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Mar. 14, 2018: NJHA Advocates for Opioid Crisis Solutions in D.C.

PRINCETONMembers and staff of the New Jersey Hospital Association were in Washington, D.C., today to advocate for a multi-pronged solution to the opioid epidemic facing the country. 

A priority among the legislative tools available is the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act, based on a model pioneered in New Jersey to promote alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments. The ALTO program was developed at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center, in Paterson, and has shown a total reduction of 82 percent of opioid use in the emergency department in two years. 

The legislation would provide grant funding to build ALTO demonstration programs in other areas. Following completion of the program the Secretary of Health and Human Services will submit a report to Congress on the results and issue recommendations for broader implementation. 

U.S. Sens. Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) along with U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), David B. McKinley (R-W. Va.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Scott R. Tipton (R-Colo.) introduced the bill to help boost hospitals’ resources in the fight against opioid addiction. 

The NJHA delegation also advocated for these additional solutions: 

  • The Overdose Protection and Patient Safety Act (HR 3545/ S 1850), which aligns federal rules with HIPAA by allowing substance use disorder patient records to be shared with medical providers for needed care regardless of whether patient consent is given, and assures that information is not used to initiate or substantiate criminal charges against a patient;
  • Protecting health insurance coverage of mental health and substance use disorders as essential health benefits, as well as enforcing mental health and substance abuse parity laws to eliminate barriers in securing coverage and payment for treatment;
  • Developing specific spending bills dictating how federal agencies may spend the $6 billion budgeted over two years to combat the opioid crisis, including the expansion of policies that support enhanced medication-assisted treatment;
  • Repealing the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, which prohibits the federal government from paying for the care of Medicaid patients ages 21 to 64 who are hospitalized in inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities, making it extremely challenging for people with limited means to receive effective treatment; and
  • Extending education and training for providers, including increasing training capacity for medication assisted treatment and supporting prescriber education through medical and dental school training.

“We are grateful that our elected representatives are working with us to curb the opioid crisis and ensure access to treatment and care for those who are suffering,” said Sean Hopkins, senior vice president of federal relations and health economics for NJHA. “No one program or organization will solve this issue; we must all work together for the health of our state and nation.” 

In addition to speaking with the New Jersey delegation on the opioid epidemic, the group addressed federal concerns including cuts to the 340B drug pricing program, which helps hospitals provide care for low-income patients; cuts to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which reduces or eliminates student debt for providers who practice in underserved communities; the Graduate Medical Education program; and support for legislation that would reduce paperwork redundancy and increase access to home healthcare. 

Representatives from Atlantic Health System, Capital Health, Christian Health Care Center, Cooper University Health Care, Hackensack Meridian Health, St. Joseph’s Health and Virtua joined NJHA staff in the Nation’s Capital to speak with the members of Congress representing their facilities. 

NJHA is a not-for-profit trade association committed to helping its members provide quality, affordable, accessible healthcare to their communities.


Kerry McKean Kelly
Vice President, Communications and Member Services

NJHA Communications

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