Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities
On January 7, a bipartisan group of senior appropriators reached an agreement on topline spending levels for fiscal year 2024 (FY2024), kickstarting appropriations negotiations with less than a month to approve the spending bills before two funding deadlines. Congress returns from winter recess this week, so lawmakers must work quickly to allocate funding for federal agencies and programs by the “laddered” funding deadlines established by a continuing resolution (CR) (H.R.6363) that was passed on November 17, 2023. Some federal agencies and programs face a January 19 funding deadline, but larger agencies, including those funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) bill, face a February 2 deadline.
NASTAD will continue to monitor the congressional appropriations process and advocate for the highest possible funding for HIV, hepatitis, and drug user health programs.
NASTAD Calls on Congress to Fund CDC Programs
On December 20, NASTAD joined the CDC Coalition and called on Congress to quickly finalize the FY2024 LHHS spending bill with the highest possible level of funding for CDC. The coalition highlighted the critical role of CDC programs in protecting the nation’s public health preparedness and response to major threats, as well as disease prevention and surveillance, and urged appropriators to prioritize CDC funding despite calls for spending cuts. Additionally, the coalition urged lawmakers to oppose the inclusion of any partisan policy riders related to any of the agency’s programs.
NASTAD Calls on Congress to Reject Health Spending Cuts
On January 7, NASTAD joined the Coalition for Health Funding and urged lawmakers to avoid spending cuts to health programs in the FY2024 appropriations bill. In particular, the coalition called on Congress to reject a full-year CR that would result in cuts to non-defense discretionary programs and adopt the bipartisan Senate funding framework as a starting point for final negotiations. Over 1,095 organizations signed the letter, highlighting the broad support for quick Congressional approval of an FY2024 spending package.
HRSA Launches Web Page with 340B Patient Definition Compliance Resources, Guidance
On December 12, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) launched a webpage that compiles existing resources and guidance on 340B Program compliance requirements. The webpage was launched to assist covered entities with 340B Program compliance activities, including patient definition guidelines and information on how HRSA conducts audits and determines non-compliance. The patient definition guidelines include HRSA’s interpretation of several key statutory requirements which continue to guide HRSA’s audit activities, which are currently being challenged in court.
New Acting Director Named for NIH Office of AIDS Research
On December 17, 2023, Diana Finzi, Ph.D. assumed the role of NIH Acting Associate Director for AIDS Research and Acting Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of AIDS Research (OAR) while a nationwide search for a new director continues. Dr. Finzi was formerly the Director of the Basic Sciences Program (BSP) the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where she oversaw an extensive global HIV/AIDS research portfolio with grants and contracts in structural biology, basic science, pathogenesis, targeted interventions, cure, and epidemiology. Finzi is replacing Bill G. Kapogiannis, M.D., who served as the NIH Acting Associate Director for AIDS Research and Acting Director of OAR before accepting a new role in the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) within the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
NASTAD Urges HHS to Finalize Nondiscrimination in Healthcare Regulation
On December 21, NASTAD joined a coalition of 260 organizations to call on HHS to quickly finalize the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) final rule implementing Section 1557 (Sec. 1557) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 of the ACA establishes nondiscrimination provisions that protect access to care for everyone in the United States regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin (including language), age, sex (including sex stereotypes; sex characteristics, including intersex traits; pregnancy or related conditions, including termination of pregnancy; sexual orientation; transgender status; and gender identity), and disability. The Biden Administration first issued the proposed changes on July 25, 2022, to restore and strengthen civil rights protections for patients and consumers in certain federally funded health programs and HHS programs after the Trump Administration issued a rule in 2020 that limited its scope and power to cover fewer programs and services.
ONDCP, HUD Encourage Health Systems to Boost Access to Naloxone in Assisted Housing Settings
On December 8, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) published a letter calling on the public health sector to engage housing providers, community development organizations, and other housing entities to make naloxone and other opioid overdose reversal medications readily available where people live. Notably, the Administration called on public health departments to engage with affordable housing providers, especially those assisted by HUD programs, to engage with affordable housing providers and community development organizations to help expand the reach of readily available naloxone in and around public housing settings, multifamily housing programs, housing counseling offices, and programs for people experiencing homelessness.
UCLA Williams Institute: Enforcement of HIV Criminalization in Maryland
“Using data obtained from the Maryland State Administrative Office of the Courts, this study examines the enforcement of HIV criminalization laws in Maryland.”
Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator – Austin, TX
Under direction of the Prevention Unit, provides highly advanced, senior-level consultative services and technical assistance as the DSHS viral hepatitis prevention coordinator. Oversees implementation and maintenance of viral hepatitis prevention efforts by identifying ways to integrate viral hepatitis prevention, vaccination, testing, and linkage to care into existing public health, clinical care, and community settings. Responsible for developing a DSHS viral hepatitis prevention plan as well as legislatively-mandated plans, including working with branch staff to solicit input from the public, including experts on Hepatitis, on the tenets of the plan. Apply by April 23.
Program Content and Training Specialist, Supporting Harm Reduction Programs (SHaRP) – University of Washington
This position is part of a cooperative agreement award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide technical assistance about monitoring and evaluation to syringe services programs (SSPs) as part of the National Harm Reduction Technical Assistance Center. One of the primary projects of this award is to provide technical assistance (TA) to SSPs for monitoring and evaluation activities. The University of Washington is working in collaboration with the CDC, SAMHSA, NASTAD, the National Harm Reduction Coalition, and other TA partners to provide a suite of technical assistance support to individual programs.
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, and 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.
“A groundbreaking Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative to support harm-reduction groups across the country fell apart this month after the program came under the control of a federal contractor that has done no public health work for the government. The National Harm Reduction Technical Assistance Center, or TA Center, was founded in 2019 as a coalition of harm-reduction groups partnered with the CDC to offer training, funding, and guidance to those working to reduce overdose deaths. Its success rested on the deep experience and the trust community members had for the three main partner organizations, which included the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, or NASTAD; the National Harm Reduction Coalition, or NHRC; the University of Washington’s Supporting Harm Reduction Programs; and a handful of other groups.”
“Honolulu on Monday became the first American city to require that bars, nightclubs and restaurants carry the anti-overdose medication naloxone. ‘Naloxone is a necessary tool these days in light of the national opioid epidemic,’ Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, a member of Honolulu City Council, old the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. ‘It should be available and accessible in as many places as possible, in the same way we have fire extinguishers and defibrillators in case of emergencies.’”
“I explain that I know how life-changing treatment could be, because I saw firsthand how it helped my former clients to achieve stability in their lives. But then I talk about how working in treatment also made it clear to me how difficult it is for the average person to find, access, afford and complete treatment in its current state…Considering the tens of millions of people who fall into the harm reduction gap this way, we should want to build and support the development of a more robust continuum of services and programs in our community that include the range of harm reduction services, so people can find the options they want when they are ready to get help. This includes providing grant funding to harm reduction programs that develop innovative, accessible services to target this otherwise-disconnected population of people who use drugs.”