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Courtney Statement On 21st Century Cures Act Being Signed Into Law

December 13, 2016
Press Release
Courtney championed provisions included in the law such as new funding to fight opioid addiction, changes to tick-borne disease policy, and incentives to support pediatric mental health physicians

NORWICH, CT —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) made the following statement after President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law:

“I am delighted that President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law today. This legislation was packed with important changes to healthcare policy which will make a meaningful difference in eastern Connecticut and around the country,” said Courtney. “I am particularly pleased that following my bill to authorize emergency funding to fight the opioid epidemic, this law authorized $1 billion dollars for grants to individual states to combat addiction. The Cures Act also contains important changes to tick-borne and Lyme disease research, and incentives for pediatric physicians – both changes mirror provision in bipartisan bills I have been leading for several years.”

Opioids

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.

Tick-borne diseases

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.

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