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Latest Top (4) News

HHS makes $350 million available to fight the opioid crisis in community health centers nationwide

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $350 million in new funding to expand access to substance use disorder and mental health services at community health centers across the nation.  These funds will support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies, including expanded medication-assisted treatment (MAT) services, and are expected to be awarded in September of this year by HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“Local communities have played a vital role in combating our country’s opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The contributions of HRSA-funded health centers in particular have been invaluable. These new grants, provided by the government funding bill President Trump signed earlier this year, will allow centers to expand their important work providing high quality substance abuse and mental health services.”

The Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services funding opportunity supports HHS’s Five-Point Opioid Strategy, launched in 2017 to empower local communities on the frontlines to combat the crisis. These funds will make a significant impact in furthering community-driven efforts to reduce opioid use and increase access to mental health services.

Primary care settings, like the community health centers supported by HRSA’s Health Center Program, have increasingly become a gateway to integrated care for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) and primary care needs. HRSA support enables community health centers to enhance access to primary care-based SUD services, including MAT services, as well as pain management and other prevention services. In 2017 alone, nearly 65,000 health center patients received MAT.

“HRSA’s recent investments in substance use disorder and mental health services have significantly increased the capacity of health centers to provide critical care to their communities,” said HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas. “For example, the number of health center clinicians providing MAT increased by 75% between 2016 and 2017, from 1,700 to nearly 3,000 in 2017. This is just one way that health centers are in a unique position to make a significant impact in combatting the opioid crisis, and this new funding will further that impact.”

The Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services funding opportunity invests in personnel and one-time infrastructure enhancements to enable health centers to address immediate barriers they have faced to implementing or expanding SUD and mental health services. It also builds on the $200 million investment made last year to 1,178 community health centers across the US to increase access to SUD and mental health services.

HRSA’s Health Center Program provides grant funding to community-based health centers in underserved areas. Nearly 1,400 community health centers operate more than 11,000 sites, providing care to nearly 26 million people across the nation, in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin.

Throughout the country, community health centers employ more than 200,000 people, and with this new funding opportunity, they will be able to increase personnel to help expand access to SUD and mental health services.

Applications for the Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services award are due July 16, 2018.

For more information about the SUD-MH funding opportunity, visit: https://bphc.hrsa.gov/programopportunities/fundingopportunities/sud-mh

For additional information on how HRSA is addressing the Opioid Crisis, visit HRSA’s Opioid Crisis Webpage

To learn more about HRSA’s Health Center Program, visit: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about

To find a health center in your area, visit: http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov

Friday, June 15, 2018 - 10:15

SAMHSA announces $930 million funding opportunity to combat the opioid crisis

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is now accepting applications for $930 million in State Opioid Response Grants. SAMHSA will distribute funds to states and territories in support of their ongoing efforts to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services to individuals with opioid use disorder.

The State Opioid Response Grants aim to address the opioid crisis by increasing access to evidence-based medication-assisted treatment, reducing unmet treatment need and reducing opioid-related overdose deaths. “This large new grant program reflects President Trump’s deep commitment to fighting the opioid crisis, and will provide extra support for the hardest-hit states,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “It demonstrates the emphasis we place on expanding access to treatment that works, especially medication-assisted treatment with appropriate social supports.”

The grants will be awarded to the states and territories using a formula specified in the funding announcement. Fifteen percent of the total funds will be set aside to provide extra support to states that have been hardest hit by the crisis. States and territories will use the grants to design plans and conduct activities across the spectrum of prevention, treatment, and recovery.

These prevention, treatment, and recovery activities represent a comprehensive response to the opioid crisis and include action at the federal, state and local levels. “The State Opioid Response Grants were designed to meet the specific needs of communities within each state and territory,” explained Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz. “The grants will expand capacity to provide much needed evidence-based care to people who haven’t yet been reached.”

Under President Trump, in April 2017, HHS unveiled a new five-point Opioid Strategy. The Strategy prioritizes efforts in five areas: 1) Improving access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services, including medication-assisted treatment; 2) Promoting the targeted availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs; 3) Strengthening public health data reporting and collection; 4) Supporting cutting-edge research on addiction and pain and 5) Advancing the practice of pain management. Over fiscal years 2017 and 2018, HHS will invest over $4 billion in opioid-specific funding, including funds to state and local governments as well as tribal, public, and nonprofit organizations to support treatment and recovery services, target availability of overdose-reversing drugs, train first responders and more.

For more information on how to apply, see https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/grant-announcements/ti-18-015.

Friday, June 15, 2018 - 10:45

Judge rules in favor of OCR and requires a Texas cancer center to pay $4.3 million in penalties for HIPAA violations

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) has ruled that The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson) violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules and granted summary judgment to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on all issues, requiring MD Anderson to pay $4,348,000 in civil money penalties to OCR. This is the second summary judgment victory in OCR’s history of HIPAA enforcement and the $4.3 million is the fourth largest amount ever awarded to OCR by an ALJ or secured in a settlement for HIPAA violations.

MD Anderson is both a degree-granting academic institution and a comprehensive cancer treatment and research center located at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. OCR investigated MD Anderson following three separate data breach reports in 2012 and 2013 involving the theft of an unencrypted laptop from the residence of an MD Anderson employee and the loss of two unencrypted universal serial bus (USB) thumb drives containing the unencrypted electronic protected health information (ePHI) of over 33,500 individuals. OCR’s investigation found that MD Anderson had written encryption policies going as far back as 2006 and that MD Anderson’s own risk analyses had found that the lack of device-level encryption posed a high risk to the security of ePHI. Despite the encryption policies and high risk findings, MD Anderson did not begin to adopt an enterprise-wide solution to implement encryption of ePHI until 2011 , and even then it failed to encrypt its inventory of electronic devices containing ePHI between March 24, 2011 and January 25, 2013. The ALJ agreed with OCR’s arguments and findings and upheld OCR’s penalties for each day of MD Anderson’s non-compliance with HIPAA and for each record of individuals breached.

“OCR is serious about protecting health information privacy and will pursue litigation, if necessary, to hold entities responsible for HIPAA violations,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “We are pleased that the judge upheld our imposition of penalties because it underscores the risks entities take if they fail to implement effective safeguards, such as data encryption, when required to protect sensitive patient information.”

MD Anderson claimed that it was not obligated to encrypt its devices, and asserted that the ePHI at issue was for “research,” and thus was not subject to HIPAA’s nondisclosure requirements. MD Anderson further argued that HIPAA’s penalties were unreasonable. The ALJ rejected each of these arguments and stated that MD Anderson’s “dilatory conduct is shocking given the high risk to its patients resulting from the unauthorized disclosure of ePHI,” a risk that MD Anderson “not only recognized, but that it restated many times.”

The Notice of Proposed Determination and the ALJ’s opinion may be found on the OCR website at

Monday, June 18, 2018 - 14:15

Statement by HHS Deputy Secretary Hargan on Unaccompanied Alien Children Facilities

Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan issued the following statement regarding the upcoming Congressional tours of the Unaccompanied Alien Children facilities:

"We look forward to having several members of Congress tour HHS – funded Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) facilities in Texas and California today and tomorrow. Congress gave HHS the responsibility to care for these children and teenagers, and we take this legal mandate very seriously. It is our hope that as members tour the facilities they will see the facilities for what they are intended to provide: safe and healthy environments for children and teenagers to reside until such time as they can be released to an appropriate sponsor, while their immigration cases are adjudicated."

"Unfortunately, the need for these facilities has grown over the last decade, in large part because of the flaws in our immigration system that draw many immigrants to try to cross our borders illegally. As a result, temporary shelters have been necessary to ensure that HHS is able to meet its responsibility, by law, to provide shelter for UAC referred to our care by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As was done in the previous administration in the summer of 2014 at Lackland Air Force Base and again in January and February of 2016 at Holloman Air Force Base, HHS has established a semi-permanent shelter in Tornillo, Texas. These semi-permanent structures have ventilation and cooling to ensure appropriate temperature, and teenagers at Tornillo range in age from 13-17. No UAC under the age of 13 are placed at semi-permanent facilities such as Tornillo."

"Their age and the hazardous journey they take, make unaccompanied alien children vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. This is why we insist on proper processes for elected officials and media tours of our facilities and why we do not permit outside cameras inside facilities or interviews with children in our care. Disregarding those processes puts the children and teens in our care at real risk."

"It is unfortunate that there are still some who fail to understand the role of HHS in caring for these children and teenagers. We need fewer media stunts and more real solutions. We welcome additional elected officials to visit these facilities, and it is my sincere hope that after their visit, Members of Congress heed the call of the Trump Administration to close dangerous loopholes in U.S. immigration laws that are the root cause of this issue. Until these laws are fixed, the American taxpayer is paying the bill for costly programs that can only temporarily try to address the consequences of our broken immigration system."

Please see below for footage of the UAC facilities in Brownsville, TX and San Diego, CA:

Brownsville: https://youtu.be/WyRu1PiPYIc

San Diego: https://youtu.be/mHWKjUtbYtc

Photos of Casa Padre Shelter, Brownsville, TX:

Photo of Casa Padre Shelter, Brownsville, TX
Photo of Casa Padre Shelter, Brownsville, TX
Photo of Casa Padre Shelter, Brownsville, TX
Photos of Casa San Diego, San Diego, CA:
Photo of Casa San Diego, San Diego, CA
Photo of Casa San Diego, San Diego, CA
Photo of Casa San Diego, San Diego, CA

Sunday, June 17, 2018 - 18:45