KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Federal Tough-On-Crime Drug Policy Sparks Criticism In State Hit Hard By Opioid Epidemic

“We should treat our nation’s drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ problem,” says Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Meanwhile, after HHS Secretary Tom Price angered advocates last week, Stat offers a look at the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment.

The Associated Press: Appalachia’s Approach To Drugs At Odds With AG Policy
In Appalachian states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, the tough-on-crime policy announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions runs counter to a recent emphasis on treatment and less prison time for low-level drug offenders. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul strongly opposed the Department of Justice directive, which reverses an Obama-era policy that prescribed leniency for nonviolent, low-level drug offenders. “We should treat our nation’s drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ problem,” Paul said in a statement released shortly after Session’s announcement. (Lovan, 5/13)

Stat: How Effective Is Medication-Assisted Treatment For Addiction?
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price sparked a firestorm last week with his comments about medication-assisted treatment, saying that “if we’re just substituting one opioid for another, we’re not moving the dial much” in the nation’s opioid epidemic. Notably, the former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, took him to task on Twitter for, as he put it, moving away from evidence-based treatment protocols. (Sheridan, 5/15)

And in the states —

The Associated Press: Virginia Gets Nearly $10M To Fight Opioid Crisis
Virginia is getting nearly $10 million in federal money to help in its fight against the opioid epidemic. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office announced Friday that the state has received a $9.76 million grant. It will be used to purchase medication, support the medical staff necessary to prescribe and oversee clinical treatment, and remove barriers to access, such as transportation. (5/13)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia Receives Nearly $10 Million To Fight Opioid Epidemic 
In its effort to stifle the ongoing opioid epidemic that continues to claim lives, Virginia has received $9.7 million to increase medication-assisted treatment for addiction and to purchase the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. The state received the one-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of the funds, $5 million will be doled out to Community Services Board throughout the state. (O'Connor, 5/12)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Jail Recovery Pod Gives Addicted Inmates A Way Out
The Hamilton County Detention Center’s women's recovery pod, which opened to inmates in the fall, was designed with an exit strategy. County officials seem sold on the concept. The Hamilton County commissioners this year approved a $200,000 boost to the program in the budget. Men will soon have their own recovery pod, and a detox unit is expected to be created for inmates who experience withdrawal when they arrive at the jail. (DeMio, 5/12)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Against The Odds, Emergency Rooms Are Getting People Into Addiction Treatment
In what some call a "warm handoff," a patient is transferred directly from the ER into a treatment program without cooling off for days in the old neighborhood, around old using buddies, one fentanyl-tainted bag of heroin away from death. The emergency room seems an ideal place to intervene. A revived patient has just experienced a potentially life-changing event. Hospitals have resources, including doctors and nurses who are passionate about saving lives. It turns out not to be that easy. Treatment beds are in short supply almost everywhere, forcing a wait of several days even for those who would jump at the chance to get clean. (Sapatkin, 5/14)

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