Federal Public Health Budget

Senate Passes Budget Including Health Agencies

Yesterday the US Senate passed the FY19 Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill.  It would provide funding for health agencies for FFY19.  The bill contains a continuing resolution through December 7, 2018 in case the House doesn't take action on the bill in short order. Here's a summary:

CDC: $7.9B which is an increase of $126 million from FY18. The bill creates a $50M infectious disease rapid response fund (but the funds only become available for use in the event of a public health emergency). The bill includes $10M to continue efforts to track children and families affected by the Zika virus and $5M to address infectious diseases related to the opioid crisis. 

HRSA: $6.8B, a $107M increase from FY18. This funding includes a $26M increase for the Title V Maternal and Child Health block grant and a $12M increase for the Healthy Start program. 

SAMHSA: $5.7B, which is a $584M increase from FY18.  Sadly, the legislation maintains a prohibition on federal funds for the purchase of syringes or sterile needles but allows communities with rapid increases in cases of HIV and hepatitis to access federal funds for other stuff like substance use counseling and treatment referrals. The bill also includes $1.5B for the state opioid response grants.

The bill doesn't include the bad policy riders that were in previous versions that would have eliminated funding for important reproductive health services (Title X).

You can read the bill’s text here, the committee report here, and a summary here.

Call to Action: Labor HHS Education Bill Cuts to Family Planning

Call to Action: Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill

For the first time in more than 20 years, Congress is on track to pass a Labor-HHS-Education spending bill before the end of the fiscal year. Last week, the House agreed to move to conference with the Senate to work out the differences between each chamber’s version of the  bill. The bills contains a number of bad funding cuts.

The House version eliminates funding for the Title X family planning program and the HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. I can't tell whether the Senate version does the same or not.  The House bill also cuts all funding for the CDC's Climate and Health program and once again fails to fund CDC research into firearm morbidity and mortality prevention. The bill also weakens the Affordable Care Act by blocking funds for implementing the law. 

Congress only has a few legislative days left to finalize the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill before the end of the fiscal year. If they don't pass something they'll probably pass a continuing resolution to keep key public health agencies operating (actually- not a bad outcome honestly). 

Now is the time to Speak for Public Health! You can use this link to Contact your members of Congress and ask them to support robust funding for key public health agencies and programs, and urge them to reject any controversial policy riders that would threaten public health.

There's Hope for More Valley Fever Research Funds

Representatives Kyrsten Sinema and David Schweikert introduced a bill last week that, if it passes, will increase the funding that’s available for valley fever research.  The bill supports new research and incentivizes the development of innovative treatments to fight the disease. The bill would:

  • Provide incentives to researchers working to find new treatments for Valley Fever;
  • Streamline the approval and review process for new treatments of the disease;
  • Direct HHS to conduct research on Valley Fever and sets up a Valley Fever Advisory Committee to oversee the work; and
  • Establish a grant program to facilitate Valley Fever research by universities, hospitals, and non-profits.

Valley fever (Coccidiomycosis) treatment research funds are extremely limited, in part, because it’s a regional illness (unique to the desert southwest).  If the entire country were susceptible to the illness, there would probably be more private research funds invested because there would be a large commercial market for a treatment. 

Basically, that’s why we need an investment of federal funds and policy, because the return on the research investment for valley fever isn’t adequate to recoup costs of developing a treatment because not enough people are susceptible to the illness (because it’s limited to the desert southwest).

AzPHA Policy Update: Child Separation, Government Restructuring, House Health Budget Bill

APHA Policy Statement on Child Separation

More than 2,300 children have recently suffered the traumatic experience of being forcibly separated from their parents by the federal government.  Despite the fact that the president has issued an Executive Order to end the practice, thousands of kids are currently separated from their parents.  Some of them are in various facilities in Arizona.

The American Public Health Association (our parent organization) issued a statement last week regarding the policy of child separation recently implemented (and now suspended) by the federal government.  Rather than paraphrase- I thought I’d just block and paste it below:

"The Trump administration’s policy of separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border will have a dire impact on their health, both now and into the future. 

"As public health professionals we know that children living without their parents face immediate and long-term health consequences. Risks include the acute mental trauma of separation, the loss of critical health information that only parents would know about their children’s health status, and in the case of breastfeeding children, the significant loss of maternal child bonding essential for normal development. Parents’ health would also be affected by this unjust separation.

"More alarming is the interruption of these children’s chance at achieving a stable childhood. Decades of public health research have shown that family structure, stability and environment are key social determinants of a child’s and a community’s health.

"Furthermore, this practice places children at heightened risk of experiencing adverse childhood events and trauma, which research has definitively linked to poorer long-term health. Negative outcomes associated with adverse childhood events include some of society’s most intractable health issues: alcoholism, substance misuse, depression, suicide, poor physical health and obesity.

"There is no law requiring the separation of parents and children at the border. This policy violates fundamental human rights. We urge the administration to immediately stop the practice of separating immigrant children and parents and ensure those who have been separated are rapidly reunited, to ensure the health and well-being of these children.”


AZ’s System for Regulating the Facilities Caring for Separated Children

Some of the children that have been separated from their parents by the federal government are being cared for in AZ at places run by an organization named Southwest Key. There are 13 such facilities in AZ.  They’re licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services and classified as Child Behavioral Health Facilities.  Even though they’re licensed by the ADHS, the agency doesn’t conduct routine unannounced inspections at them because they’re accredited by the Council on Accreditation.

Arizona law says that when a facility like this is accredited by an appropriate independent body, the ADHS shall accept the accreditation in lieu of a routine agency inspection. Specifically, ARS 36-424 (B) states that: “The (ADHS) director shall accept proof that a health care institution is an accredited health care institution in lieu of all compliance inspections required by this chapter if the director receives a copy of the institution's accreditation report for the licensure period”.

However, the ADHS still has an obligation to investigate complaints at these facilities because ARS 36-424 (C) says that: “On a determination by the director that there is reasonable cause to believe a health care institution is not adhering to the licensing requirements of this chapter… (the ADHS) may enter on and into the premises…  for the purpose of determining the state of compliance with this chapter, the rules adopted pursuant to this chapter and local fire ordinances or rules.”

You can view the status of these facilities at www.azcarecheck.com and search for the words Southwest Key.  You’d be able to see the results of any complaint investigations or enforcement actions against these facilities- but not the backup accreditation documents from the Council on Accreditation.


Supporting Separated Children & Parents

A publication called “Child Trends” put out a blog last week entitled Supporting Children and Parents Affected by the Trauma of Separation that contains evidenced-based guidance for parents and officials.  Hopefully some of the persons within the federal government and care facilities are familiar with and are applying this important information (like Trauma Informed Care) in their policies and procedures like:


Federal Government Restructuring Proposed by President

Last week the President Trump unveiled a wide-ranging plan to reorganize many functions within the federal government.  The proposal is posted on the White House website.  It’s 132 pages long- but it’s formatted in a way that’s easy to follow – with an index and formatting that makes it easy to read.

It proposes reorganizing various federal government functions in a wide range of programs.  For example, it proposes creating a new Federal Food Safety Agency that would absorb the various USDA and FDA food safety programs- moving everything to a stand-alone food safety agency.

WIC and SNAP would move out of the USDA and into HHS. Environmental programs at the Department of Interior and the USDA would move over to the EPA.  It also proposes reducing the size of the US Public Health Service Commission Corps from 6,500 officers to 4,000 officers with a Reserve Corps for public health emergencies.  It also plans to merge the Education and Labor Departments to consolidate work force programs.

There are many, many other proposals, like privatizing the US Postal Service.

So far this is just a proposal from the President and his team.  Any such restructuring would need to be authorized by congress.  Here’s a link to the wide-ranging report.  Of course, we’ll continue to track the public health portions of this.  It seems super-unlikely to see any action before the November election.


Federal FY 19 Health-related Budget Bill

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee released the FY19 House Appropriations report. The bill includes $177B in discretionary funding, which is essentially the same as FY18.  Here’s a summary:


The bill proposes total funding level of $7.6 billion, or $663 million decrease from FY18, but most of the decrease is due to the transfer of the strategic national stockpile to another part of HHS.


The bill proposes a total funding level of $6.5 billion, a $196 million decrease from FY18. Title X Family Planning funding would be eliminated completely.  Primary Health Care would get a 7% decrease.


The bill proposes a total funding level of $5.6 billion for SAMHSA, a $448 million increase above FY18, mostly because the Substance Abuse Block Grant and the State Opioid Response Grants would be significantly increased.