston Braces for Another Brush With the Peril of Zika (The New York Times)

HOUSTON — With 4.5 million people in a hot, muggy metropolis built atop a bayou, America’s fourth-largest city, Houston, is a perfect target for the mosquito-borne Zika virus. But it may be better prepared than any other urban center to stop an outbreak...

The $1.1 billion in Zika funding that Congress passed last year runs out in September. The Trump administration seeks to cut the C.D.C. budget by $1.2 billion, to what the agency had 20 years ago.

Many county health departments depend on C.D.C. grants, and they have already been “eviscerated,” said Claude Jacob, president of the health officials’ association. Some 43,000 public health jobs were cut over the last decade.

“We need a contingency fund for epidemics,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, which fights for Zika funding because of the danger to infants. “If we have a hurricane, FEMA doesn’t have to wait for months until Congress responds. Not having a fund just doesn’t make sense.”

Money is not the only obstacle to turning back the virus.

If there is no intense epidemic somewhere in the Western Hemisphere this summer, it will be hard to test any candidate Zika vaccine, said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

For a valid study, between 2,500 and 5,000 people — ideally in several locations — must get either a vaccine or a placebo.

“If we get a big, big outbreak, we can get an answer about the vaccine’s efficacy by mid-2018,” he said. “If we don’t, it may take till 2020 or 2021.”

Read more. 

FLORIDA. State prepares defenses for possible Zika return (The Villages Daily Sun)

Florida officials say they are better prepared this year if the Zika virus reappears, but much of the country expects funding allocated after the last outbreak to run out around the peak of the mosquito season.

Meanwhile, agencies and health departments say the need for research and aid grows.

“We need to continue to explore the full life cycle of the Zika virus, develop a vaccine, learn about other therapeutic methods — it goes on,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Mission Impact for the March of Dimes. “There’s so much left to do, and Zika is not going away.”

In 2015, few people worried about the Zika virus in the United States. Only about 60 infections were reported in travelers returning from affected areas.

But the mosquito-bourne illness raised concern in Brazil. Multiple babies were born with smaller than average heads, a birth defect linked to the virus, which was shown to attack a growing baby’s brain while still in the womb.

Only a year later, Zika had a strong hold on the nation.

NATIONAL. Zika remains a serious threat. Federal funding cuts will make the problem even worse. (ScienceBlogs: The Pump Handle)

By Kim Krisberg

Last year’s emergency Zika funding is about to run out and there’s no new money in the pipeline. It’s emblematic of the kind of short-term, reactive policymaking that public health officials have been warning us about for years. Now, as we head into summer, public health again faces a dangerous, highly complex threat along with an enormous funding gap.

“The Zika threat will get worse,” said Claude Jacob, chief public health officer at the Cambridge Public Health Department in Massachusetts and president of the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO). “And the consequences for women and their babies are very serious.”

Jacob spoke during a May 31 press briefing on the 2017 Zika threat organized by NACCHO, March of Dimes, and the Big Cities Health Coalition (a forum for the nation’s largest metropolitan health departments). Speakers discussed the state of the Zika outbreak — there are now nearly 5,300 Zika cases reported in the U.S., including more than 1,800 pregnant women — as well as evolving research on the virus’ health effects. But the overarching message was clear: keeping the Zika virus at relative bay will require continued and sustained investment. Gaps in funding, they said, will have an especially acute impact at the community level, where local public health agencies serve as a frontline defense against the mosquito-borne virus.

“Local health departments need that sustained investment — they can’t wait for Congress to take months to act,” said Oscar Alleyne, senior advisor for public health programs at NACCHO, referring to Congress’ months-long delay in authorizing the 2016 Zika funding. “We can’t wait until there’s a fire to want to go out and buy a fire truck.”

Read more.

DALLAS. Risk of the Zika virus growing in the U.S. (The Dallas Examiner)

By DENISHA McKNIGHT

As the seasons change from warm to hot, residents should be very cautious of not only the heat but also the rising health risks, such as the Zika virus.

“With summer coming, the Zika threat will get worse,” said Claude Jacob, president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials during a press conference discussing the Zika threat May 31.

Many people are at risk of contracting the virus through a mosquito bite this summer, particularly people who live close to the Gulf Coast and pregnant women. Last year, there were 5,300 Zika cases reported in the U.S. Furthermore, 250 pregnant women were confirmed to have Zika and, of those, 10 percent delivered babies with Zika-related birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Reports haven’t been broken down racially yet, but researchers have considered several social variables.

“They are taking it into consideration. Social determinants are important,” said Oscar Alleyne, NACCHO senior adviser. “People who work outside have a higher risk, and people whose housing is less safe such as lack of air conditioning and screens are at higher risk as well. People who are lower on the socio-economic gradient [also] are more at risk.”

Read more.

NATIONAL. Public health officials fear Trump budget cuts in fight against Zika virus (USA Today)

Kate Covington and Jayne O'Donnell

Spending cuts in the Trump administration's proposed budget for 2018 will hit the agencies dedicated to fighting the Zika virus as the season for the mosquito-borne illness is starting and when the demand for higher spending is needed, city and county health officials say.

Members of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) and the March of Dimes are lobbying Congress for more funding that covers a longer period of time to combat Zika, but say they are trying to develop a bigger coalition to make their case.

"We cannot wait until there’s a fire to want to go out and buy a fire a truck,” says Oscar Alleyne, NACCHO’s senior adviser for public health programs.

President Trump's budget proposed huge cuts to the agencies dedicated to — and most effective at —  fighting Zika at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health services, said NACCHO President Claude Jacob.

Public health officials have been down this road before. Congress took 233 days to respond to the Zika outbreak last year, but a portion of the $1.1 billion lawmakers appropriated went to local health departments "to fund their work on the front lines of the outbreak," says Chrissie Juliano, director of NACCHO's Big Cities Health Coalition.

Health departments shifted around "scarce dollars" last summer and  provided education on how to protect against Zika and targeted expectant parents and those who traveled to infected regions of other countries, she added.

"We are working hard this year to ensure this sort of long delay in the federal response to a rapidly spreading disease outbreak does not occur again," says Juliano.

A hiring freeze at the Department of Health and Human Services poses a threat along with the $838 million that will be cut from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the organization that oversees vaccine development, Kaiser Health News reported recently.

CDC says about 5,300 cases of Zika have been reported in the United States as of May 31, with 224 acquired from local mosquitoes and 5,206 in people who traveled to affected areas. Over 36,000 cases have been reported in U.S territories, CDC statistics show.

Read more.

NATIONAL. Zika: What to Expect this Year (WebMD)

By Kathleen Doheny

The Zika virus, spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and other means, is here to stay, and with it the potential for serious birth defects, public health experts warned today.

From January 2015 to May 31, 2017, 5,285 cases of Zika have been reported on the U.S. mainland, said Oscar Alleyne, PhD, senior adviser for public health programs for the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The group hosted a Zika virus update during a press conference co-sponsored by the Big Cities Health Coalition and the March of Dimes.

In addition, more than 36,000 confirmed Zika cases have happened in U.S. territories. Of the 250 pregnant U.S. women confirmed with Zika infection in 2016, 10% delivered a baby with Zika-related birth defects, Alleyne said.

With government funding possibly expiring for some Zika-related programs, consumers need to stay vigilant and educated more than ever, the experts said.

"Zika is real," said Paul Jarris, MD, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes, at the press conference. "Protect yourself. Know before you go (if the virus is present at your destination)," he warned travelers. If it is present, travelers should consider postponing their trip, especially if you are trying to get pregnant.

Read more.

NATIONAL. Zika's Set to Return to Mainland U.S., But Budget Cuts Threaten Response (HealthDay News)

By Dennis Thompson

The Zika virus will strike the continental United States again this summer, and looming federal budget cuts will make it hard for local officials to curb its spread, public health experts said Wednesday.

The experts believe it's a foregone conclusion that more local Zika outbreaks will occur on the U.S. mainland in the coming months, much like what happened in Miami and Brownsville, Texas, last summer.

"We can virtually guarantee there will be activity, particularly along the Gulf region," said Michael Osterholm. He directs the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Local health departments will shoulder the burden of any response to a local Zika outbreak, infection control experts said during a media briefing hosted by the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO).

NATIONAL. Federal Budget Cuts Could Be 'Catastrophic' for Zika Control (Medscape)

By Megan Brooks

With summer around the corner, public health officials in the United States are gearing up to combat the threat posed by the Zika virus.

In the coming months, the threat of Zika "will get worse, and the consequences of inaction are very real for pregnant women and their babies," Claude Jacob, president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), warned today during a media briefing.

NACCHO, along with the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) and the March of Dimes, held the briefing to discuss the threat posed by the Zika virus this summer.

Zika infections continue to be "widespread in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and of course we had outbreaks in Miami and Brownsville, Texas, last year, and we expect more local outbreaks of Zika in this country, the mainland as well as other territories," said Paul Jarris, MD, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes. The Southern and Gulf Coast regions in the United States are particularly vulnerable to Zika outbreaks.

When it comes to Zika, "we absolutely need to maintain vigilance and funding for Zika as it spreads and we learn more about the effects on pregnancy and newborns," said Dr Jarris.

Read more.

NATIONAL. Proposed funding cuts may increase Zika threat: Health officials (Business Insurance)

By Gloria Gonzalez

The budget proposed by President Donald Trump combined with a bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law could worsen the threat Zika poses to the United States this year, according to local and national health care experts.

As of May 24, 5,300 cases of Zika have been reported on the U.S. mainland, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With summer coming, the Zika threat will get worse,” Claude Jacob, president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials and chief public health officer, Cambridge Public Health Department in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said during a webinar on Wednesday.

Despite the Zika threat, Congress took 233 days last year to provide emergency funding to address the disease, he said.

“The president’s proposed budget continues to threaten our ability to address Zika and other public health challenges,” Mr. Jacob said, citing the proposal to reduce the CDC budget by $1.2 billion, as well as a potential $40 million reduction to the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases program and a $109 million proposed reduction to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program.

“A cut of $1.2 billion to that agency would be dire because so much of CDC’s money goes to state and local departments to support their public health activities such as preparing for and responding to Zika,” said Laura Hanen, interim executive director and chief of government affairs of NACCHO. “You need to have sustained federal funding over time to deal with the day-to-day emergencies that health departments are facing. And then when something like Ebola or Zika comes along that has unique circumstances and needs additional funding from the federal government, then you can go to Congress and ask for supplemental funds.”

Read more.

NATIONAL. House Democrats blast Trump's leaked contraception rule (Politico)

By DAN DIAMOND

ZIKA VIRUS

Advocates warn that Congressional funding is sorely needed. Congressional inaction on committing additional funding to combat the Zika virus, along with proposed budget cuts to federal health agencies, could increase the risk for virus outbreaks this summer, public health experts from Big Cities Health Coalition, the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the March of Dimes told reporters on Wednesday.

“Failing to fund this system will be catastrophic,” said Dr. Oscar Alleyne, NACCHO's senior advisor for public health programs. The $1.1 billion that Congress allocated toward fighting Zika is expected to run out in September and the White House’s initial budget proposes more than $1 billion in cuts to the CDC budget.

… NACCHO's Laura Hanen said that the Trump administration’s proposed CDC budget cuts, along with funding cuts to epidemiology and lab services, will limit the ability of local and state health departments to track the disease and contain outbreaks.

“The fact that the President’s budget would present such a deep cut when we are dealing with emergencies,” she said, “would have a deleterious impact on Zika.”

Read more.

KANSAS CITY. West Nile investigated in boy’s death, which would be Missouri’s earliest fatal case (Kansas City Star)

BY ANDY MARSO

“Mosquito populations as a whole tend to spike in June, July and August, but we mostly see mosquitoes carrying West Nile (at the) end of July through September,” Rogers said. “They’re more prone to carrying it later in the year.”

Rogers said “it’s uncommon” to see cases in May in this region.

But with milder winters and wetter springs the last few years, mosquito season is coming earlier. KDHE put out a news release last year on June 10 warning that mosquito counts, including those of the Culex species that carry West Nile, were already high in Sedgwick County.

Until this year that was the only county the Kansas Biological Survey examined. But this year Rogers said the University of Kansas department is expanding mosquito surveillance to a few more locations and will continue to add more counties if it gets more funding.

Health officials say the best ways to prevent mosquito-borne diseases are to wear long sleeves and pants, use window screens to keep mosquitoes out of the home and apply insect repellant before going outside.

The Kansas Biological Survey is also studying the range of the mosquito species that carry the Zika virus, the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Those species have been found in some parts of Kansas and Missouri, but the only confirmed cases of Zika in the area so far have been in people who traveled to other countries and imported it.

Zika is a relatively mild illness except when it occurs during pregnancy, when it can cause the birth defect microcephaly. A study of almost 1,500 pregnant women with Zika in the continental United States found that it caused birth defects in about 5 percent of cases.

There were about 5,000 confirmed cases of Zika in the continental United States last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But only 224 were believed to be from local mosquitoes and all of those cases were in Florida or Texas.

There’s been no confirmed cases of locally acquired Zika in the continental United States yet this year. But Claude-Alix Jacob, the president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said local health officials should stay wary.

“With summer coming, the Zika threat will get worse,” Jacob said.

Read more.

MIAMI. Public health officials prep for Zika (Naples Daily News)

By Liz Freeman

Deep funding cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would severely undermine response to a renewed Zika threat that’s expected as the summer mosquito season ramps up, a panel of public health officials said Wednesday.

The consequences of a $1.2 billion cut, which is one-eighth of the CDC’s entire budget, would trickle down to county health departments in Florida and Texas that were hard hit by Zika last summer.

The county agencies relied on federal support for laboratory testing and ground-level surveillance.

President Trump’s budget proposal also includes cutting $109 million to the public health emergency preparedness program and another $40 million to the epidemiology and laboratory capacity program, according to Laura Hanen, interim executive director and chief of government affairs for the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Hanen was part of a press briefing Wednesday about the status of Zika and how Trump’s proposed cuts would come on top of one-time Zika funding last year that expires shortly.

Congress allocated $1.1 billion for a Zika response in 2016.

There is no more money coming behind that unless Congress recommends a comprehensive approach,” she said.

What’s really needed is a permanent public health emergency fund so there isn’t a scramble to secure money to react each time there’s a public health threat, said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer with the March of Dimes.

“That is not how FEMA operates,” Jarris said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that responds to hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Read more.

NATIONAL. More than the ACA: We Can’t Stop Fighting Now. (Huffington Post)

By Dr. Oxiris Barbot, First Deputy Commissioner, NYC Health Department

Since the start of the new presidential administration, the onslaught of policies and executive orders have been met with outcries from communities, organizations and elected officials. In the medical community, there was an almost unprecedented bipartisan opposition to the White House’s proposed American Health Care Act. To some, the protection of the Affordable Care Act has given us a rare time to celebrate, rest and regroup.

Now is not that time.

Not one of us should have the delusion that an insurance card will be a game changer when it comes to addressing longstanding and dire health inequities. If we truly want to ensure America’s health, activists, physicians and medical organizations can’t just mobilize for preservation of the Affordable Care Act. We must respond with equal vigor to immigration reform, housing quality and segregation, civil rights and other policies that could shape the nation for generations. When 80 percent of health is determined by the context of our lives, confining advocacy to access to medical care is reckless and irresponsible.

In a brave new world, here’s how we move forward:

#1 Collect Data for Action

Medicine and health rely on facts. There can be no alternatives. The need to collect robust data and shape the narrative of health has never been more urgent. By quantifying the human toll of defunding Planned Parenthood, reducing SNAP benefits through the Farm Bill and block-granting Medicaid, we proactively treat more patients than a doctor could during a shift in the ER, or an entire career. Read more. 

NATIONAL. Threats to CDC Prevention Fund Draw Scrutiny (The American Journal of Managed Care)

By Mary Caffrey

Most of the early attention to the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA) has focused on its potential effects on the individual market. But experts are now pointing to a cut of $931 million to the CDC’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which may not be well-known to the average consumer but, in the words of one House member, is “more important to the average American than … the Defense Department.”

US Representative Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, offered that assessment to STAT while noting that the typical citizen was more likely to be exposed to a pandemic than a terrorist attack. Cole oversees CDC’s budget, and when interviewed this week was not yet sure what to do about the proposed cut contained within AHCA.

Some of his fellow Republicans call the prevention dollars, which are 12% of CDC’s budget, a “slush fund” that has been misspent on things like Zumba classes. They propose a new fund that offers flexibility to the states.

Chrissie Juliano of the Big Cities Health Coalition, writing in Health Affairswarns the CDC cut scheduled to be axed from core health programs, that cover everything from tracking diseases, providing immunizations, and preventing lead poisoning.

The CDC Prevention Fund, Juliano and others note, was one of several pieces of the Affordable Care Act designed to take the nation’s health system out of the reactive posture and toward a model of care that caught problems before they got out of hand. The CDC cuts affect the nation’s ability to battle the most common chronic conditions—heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and asthma. They set back scientists’ efforts to fight the Zika virus or to help the children in Flint, Michigan.

As Juliano writes, funds in prevention are dollars well spent, with returns on investment of $17 to $221, yielding savings of $181 million to $269 million. She wrote, “Even without considering the human cost, this investment makes good fiscal sense.”  Read more 

NATIONAL. ACA Repeal Would Mean Massive Cuts To Public Health, Leaving Cities And States At Risk

Chrissie Juliano

This blog originally appeared in Health Affairs on March 7, 2017

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed a little over six years ago, it brought with it the promise of health insurance for all Americans. It also sought to begin to shift the paradigm for health care in this country, emphasizing value over volume, and recognizing the importance of prevention coupled with appropriate access to care.

By now, it is well known that repealing the ACA could leave nearly 20 million Americans uninsured and simultaneously result in millions of job losses across the country. An associated cost that has been less discussed, but no less relevant, is what repeal could mean for the nation’s already-fragile governmental public health system. As the director of the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC), a membership organization of 28 governmental public health departments in the largest, most urban areas of the country, I cannot underscore the importance of these funds enough.

Without a comparable replacement, or appropriation of additional funds, at least $3 billion will be cut from state and local public health departments alone over the next five years through funds allocated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An additional $2 billion in federal resources would be lost to a number of other prevention-oriented activities across the entire public health enterprise. This $5 billion is essential to core public health programs that keep Americans healthy and safe every day and makes up 12 percent of CDC’s annual budget, supporting disease tracking, access to immunizations for those most in need, and preventing and addressing lead poisoning, among other priorities.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund was designed to provide additional dollars to support the programs that prevent disease in communities across the country, including addressing many of the leading causes of death. These are the same conditions that drive our rising health care costs, including cancer, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and asthma. These conditions are so prevalent that they now touch almost every family in every community across the country.

Read more.

NATIONAL. GOP Health Care Plan Would Eliminate an Important Disease Prevention Fund (Route 50)

By Quinn Libson,
Staff Correspondent

MARCH 8, 2017

State and local public health departments alone stand to lose as much as $3 billion over the next five years.

WASHINGTON — Amid discussions surrounding the new health care proposal introduced by U.S. House Republicans this week, a lot of attention has been paid to the future of Medicaid, the Planned Parenthood funding freeze, and the implications of eliminating the individual mandate. But there’s one subtler—and no less crucial—change that will impact the entire fabric of the American public health system that state and local governments shouldn’t overlook.

As part of their proposal, House Republicans intend to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the largest individual federal funding source set aside for disease prevention, by 2019.

This isn’t the first time the fund—which was established by the Affordable Care Act in 2010—has come under attack from the GOP. In 2012, House Republicans proposed a plan that would maintain a low interest rate for Stafford student loans by cutting funds from the PPHF. And, earlier that same year Congress dipped into the fund to use $5 billion to pay for a payroll tax extension. In fact, since its creation, the PPHF’s original allocation has already been cut by 50 percent.   

Setting aside the vast implications of the fact that the fund accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s entire budget, the loss of that money would be felt in communities across the country.

According to Chrissie Juliano, the director of the Big Cities Health Coalition, which is part of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, without an alternative funding source, state and local public health departments alone stand to lose as much as $3 billion over the next five years. And, an additional $2 billion could be lost to the entire public health system in that same time period.

Read more.

NATIONAL. The Affordable Care Act and Local Public Health Departments: Three Things Everyone Should Know by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (PR Newswire)

The Following is a Q&A With Laura Hanen, MPP, NACCHO Chief of Government Affairs

Q.  Ms. Hanen, NACCHO represents nearly 3,000 county and city health departments in the U.S. The new administration has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Why is preserving it so important?  

The Affordable Care Act brought about significant change to the healthcare and public health landscape.  It fundamentally shifted how we as a nation think about the meaning and value of health. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that an impressive 17 million uninsured people have gained health insurance under the law. In addition to expanding access to care, the ACA encourages a more holistic approach to care by rewarding clinical care providers for value instead of volume. As a result, we're seeing a greater focus on quality and outcomes in the clinical setting.  If the law is repealed, millions of Americans may lose their insurance coverage.  The ACA also expanded access to clinical preventive services and disease screenings. Another crucial piece of the law to local health departments and the communities they serve is the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

Q.  What is the Prevention and Public Health Fund?

The Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) is a funding stream primarily dedicated to investments in core public health programs at state and local health departments. The PPHF makes up 12% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) funding. Since 2010, the PPHF has supported efforts to combat infectious disease, prevent lead poisoning, detect causes of diseases and injury, and address the leading causes of rising health care costs. The PPHF is in jeopardy because of the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  A core principal of our organization's mission is to promote equal access to good health.  A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would severely impact access to care and maintenance of a good quality of life for Americans.

Q.  What do our leaders on Capitol Hill need to know about potential cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund?

With the effort to repeal the ACA, funding from PPHF is in peril. Congress can stop this from happening. NACCHO urges local health departments to take action now and call their Members of Congress to oppose cutting the PPHF.  Among the vital programs at risk at the CDC are the 317 Immunization Program, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and Diabetes Prevention among others.

NACCHO's Board of Directors, Big Cities Health Coalition and state associations of county and city health officials will be visiting Congress members this week to let them know how vital continued funding is to the ability of our nation's local health departments to serve their communities and keep people healthy and safe.

Read more. 

NATIONAL. Top addiction news for psychiatrists (Healio)

Senate approves CARA to address national opioid epidemic, BCHC encourages passage of TREAT

The Senate recently approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in a nearly unanimous vote. Prior to the Senate’s approval, members of the Big Cities Health Coalition sent a letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., requesting passage of CARA and the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment act. Read more

MINNEAPOLIS. Repeal of ACA would imperil a little-known part with a huge impact (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

By GRETCHEN MUSICANT
February 17, 2017

The debate about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in full swing, and many know that repealing the ACA would leave almost 20 million Americans without health care coverage. This is of great concern.

But the fact that repealing the law would also decimate the already-fragile public health system in America is not known to many policymakers or members of the public.

This part of the law, which benefits every American, helps to keep all healthy and safe; it will essentially be undone with the repeal of the ACA. If there is no comparable replacement, communities across the nation are poised to lose $3 billion in federal funds over the next five years through a mechanism called the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is currently a component of the ACA.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund was designed as an important, complementary component to the promise of insurance coverage for most Americans. It was meant to help us prevent disease instead of just treating it when it strikes, and to address many of the other factors that make us ill and cause our health care costs to keep rising.

Researchers have found that our ZIP code is actually a greater predictor of our health than our genetic code. Strategies supported by the fund are aimed at addressing our nation’s sky-high rate of chronic disease, in particular diabetes, obesity, cancer, asthma, and heart disease. These health problems now touch almost every family in every community.

The resources that flow from the ACA are now being used to backfill funding cuts to support core public health programs by funding a large portion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the part of the federal government that works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety and security threats. It is responsible for ensuring access to vaccines to protect against flu and other diseases; supporting local and state first responders in mitigating the effects of outbreaks like Zika or Ebola; and preparing for and responding to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. The CDC works to protect every American, every single day. Without the funding provided by the Affordable Care Act, its reach will be dramatically reduced.

Read more.