July Policy Update

July 2020
Policy Update

Happy Birthday CARA!

July 22!

Today marks the four-year anniversary of the day the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 was signed into law. The bill was introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) as the first major federal addiction act in 40 years. CARA authorized over $181 million to respond to the opioid epidemic and was intended to greatly increase both prevention programs and the availability of treatment programs. In May 2017, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced grants totaling $2.6 million for recovery community organizations to build addiction recovery networks and engage in public education as authorized under CARA. Today, through the advocacy efforts of Faces & Voices of Recovery and the Association of Recovery Community Organizations (ARCO), the Building Communities of Recovery (BCOR) grants have grown to $8 million, and with your help, we are aiming for an increase in the 2020 appropriations bill.

COVID-19

Our Strategy

Through June, we continued our “two-track” advocacy strategy, which includes our pursuit of funding for Recovery Community Organizations (RCO’s) and peer recovery support services in general, and how we can do this through the lens of COIVD 19.

Behavioral Health Legislation

In an effort to address the overwhelming increase in opioid-related overdoses and overall behavioral health needs during the pandemic, the House and Senate have both introduced bills that would provide funding for organizations and entities that are intentional in serving populations where COVID-19 has had the most impact and areas with the highest cases of the virus.

  • On June 29th, Representative Max Rose (NY) and Senator Tina Smith (MN) introduced companion bills on June 29th in the Senate and House to make sure public organizations and nonprofits can more effectively and efficiently provide mental health and substance use disorder services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and future emergencies. Through the Emergency Support for Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services Act, organizations that provide peer recovery support services would be eligible for assistance. We are pleased to report that in the text of the legislation, wherever treatment and prevention services qualify for eligibility, so do recovery support services.
  • On April 24th, Representative Ann McLane Kuster (NH), along with Representative John Katko (NY), introduced HR 6620, which would authorize grants to address substance use during COVID–19. The legislation, which primarily focuses on harm reduction,  establishes a grant program for states and community-based organizations, and recovery support services and efforts to reduce stigma are an allowable use of the funds.

Appropriations for Recovery

On the more “regular” advocacy agenda, we engaged in a discussion with the House Appropriations Committee to advocate for increases to SAMHSA programs that benefit recovery support services and RCOs. While these conversations normally take place in March, the appropriations process has been severely delayed by the pandemic. We have reinforced our requests this month, citing the inequitable funding for recovery support services (as compared to treatment and prevention.)

We also received welcome news from the House Appropriations Committee. While there is still quite a bit of work to do before it becomes a reality, we have cleared one hurdle on the road to more funding for RCOs. Due in large part to our advocacy, the Building Communities of Recovery (BCOR) program at SAMHSA was given a $2 million increase. Just as important, the committee mentioned BCOR in their accompanying report, stating: “The Committee includes an increase of $2,000,000 for enhanced long-term recovery support principally governed by people in recovery from substance use disorders. Such support reflects the community being served and encourages the role of recovery coaches.” Only a select few government programs receive mention in the committee report, so we view this as significant progress.

On a final note, we continue to advocate for the passage of the Family Support Services Act of 2020, introduced by Senator Gillibrand of NY in January, which if passed would provide $5 million per year for five years to fund community based organizations to expand and enhance evidence informed family support services. Stay tuned for action alerts to contact your legislators to educate them on the need for support for individuals and families, as well as impacted children, especially for communities and populations hardest hit by the epidemic.

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