April 22, 2022 Edition

Reminder: 2022 CHEAC Annual Meeting Workshop Abstract Proposals Due Monday

The CHEAC Annual Meeting provides networking and learning opportunities to local health department leadership and staff throughout California. This year’s conference will occur October 5-7 in Sonoma County with the theme of “Public Health Equity & Readiness Opportunity (HERO) – Achieving an Equitable and Resilient Workforce and Recovery.” The conference will once again include keynote sessions with guest speakers, as well as a myriad of workshops intended to stimulate best practice sharing and/or discussion around issues impacting public health.

CHEAC invites local health departments and key partners to submit workshop abstracts should you wish to host a workshop session.  Roughly 15 workshops will be hosted between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm on Wednesday, October 5 and Thursday, October 6.

Those interested in submitting an abstract can find more information on our website here. All abstract proposals are due to CHEAC via email by COB Monday, April 25, 2022.

Local Health Executives, Health Officers Recognized with 2021 Beverlee A. Myers Award for Excellence in Public Health

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) this week announced it has awarded the 2021 Beverlee A. Myers Award for Excellence in Public Health, its highest and most prestigious award, to California Local Public Health Directors and California Local Public Health Officers.

Established in 1993 in honor of the late Beverlee A. Myers, the award reflects the leadership and dedication to all aspects of public health improvement that Ms. Myers demonstrated throughout her 25-year career, which included her service as the director of the California Department of Health Services from 1978 to 1983. CDPH typically presents one award per year, but at the height of the pandemic in 2021, CDPH determined two awards were appropriate.

The following awardees were recognized in a Thursday awards ceremony convened by CDPH:

  • 2020 Recipient – Richard J. Jackson, MD, MPH
  • 2021 Recipients – California Local Public Health Directors
  • 2021 Recipients – California Local Public Health Officers
  • 2022 Recipient – Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD

Accepting the award on behalf of local public health directors was CHEAC Past President and Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla. Accepting the award on behalf of local public health officers was CCLHO Past President and Napa County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio.

CHEAC expresses our sincere gratitude and hearty congratulations to California’s local public health officials for their continued leadership, bravery, and dedication to all of California’s communities.

A press release from CHEAC about the recognition is available here.

Whirlwind of Legislative Activities as Lawmakers Return from Spring Recess

This week featured a flurry of activities in and around the State Capitol with numerous lengthy policy committee hearings, floor debate, and several demonstrations as lawmakers returned to Sacramento from their 10-day Spring Recess. A series of notable measures, including those related to COVID-19, reproductive health, criminal justice, and health coverage, were considered by lawmakers and attracted numerous stakeholders and members of the public to the Capitol this week.

Of particular interest, Senator Richard Pan, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, announced he has shelved another one of his COVID-19-related measures. SB 1464 would have required county sheriffs to enforce public health orders and would have withheld pandemic response funds for any law enforcement agency that publicly indicates they will not follow a public health order. The measure was set for hearing in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday after Senator Pan previously delayed its hearing after receiving opposition from certain stakeholders. At the beginning of Wednesday’s Senate Health Committee hearing, Senator Pan announced he would be holding the measure in the legislative process.

Senator Pan, in announcing his decision, read a statement recognizing and applauding the work of local public health officials statewide. In part, he noted:

“Public health officers … are public safety officials whose work protects more lives than almost any other profession, although too often that work is taken for granted. … Their duty is to be above politics and to make recommendations based on science and in service of the health of the public, even at the risk to their own jobs and careers. Unfortunately, hundreds of public health officers nationally have left their jobs during the pandemic, many courageously resigning or being forced out for truly speaking truth to power. … Numerous public health officers, particularly women, have received deaths threats and required security, all while each of them have been working 24/7 with their staffs to prevent COVID-19 in their locality.

… The politicization of public health has had serious consequences. Law enforcement is also not immune from COVID. … COVID was the leading cause of law enforcement deaths in 2020 and in 2021 with almost three times as many law enforcement officers killed by COVID than firearms in 2021. Despite this tremendous loss of life and injury as well as economic damage from COVID, public health officers have not received the support they need to protect us. … Although SB 1464 is not being heard today, I must acknowledge and recognize the courage and sacrifice of our public health officers and workers – our heroes. I, and many of my legislative colleagues, will not give up in helping you protect the health of our communities and state. I ask Californians to respect and honor our front-line public health leaders and workers. Thank you.”

SB 1464’s pause follows that of Senator Pan’s SB 871 which would have required school students to be fully immunized against COVID-19. Senator Pan announced SB 871 would be held just last week.

Also, of note this week, the Senate on Monday confirmed a handful of appointments to the California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS) and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). After having their appointments advanced by the Senate Rules Committee just prior to Spring Recess, DHCS Director Michelle Baass was confirmed on a 32-1 vote and CalHHS Undersecretary Marko Mijic and CalHHS Deputy Secretary for Program and Fiscal Affairs Brendan McCarthy were each confirmed on a 35-1 vote.

Looking ahead, lawmakers stand to have another busy week next week, facing a legislative deadline for bills with a fiscal impact to be heard and reported by policy committees to fiscal committees in their house of origin on Friday, April 29.  

Below, we highlight several measures of interest from this week. For a full update, the latest edition of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.

Cannabis – Medical/Adult Use

SB 1097 (Pan) as amended March 29, 2022 – SPECIAL INTEREST BILL

SB 1097 authored by Senator Richard Pan would require the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), in consultation with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to create a single-page brochure including information on the safer use of cannabis and requires cannabis products to display large warning labels with various messaging. The measure was heard this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee and was placed on the Suspense File for consideration at a later date.

Communicable Disease Control

AB 2098 (Low) as amended April 20, 2022 – WATCH

Assembly Member Evan Low’s AB 2098 would designate dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 by physicians and surgeons as unprofessional conduct. The measure also specifies factors to be considered by the Medical Board of California prior to disciplinary actions against a licensee. AB 2098 was heard in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on Tuesday and was advanced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a 12-5 vote with two members not voting.

SB 1234 (Pan) as introduced February 17, 2022 – SUPPORT

Senator Richard Pan’s SB 1234 would require reimbursement in the Family PACT program, subject to appropriation and draw down of FFP, for sexually transmitted disease (STD)-related services to those who are uninsured, income-eligible patients, and patients concerned with confidentiality who are not at risk for pregnancy or do not need contraceptive services. SB 1234 was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee this week and was placed on the Suspense File for consideration at a later date.

Health Coverage/ Health Care Reform

SB 872 (Dodd) as introduced January 24, 2022 – SUPPORT

Senator Bill Dodd’s SB 872 would authorize a county or a city and county to operate a licensed mobile pharmacy unit to provide prescription medication to individuals with no fixed address, living in county-owned housing facilities, and Medi-Cal beneficiaries whose care plans are operated by the county, health district, or a joint powers authority. SB 872 was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee this week and was placed on the Suspense File for consideration at a later date.

Drug & Alcohol Services

AB 1673 (Seyarto) as Amended April 18, 2022 – SUPPORT

AB 1673 authored by Assembly Member Kelly Seyarto was heard in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. The measure would establish the California Fentanyl Abuse Task Force to conduct specified activities to prevent fentanyl abuse and increase public awareness. Various departments and stakeholders would be included in the Task Force, including CHEAC, the County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA), the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), among others. AB 1673 was unanimously passed on a 7-0 vote and now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Environmental Health

SB 972 (Gonzalez) as introduced February 10, 2022 – OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED

Senator Lena Gonzalez’s SB 972would enact a series of changes to the California Retail Food Code, including establishing a new type of food facility known as a “compact mobile food facility.” The measure would remove annual sales limitations for Cottage Food Operations (CFOs) and Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs), modify provisions related to food safety principles, sinks and water supplies, restroom access, and more. The measure would also remove local enforcement agency authorities to issue infractions and misdemeanors for California Retail Food Code violations and limit enforcement actions for sidewalk vendors to administrative fines.

CHEAC has joined CAEHA, HOAC, and CSAC in an “oppose unless amended” position to reinstate numerous public health protective provisions to the bill, including those related to CFO and MEHKO sales caps, preparation of raw meats, and enforcement authorities. SB 972 was heard in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday where it was advanced with amendments to the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 9-1 vote with one member not voting. CHEAC, along with our county colleagues, will continue engaging with the author and sponsors to refine remaining aspects of the bill.

Public Health Emergency Preparedness

AB 2546 (Nazarian) as amended April 20, 2022 – OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED         

Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian’s AB 2546 would set forth the right of long-term care facility residents to in-person, onsite, access to a minimum of two designated support persons during any public health emergency in which visitations are suspended by state or local order. CHEAC and HOAC are in an “oppose unless amended” position on this bill as it would curtail public health authorities during a declared emergency or health emergency. AB 2546 was heard in the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee on Tuesday and was advanced on a 6-1 vote with one member not voting. The measure advances to Assembly Health Committee where it will be heard next week.

Tobacco Control

AB 1690 (L. Rivas) as amended April 20, 2022 – SUPPORT

Assembly Member Luz Rivas’ AB 1690 would prohibit the sale or distribution of a single-use electronic cigarette statewide. The measure was heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and advanced to the Assembly Floor on a 7-2 vote with two members not voting.

DOF Issues April 2022 Finance Bulletin, LAO Provides an Interim Update on Budget Surplus

This week, the California Department of Finance (DOF) issued its April 2022 Finance Bulletin, detailing the latest economic conditions of the state. Of note, DOF indicates that while Cash receipts for the month of March 2022 were $199 million below the forecast of $21.047 billion, preliminary General Fund agency cash receipts for the first nine months of the 2021-22 fiscal year were $17.35 billion above the 2022-23 Governor’s Budget forecast of $138.348 billion. Actual revenues received year-to-date total $155.698 billion, representing a 12.5 percent increase over the projected amount. The full DOF April Finance Bulletin is available here.

Relatedly, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office issued an interim update to its formal 2021-22 Revenue Outlook. According to estimates, the LAO is “virtually certain” that collections from the state’s personal income, sales, and corporation taxes will significantly exceed the Governor’s Budget assumption of $185 billion in 2021-22. Currently, the LAO’s best estimate is that there will be somewhere between $33 billion and $39 billion in unanticipated revenue.

The implications of unanticipated revenues, however, are not straightforward. The LAO anticipates the Legislature will face additional, significant constraints imposed by the State Appropriations Limit (or Gann Limit). Additional information from the LAO is available here.

Newsom Appoints Arnold, Gallardo to DHCS, HCAI Posts

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced appointments to two notable posts within the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI). These include:

Tracy Arnold has been appointed Assistant Director at the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). Arnold has served as Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary in the Office of Governor Newsom since 2020 and was Director of Research there in 2019. She was Executive Director at Empower Civic Engagement from 2018 to 2019. Arnold was a Partner at Mercury Public Affairs from 2009 to 2019. She was Director of Jobs and Economic Growth in the Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from 2006 to 2009.

Elia Gallardo has been appointed Deputy Director of Legislative and Governmental Affairs at the Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI). Gallardo has been Director of Government Affairs at the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA) since 2019. She was previously Director of Policy Research at Insure the Uninsured Project (ITUP) from 2017 to 2019, Executive Director of Government Relations and Program Oversight at the Alameda Alliance for Health from 2011 to 2017, and Director of Government Affairs at California Primary Care Association from 1998 to 2011. She is a member of the California Bar Association after earning her Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

Healthy California for All Commission Issues Final Report

The Healthy California for All Commission, established as part of the 2019 Budget Act, this week issued its final report on unified health system financing. The report details the concept of unified financing as a statewide system to arrange, pay for, and assure health care in which all residents are entitled to receive a standard package of health services. Within the unified system, the Commission notes entitlement to health services would not vary by age, employment, disability, income, immigration status, or other characteristics. Moreover, distinctions among Medicare, Medi-Cal, employer-sponsored coverage, and individual coverage would be eliminated within a unified financing system.

The Commission identifies a series of benefits of unified financing, key design decisions associated with such a shift, and a pathway forward in establishing unified financing. The Commission is set to meet next Monday, April 25 to review and discuss the report.

The full unified financing report is available here.

Berkeley IGS Poll Finds Majorities Perceive Changing Climate as Serious Health and Safety Threats

A recent poll from the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) found that a two-thirds majority describes both extreme heat (64 percent) and air pollution (63 percent) as serious threats to their own and their family’s health and safety.

Relative to extreme heat, wide partisan differences in opinions about the seriousness of the threat exist, with eight in 10 Democrats perceiving the threat as serious compared to just 35 percent of Republicans. Latinos, lower-income voters, and residents of inland counties, especially the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire, are more likely than others to consider extreme heat as a “very serious” threat. Similar trends were present relative to air pollution.

The IGS poll further finds broad support for two environmental policies that have been or currently are under consideration in the state. To reduce wildfire threats, a three-to-one majority (65 percent to 23 percent) favors a proposal to restrict new housing construction in high fire risk areas. Support is broad-based and spans all major regions of the state. There is also majority support for the recently enacted law requiring residents to compost food waste to reduce the amount of pollution in landfills, with 68 percent of residents favoring the new law compared to just 24 percent who are opposed.

The Berkeley IGS Poll was administered online in English and Spanish in late March and early April among nearly 9,000 California registered voters. The full poll report is available here.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Mask Mandate for Public Transit, DOJ Appeals Ruling

Less than one week after federal agencies extended its mandatefor face coverings on public transportation and transportation hubs, a Florida federal judge struck down the requirement. Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, in her 59-page ruling, invalidated the mask requirement on several grounds, including that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exceeded its legal authority under the Public Health Services Act of 1944.

As a result of the ruling, the Biden Administration indicated the masking order was not in effect and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would not enforce the mandate. Similarly, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday issued updated guidance immediately terminating California’s requirement for masking on public transit and transportation hubs. The state now strongly recommends individuals in these settings continue to utilize a face covering.

Also, late Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice, at the request of the CDC, announced it will appeal the court ruling to reinstate the mask mandate nationwide. The full ruling from the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida is available here. The DOJ appeal notice filed on Wednesday is available here.

CDPH Launches WhatsApp Chatbox to Combat COVID-19 Misinformation

This week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced it has partnered with WhatsApp to launch Spanish- and English-language chatbots to provide accurate information on COVID-19, including information about vaccines. According to CDPH, and in part thanks to a partnership with Meta, California becomes the first state in the country to launch a tool of this kind.

When using this WhatsApp service, Spanish- and English-speakers will receive up-to-date information about the safety of vaccines, how to book vaccination appointments, and how to obtain digital records of vaccinations. The chatbox is free to all users and can be accessed by scanning a QR code or texting “hola” to 833-422-1090. Once the chatbox is active, a menu of options appear onscreen, allowing users to select the COVID-19 information most pertinent to them. This includes local vaccination sites, transportation options for getting to the site, and other frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

CDPH points to the tool as a facet of how the state continues moving forward via the SMARTER Plan, which prioritizes communicating with Californians and combating misinformation.

Additional information is available here.

COVID-19 Was Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S. in 2021

Two new reports included in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explored death rates in the U.S., finding persistent disparities between certain racial and ethnic minority groups.

The first report provides an overview of provisional U.S. mortality data for 2021, including a comparison of death rates for all causes of death and for deaths involving COVID-19. The study found that the overall age-adjusted death rate increased by almost one percent from 2020. Overall death rates were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black or African American people. For the second year, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death following heart disease and cancer.

The second report indicates that from 2020 to 2021, differences in COVID-19 death rates decreased among most racial and ethnic groups. This report found disparities in age-adjusted COVID-19 death rates decreased by 14 percent to 40 percent for most racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic White people, and increased non-significantly for non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander persons compared with non-Hispanic multiracial people.

The CDC notes that both studies highlight the need for greater effort to implement effective interventions and ensure equal treatment in all communities in proportion to their need for effective interventions that can prevent excess COVID-19 deaths.

Additional information is available here.

White House Announces Second Global COVID-19 Summit

This week, the White House announced it will co-host the second Global COVID-19 Summit which will be held virtually on May 12, 2022. The Summit is intended to “redouble our collective efforts to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic” and prepare for future public health emergencies.

The Summit follows the first Global COVID-19 Summitconvened by the U.S. in September 2021. The U.S. will co-host the May Summit with Belize as CARICOM Chair, Germany holding the G7 Presidency, Indonesia holding the G20 Presidency, and Senegal as African Union Chair. 

The May gathering is intended to build on themes and commitments made during the first summit and will place an emphasis on supporting locally-led solutions to immediate and long-term challenges, including vaccination efforts, testing and treatment options, health and public health workforce, medical countermeasures, and sustainable financing.

Additional information is available here.

CDC Launches New Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week announced the launch of the Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA), which seeks to enhance the nation’s ability to use data, models, and analytics to enable timely, effective decision-making in response to public health threats for CDC and its public health partners.

CFA’s goals are to improve outbreak response using infectious disease modeling and analytics and to provide support to leaders at the federal, state, and local levels. CFA will additionally develop a program to provide insights about infectious disease events to the public to inform individual decision-making, the equivalent of the National Weather Service for infectious diseases.

CFA’s work will be focused on three main pillars: to predict, inform, and innovate. CFA has begun to build a world-class outbreak analytics team with experts across several disciplines to develop faster, richer evidence to predict trends and guide decision-making during emergencies. CFA is hiring expert communicators to regularly share insights with federal, state, and local partners and the public. CFA will additionally continue to advance the state of science of outbreak data, models, and analytics to improve the nation’s ability to respond to health emergencies.

Planning for CFA began in August 2021 with the initial funding of $200 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). CDC has awarded $26 million thus far in funding to academic institutions and federal partners to advance modeling and forecasting methodology with an emphasis on workforce development and health equity.

Additional information from the CDC is available here.

CDC Data Identifies Drops in U.S. Kindergarten Vaccination Rates

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data in its latest edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) indicating vaccination coverage for kindergarteners dropped by one percentage point across the country in the 2020-21 school year for three state-required vaccines (MMR, DTaP, and chicken pox) for public and private schools. The overall percentage of children with an exemption remained low at 2.2 percent.

According to the data, states described multiple reasons for the drop in vaccination rates, all related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as reduced access to well-child appointments, easing of vaccination requirements for remote learners, and less time for school nurses to follow-up with students and families. The CDC advised that vaccination coverage could be improved by increased outreach to schools and immunization programs to first-time students, including kindergarteners and first graders, and by follow-up with under-vaccinated students and families.

Additional information is available here.

CDC Issues Health Alert on Hepatitis Cases of Unknown Origin

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a nationwide health alert notifying clinicians and public health authorities about a cluster of children identified with hepatitis and adenovirus infection. The CDC is asking all health care providers to be on the lookout for symptoms and report any suspected cases of hepatitis of unknown origin to their local and state health departments.

CDC is working with the Alabama Department of Public Health to investigate a cluster of nine cases of hepatitis of unknown origin in children ranging in age from one to six years old, all of whom were previously healthy. None of the children were in the hospital due to a current COVID-19 infection. The first U.S. cases were identified in October 2021 at an Alabama children’s hospital that admitted five children with significant liver injury without known cause who also tested positive for adenovirus. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C viruses were ruled out, according to the CDC.

Upon investigation, a hospital record review identified four additional cases. No known epidemiological link or common exposures were found among the children. A statewide alert to elicit additional cases in early February 2022 has not yielded further reports. The CDC acknowledges an increase in cases of pediatric hepatitis without a known cause in Europe and continues working with European and U.S. state counterparts in determining the cause of cases.

Additional information, including the health alert, is available here.

HHS Awards $105 Million, Including $14.5 Million to California, for 9-8-8 Implementation

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) this week announced the awarding of nearly $105 million in grant funding, provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to 54 states and territories in advance of the transition of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from the current 10-digit number to the 9-8-8 three-digit dialing code in July.

California received nearly $14.5 million in funding. States and territories are expected to use funds to improve response rates, improve capacity to meet future demand, and ensure calls initiated in their jurisdictions are first routed to local, regional, or state crisis call centers. Award recipients may also use funds to build the workforce necessary for enhancing local text and chat response. Per HHS, “the success of 9-8-8 now rests heavily on the willingness of state, territorial, and local leaders to make additional investments in shoring up the crisis care continuum.”

Additional information is available here.

HHS Issues New Data and Report on Hospital and Nursing Home Ownership

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is releasing data publicly for the first time on mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, and changes of ownership from 2016-2022 for hospitals and nursing homes enrolled in Medicare. According to HHS, the data will allow researchers, state and federal enforcement agencies, and the public to better understand the impacts of consolidation on health care prices and quality of care.

Relatedly, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) is releasing an analysis of the new CMS data analyzing trends in changes of ownership over the past six years. ASPE’s report finds changes in ownership have been much more common among nursing homes than hospitals over the past six years, wide ownership variations by state, and a majority of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) purchased have a single organizational owner. CMS anticipates releasing updated change of ownership data on a quarterly basis.

Additional information is available here.

HRSA Announces $90 Million to Support Health Centers Address Health Disparities

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) this week announced the availability of nearly $90 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support new data-driven efforts for HRSA Health Center Program-supported health centers and look-alikes to identify and reduce health disparities. HRSA’s modernized data collection and reporting initiative, Uniform Data System Patient-Level Submission (UDS+), is designed to collect more and higher quality data on social determinants of health while streamlining and improving data quality reporting for health centers.

According to HRSA, the funding will enable health centers to tailor efforts to improve health outcomes and advance health equity. The funding can be used for various COVID-19 activities and for modifying, enhancing, and expanding health services and infrastructure by improving health information technology, enhancing data collection, and supporting related staff training. These efforts will advance broader COVID-19 response, mitigation, and recover efforts, as well as help prepare for future public health emergencies.

Applications are due to HRSA by Monday, May 23. Additional information is available here.

CMS Proposes Policies to Advance Health Equity and Maternal Health in Hospitals

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week issued a proposed rule for inpatient and long-term hospitals, seeking to include three health-equity focused measures in hospital quality programs, solicit stakeholder input related to documenting social determinants of health in inpatient claims data, and establish a “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation.

CMS’ proposed health-equity measures for the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) Program are intended to assess a hospital’s commitment to establishing a culture of equity and delivering more equitable health care by capturing activities across multiple domains, including strategic planning, data collection and analysis, quality improvement, and leadership engagement. Additional measures are intended to capture screening and identification of patient-level, health-related social needs, such as food insecurity, housing instability, transportation needs, and more.

Additional details on the CMS-proposed rule is available here.

Proposed CMS Rule to Reduce Barriers to Medicare Coverage

Today, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule to update Medicare enrollment and eligibility rules by providing Medicare coverage the month immediately after enrollment. The move is anticipated to reduce the uninsured period and expand access through Medicare special enrollment periods (SEPs). It would also allow eligible beneficiaries to receive Medicare Part B coverage without a late enrollment people. According to CMS, the proposed rule would make it easier for people to enroll in Medicare and eliminate delays in coverage.

Additional information is available here.

White House Issues 2022 National Drug Control Strategy

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. this week sent his Administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy to Congress, delineating his Administration’s approach to address the country’s overdose epidemic. According to the Biden Administration, the Strategy focuses on primary two drivers of the epidemic – untreated addiction and drug trafficking – and instructs federal agencies to prioritize actions that will save lives, link individuals to care, go after drug trafficking profits, and make better use of data to guide efforts.

The Biden Administration identifies the following relevant key areas in its Strategy:

  • Addressing Untreated Addiction for Those At-Risk of Overdose
    • Expand high-impact harm reduction interventions like naloxone – The Strategy calls for greater access to harm reduction interventions such as naloxone, drug test strips, and syringe services programs. Federal agencies are directed to integrate harm reduction approaches in the U.S. system of care and calls for greater collaboration between public health and public safety officials.
    • Ensure those at highest-risk of overdose can access evidence-based treatment – The Strategy directs federal agencies to take actions to meet people who need treatment where they are, improves the quality of treatment to include payment reform, and addresses treatment workforce and infrastructure matters.
    • Improve data systems and research to guide drug policy development – The Strategy directs relevant federal agencies to strengthen existing data systems, establish new data systems, including for nonfatal overdoses, and enhance the usefulness of drug data for practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.

The Strategy additional addresses other notable areas, including substance use prevention efforts among children and young adults, community-led coalitions implementing evidence-based prevention strategies, and expanding access to medication for opioid use disorder (OUD) in jails and prisons. The Strategy also identifies ways to advance racial equity relative to drug-related offenses and details opportunities to expand supportive services to help reintegrate individuals into communities after incarceration.

Additional information is available here.

NACCHO Announces ACEs-Related Funding Opportunity

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently announced a funding opportunity for the implementation of an academic detailing program in pediatric settings to facilitate conversations about the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and positive childhood experiences (PCEs).

Approximately five awards of up to $80,000 each will be available to local or state health departments and other nonprofit organizations or academic institutions that have an active academic detailing program are eligible to apply. Project proposals must identify the existence of these programs and the capacity to pilot an academic detailing project for pediatricians.

Applications are due on May 2, 2022. Additional information is available here.

EfC Initiative Issues Resource on Community Strategies to Address California’s Digital Divide and Its Impact on Children and Families

This week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) issued a report and brief on the Digital Divide impacts on California Children and Families. The report notes that access to high-speed internet, and digital literacy skills has become a key aspect for children and family wellbeing. The report noted that digital divide was more prone to be shown in households of low income, rural areas, people of color, and with less education. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these disparities in digital access through lack of adequate devices, proper connectivity, affordable internet, and digital literacy.

The Digital Divide report determined that communities cannot control all elements necessary to address the digital divide. National and state public health policy initiatives and infrastructure can also playa role. The report additionally notes examples on how to improve access and address the digital divide and its impact on wellbeing. For example, communities providing affordable high-speed internet for their community members, access to adequate devices, education to increase digital literacy, and engagement of community members and staff who represent local organizations and/or agencies. Lastly, the report highlighted the importance of improving access and support for telehealth and tele-mental health services.

A webinar will be held on Thursday, June 9, 2022, from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm to detail the new resources. Advanced registration is available here.

The full report is available here. The supporting brief is available here.