21st Century Cures Act Passes House With Several Courtney Prioirities For Connecticut
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) praised House passage of the 21st Century Cures Act which contained several of his top priorities for eastern Connecticut, including new funding to fight opioid addiction, changes to federal policy related to tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, and a provision he co-authored to increase the number of pediatric mental health subspecialty physicians nationwide. The bipartisan bill now heads to the Senate.
“I am very pleased that the 21st Century Cures Act passed with a number of important wins for eastern Connecticut which I have been championing for several years,” said Courtney. “The final version of the Cures Act represents a strong bipartisan effort to address several major outstanding healthcare issues nationwide. I am pleased that a number of my top priorities such as funding to address opioid addiction, changes to tick-borne and Lyme disease research, and incentives for pediatric physicians were included. These provisions will make a real difference for people back home in eastern Connecticut. Since I first introduced a bill calling for emergency funding to address the opioid epidemic in February, support for federal action has been steadily increasing on both sides of the aisle. What this bill demonstrates is that Congress is finally ready to put its money where its mouth is and provide our communities with the support they need to turn the tide on drug addiction.
“Lyme disease, which is named after a town in my district, has long plagued eastern Connecticut and large swaths of our country. It is time that Congress makes addressing tick-borne diseases a national priority for our medical community. The provisions contained in the 21st Century Cures Act will accelerate the development of new protocols for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tick-related illnesses like Lyme disease.
“I am proud that a provision I helped author to increase the number of pediatric mental health physicians has been included in this bill. For too long, we have lacked adequate numbers of physicians to treat children across a number of medical subspecialties such as mental health treatment. A provision I co-authored will incentivize doctors in medical school to pursue a career in pediatric metal healthcare by providing them with significant student loan reimbursements. Next year, I will continue to push for similar incentives for all other pediatric subspecialty areas of care.”
Throughout the year, Courtney has been a leading advocate in the House for the immediate allocation of federal funding to help address the growth of opioid addition in Connecticut and across the country. Just last week, he urged House leaders to include federal opioid response funding in any final Cures agreement.
Over the next two years, this measure allocated $1 billion in funding which will be directed toward creating a new account under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make grants to states carrying out the following activities to fight opioid addiction:
- Improving state prescription drug monitoring programs
- Implementing prevention activities and evaluating such activities to identify effective strategies to prevent opioid abuse
- Training for health care practitioners such as best practices for prescribing opioids, pain management, recognizing potential cases of substance abuse, referral of patients to treatment programs, and overdose prevention
- Supporting access to health care services, including those provided by Federally certified opioid treatment programs or other appropriate health care providers to treat substance use disorders
- Other public health-related activities as the State determines appropriate, related to addressing the opioid crisis within the State.
The final bill includes elements of Courtney’s Tick-Borne Disease Research Accountability and Transparency Act of 2015 which he co-authored with Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), including:
- Creation of a “Tick-Borne Disease Working Group” to ensure interagency coordination, minimize overlap, and establish research priorities.
- The working group will report every two years on the ongoing research on prevention, causes, treatment, surveillance, diagnosis, duration of illness and intervention for individuals with tick-borne diseases, as well as recommendations to the secretary regarding any appropriate changes or improvements to such research and solicit input from states.
- Triannual reporting on NIH research progress on vector-borne diseases, including tick-borne disease.
Pediatric Mental Health Subspecialty
The final agreement includes a section of Courtney’s bill, Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty Care Act of 2015 which he co-authored with Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), to incentivize physicians to enter the pediatric mental health subspecialty will be included in the bill. Specifically, this section adds the pediatric subspecialty of child psychiatry to the National Health Service Cops (NHSC), which was established in 1972 under DHS in order to provide student loan repayments for physicians who agree to work in underserved fields and high need geographic areas.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, in Connecticut there are only 237 practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists across the entire state to serve over 774,876 children between the ages of 0-17 years old. The average age of these doctors is 52 years old, which means that many of them will be heading towards retirement in a little over 10 years. This fact alone makes the need to build the pediatric psychiatrist workforce pipeline a vital goal now, so that children in the state are not even more underserved in the future.