July 19, 2019 Edition

2019 CHEAC Annual Meeting Early Bird Registration Price Expires July 31

Early bird registration for the 2019 CHEAC Annual Meeting ends in just over one week on July 31. This year’s annual meeting will be held from October 9 – October 11 at the Westin Pasadena and will provide local health department professionals representing a wide variety of disciplines throughout California with networking and learning opportunities.

We are pleased to once again offer expanded keynote sessions with guest speakers and a myriad of workshops intended to stimulate best practice sharing and discussions around shared issues in the field. Stay tuned for forthcoming announcements on key speakers!

As a reminder, prices will increase on August 1 and registration will close on September 1. Local health department leadership and staff are strongly encouraged to register as soon as possible. More information on this year’s CHEAC Annual Meeting, including registration and room reservations, is available here.

LAO Publishes 2019-20 Preliminary California Spending Plan

On Thursday, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released a preliminary version of its “California Spending Plan” report which summarizes the annual state budget. The publication details the 2019-20 Budget Act and its significant features approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor through July 16, 2019. Later this fall, the LAO will release a final version of the publication, as well as a series of issue-specific posts reflecting budgetary actions taken later in the legislative session.

According to the LAO publication, the budget assumed total state spending of $208.9 billion (excluding federal and bond funds), representing an increase of two percent over revised totals for 2018-19. General Fund spending for 2019-20 is $147.8 billion, which is an increase of $5.1 billion or four percent over the revised 2018-19 level. Special fund spending is roughly flat from 2018-19 to 2019-20. The report also assesses how the 2019-20 budget package allocates the state’s $21.5 billion surplus. The LAO further details major components of the budget package, including tax and revenue policy changes, debt and liability payments, and various education, health and human services, and housing and homelessness programmatic investments.

The preliminary “California Spending Plan” report is available here.

New Coalition Emerges to Reduce SSB Consumption

On Wednesday, a coalition of public health and health equity advocates, medical providers, and lawmakers emerged to renew a push for a statewide sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax. The coalition – Californians for Less Soda – is comprised of organizations including the American Heart Association, California Medical Association, California Dental Association, Public Health Advocates, and the Public Health Institute, among others. According to the coalition, their overarching goal is to ensure that any legislative or ballot initiative proposals related to SSBs assure that consumption of these beverages declines and revenues generated from a tax or fee are invested in creating a healthier future for children and promoting more equitable health outcomes.

Recall, local taxes on groceries (including SSBs) are prohibited until 2031 as part of a complex 2018-19 Budget Act deal struck between the beverage industry and organized labor entities. In response to the deal struck in June 2018, lawmakers and medical and public health stakeholders expressed a renewed interest in pushing back against the beverage industry through various legislative and initiative proposals aimed at curbing SSB consumption throughout the state. However, a California Medical Association (CMA)- and California Dental Association (CDA)-sponsored ballot initiative failed to qualify for the 2020 ballot earlier this year. Additionally, a package of five measures introduced earlier in this year’s legislative session by lawmakers – measures to implement an SSB fee, require warning labels on SSBs, require healthy beverages in store checkout aisles, prohibit large unsealed beverage containers, and prohibit SSB retailer incentives – have all stalled for the year and have become two-year bills.

Assembly Member Richard Bloom, who has attempted SSB tax legislation on more than one occasion, this week stated about the nascent coalition and legislative proposal, “We have large majorities in both state houses and a progressive governor. If we mean what we say about public health, there’s now way we can’t win this fight. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone knows the truth about Big Soda.” While the new coalition’s exact strategy remains to be seen, the beverage industry has also indicated a renewed commitment to ensuring that food and beverages in California remain affordable for working families and neighborhood businesses.

More information on Californians for Less Soda, including fact sheets and other materials, is available here.

Community Reinvestment Grants Program Application Review Extended

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced this week that they are extending the review of all applications submitted for the California Community Reinvestment Grants program. Recall that this funding from Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) is directed to local health departments and community-based organizations to provide grants to support activities such as job placement, system navigation services, and linkages to medical care, for communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies. 

GO-Biz had originally anticipated announcing grant awards by July 31, 2019, but have extended that to August 31, 2019, and have revised the grant term to September 1, 2019, through August 31, 2021. Additional information from GO-Biz is available here.

U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Drop for First Time Since 1990

New provisional data released on Wednesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate an approximate five percent drop in total drug overdose deaths in 2018, the first decline in deaths since 1990. While the figures are subject to slight adjustments based on the finalization of data from the CDC, federal public health officials have suggested the tide may be beginning to turn on the precipitous three decades-long increase in drug overdose deaths throughout the U.S. The U.S. decline is attributed almost entirely to a decline in deaths due to prescription opioid painkillers. Overdose deaths involving other drugs, namely fentanyl and methamphetamine, continued to rise throughout the country.

Despite the slight decrease, the death toll remains high with more than 68,000 people dying from overdose in 2018. Additionally, drops in the number of overdose deaths were not uniform throughout the country. While many states realized significant declines in deaths, some states and regions saw double-digit increases. California realized a 6.6 percent increase in overdose deaths in 2018 according to the CDC’s provisional data.

This cautious sentiment was reflected in a statement on Wednesday by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, indicating, “The latest provisional data on overdose deaths show that America’s united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working. … While the declining trend of overdose deaths is an encouraging sign, by no means have we declared victory against the epidemic or addiction in general. This crisis developed over two decades and it will not be solved overnight.”

The CDC’s provisional data release on drug overdose deaths is available here.