Number 50 January 12, 2018
President Trump Signs Order to Expand Mental Health Treatment for Veterans
President Donald Trump this week signed an executive order to improve mental health services for the nation’s veterans as they transition back to civilian life.
According to a White House statement, three cabinet leaders—the secretaries of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security—must submit to the president within 60 days a joint action plan that describes steps to provide “seamless access” to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for uniformed service members in the year after their discharge, separation or retirement.
The statement cited the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) when it reported only 50 percent of returning service members who need mental health treatment seek it, and only about half of those who receive treatment receive adequate care.
Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Releases 2018 Legislative Agenda
The leaders of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force on Capitol Hill released the panel’s legislative agenda for 2018 this week.
The agenda outlines pieces of legislation under several categories, including prevention, treatment, law enforcement and criminal justice, veterans affairs and prescribing. Among the bills listed is Jessie’s Law, named for Michigan resident Jessie Grubb who died of an opioid overdose in 2016. The legislation would help ensure physicians have access to a consenting patient’s prior history of addiction so these clinicians can make fully informed care and treatment decisions.
SAMHSA Names Director of the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory
Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Elinore McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D. announced that Christopher Jones, PharmD., M.P.H., has joined SAMHSA as the agency’s first director of the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory.
Created as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, the policy lab is intended to promote innovation, as well as the dissemination and adoption of evidence-based practices and service delivery models related to mental health and substance use.
Before he joined SAMHSA, Jones served as acting associate deputy assistant secretary for science and data policy and director of the division of science policy at HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. He also served as senior public health advisor to the White House Office of National Drug Policy, led the Food and Drug Administration’s Drug Safety and Risk Communication team, and served on the science team in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Strategic National Stockpile. He is currently completing his doctorate of public health in health policy at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Sarah A. Wattenberg Joins NAPHS as Director of Quality and Addiction Services
Sarah A. Wattenberg, M.S.W. joined NAPHS as director of quality and addiction services on Monday, Jan. 8. In this new role, she will oversee the association’s interests, positions, and actions related to behavioral healthcare quality and addiction services.
Since February 2015, Wattenberg worked as senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Policy. In that role, she served on the president’s parity task force, where she provided scientific, technical, and policy consultation on improving implementation of substance use and mental health insurance parity, including guidance on medication assisted treatment. She has spent nearly two decades working in the federal government, advising high-level executive branch officials about emerging issues, challenges, and policy opportunities related to opioids and other drugs, evidence-based practices, service delivery arrangements, public and commercial financing and parity, privacy, and treatment quality.
Wattenberg also brings considerable clinical experience to her new role. She spent 11 years working in community-based programs for the seriously mentally ill in Montgomery County, Md. As a program director and clinical supervisor, she ran one of the country’s first community alternatives to inpatient hospitalization. She also opened a mental health clinic, served as a liaison to law enforcement, homeless shelters and county and state agencies, and supported developing Maryland’s “crisis” regulations. Directly before entering government services, Ms. Wattenberg was the senior director for clinical policy development at one of the nation’s largest managed behavioral healthcare companies.
“We are excited to welcome Sarah, who has deep knowledge and hands-on experience in the fields of healthcare quality and services for individuals with substance use disorders,” said NAPHS President and CEO Mark Covall. “Sarah is regarded highly among her professional peers in both the public and private sectors. This will serve her well as she helps NAPHS identify and develop policy positions on substance use disorder treatment that will ultimately improve access and care for those who need it most.”
Wattenberg has a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University of America and earned her bachelor’s degree at New York University.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis Confirmed as 2018 NAPHS Annual Meeting Speaker
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), a health subcommittee member on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, confirmed he will address attendees at the 2018 NAPHS Annual Meeting in Washington on Wednesday, March 21.
2018 NAPHS Annual Meeting Preliminary Programs Now Available!
The 2018 NAPHS Annual Meeting preliminary program was mailed to attendees this week and is available on the Annual Meeting homepage.
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