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HHS News Releases
Updated: 21 hours 20 min ago

New Members Named to Serve on Health Information Technology Advisory Committee Established in 21st Century Cures Act

November 17, 2017

Today, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan named three members to the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC).

The committee, created by the 21st Century Cures Act, is charged with making recommendations to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology relating to the implementation of national and local health information technology (health IT) infrastructure. These recommendations include, “policies,…standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria” that advance the electronic access, exchange, and use of health information.

The HITAC provides the opportunity for stakeholders and the public to provide direct input to HHS about the implementation and use of health IT. The committee is supported by HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

Acting Secretary Hargan has appointed the following individuals to the HITAC:

  • Leslie Lenert, M.D., Chief Research Information Officer, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC (Public Health Appointment)
  • Clem J. McDonald, M.D., Director, Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, Bethesda, MD (HHS Representative Appointment)
  • Robert Wah, M.D., Global Chief Medical Officer, DXC Technology, McLean, VA (At-large Appointment)


The HHS-appointed members join 15 Government Accountability Office-appointed members who will serve for one-, two-, or three-year terms:

  • Michael Adcock, Executive Director of the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Christina Caraballo, Director of Healthcare Transformation at Get Real Health
  • Tina Esposito, Vice President of Information and Technology Innovation at Advocate Health Care
  • Brad Gescheider, Senior Director of Provider and Payer Solutions at PatientsLikeMe
  • John Kansky, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Indiana Health Information Exchange
  • Kensaku Kawamoto, Associate Chief Medical Information Officer, University of Utah Health, and Assistant Professor, University of Utah Department of Biomedical Informatics
  • Denni McColm, Chief Information Officer at Citizens Memorial Healthcare
  • Brett Oliver, Chief Medical Information Officer for Baptist Health
  • Terrence O’Malley, Massachusetts General Hospital and Spaulding Nursing and Therapy Center North End
  • Carolyn Petersen, patient advocate and Senior Editor for Mayo Clinic’s health information website
  • Raj Ratwani, Acting Center Director and Scientific Director of the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare within MedStar Health, and Assistant Professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine
  • Sasha TerMaat, Director at Epic
  • Sheryl Turney, Senior Director of All-Payer Claims Database Analytics and Data Policy and Administration at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Andrew Truscott, Managing Director for Health and Public Service at Accenture
  • Denise Webb, Chief Information Officer of Marshfield Clinic Health System and Chief Executive Officer of Marshfield Clinic Information Services, Inc

In addition, six of eight appointments have been made by Congressional leaders:

  • Cynthia Fisher, Founder and Managing Director, WaterRev, LLC
  • Dr. Anil Jin, Vice President and Chief Health Informatics Officer, IBM Watson Health
  • Dr. Steven Lane, Clinical Informatics Director for Privacy, Health Information Security & Interoperability, Sutter Health
  • Arien Malec, Vice President for the Data Platform Solution Line, RelayHealth
  • Steven Ready, System Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Norton Healthcare
  • Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, Chairman and CEO, NantWorks

Learn more about the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee on HealthIT.gov.

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan's Visit to Missouri to Discuss Tax Reform

November 17, 2017

Yesterday, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan traveled to O’Fallon, Missouri where he was hosted by the Phoenix Textile Corporation to discuss the need for tax reform in the United States.

Acting Secretary Hargan toured and met with leadership of the Phoenix Textile Corporation which distributes textile products—such as scrubs, laboratory coats, uniforms, linens, and other items—to hospital and nursing homes across the nation. They have been in business since 1983 starting with a handful of employees and today have grown to have over 100 employees. As Acting Secretary Hargan noted in his speech, “This is a really special place — the epitome of the great American tradition of family-owned small businesses: 34 years in business, growing to 110 employees, woman-owned, passed down from one generation to the next. Businesses like this are the backbone of the American economy.”

Acting Secretary Hargan and the Trump Administration understand that businesses like Phoenix Textile Corporation across all sectors, including the healthcare industry, contribute to a healthier American economy and workforce. With this in mind, Acting Secretary Hargan concluded his visit with formal remarks on President Trump’s vision for reforming our nation’s broken tax code.

As Acting Secretary Hargan noted in his speech, “…strong small businesses don’t just create jobs and economic opportunity. They also provide a strong foundation for local communities and a good living for hardworking employees to support their families. In turn, healthy communities and strong families mean healthier Americans, which is why I’m here today. President Trump’s commitment to building a strong American economy, and to all the benefits that come with a strong economy, extends across his Administration.”

To learn more about President Trump’s vision for tax reform, please visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/taxreform and to read Acting Secretary Hargan’s full remarks as prepared for delivery, please visit https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/secretary/speeches/2017-speeches/remarks-to-phoenix-textile-corp.html.

HHS Names Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge Winners

November 08, 2017

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) today announced the winners of the Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge.

ONC selected the winning submissions from over 140 competing teams and almost 7,000 submissions using an ONC-provided dataset.  “Patient matching” in health IT describes the techniques used to identify and match the data about patients held by one healthcare provider with the data about the same patients held either within the same system or by another system (or many other systems). The inability to successfully match patients to any and all of their data records can impeded interoperability resulting in patient safety risks and decreased provider efficiency.

“Many experts across the healthcare system have long identified the ability to match patients efficiently, accurately, and to scale as a critical interoperability need for the nation’s growing health IT infrastructure.  This challenge was an important step towards better understanding the current landscape,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology.  

Winners include:

Best “F-score” (a measure of accuracy that factors in both precision and recall):

  • First Place ($25,000): Vynca
  • Second Place ($20,000): PICSURE
  • Third Place ($15,000): Information Softworks

Best First Run ($5,000): Information Softworks

Best Recall ($5,000): PICSURE

Best Precision ($5,000): PICSURE

Each winner employed widely different methods. PICSURE used an algorithm based on the Fellegi-Sunter (1969) method for probabilistic record matching and performed a significant amount of manual review. Vynca used a stacked model that combined the predictions of eight different models. They reported that they manually reviewed less than .01 percent of the records. Although Information Softworks also used a Fellegi-Sunter-based enterprise master patient index (EMPI) system with some additional tuning, they also reported extremely limited manual review.

The dataset and scoring platform used in the challenge will remain available for students, researchers, or anyone else interested in additional analysis and algorithm development, and can be accessed via the Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge website.

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan's Visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands

November 04, 2017

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec traveled to St. Thomas today to meet with local officials assisting with response efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

Acting Secretary Hargan first met with U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp and local officials at the U.S. Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency to discuss the ongoing response efforts, and was later briefed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the environmental health of residents of the Islands. Acting Secretary Hargan then toured the USVI Departments of Health and Human Services in St. Thomas, as well as a shelter currently housing victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at www.phe.gov/emergency. Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html. Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Updates and health information also are available at:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov
 

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan's Visit to Puerto Rico

November 04, 2017

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec traveled to Puerto Rico on Thursday to assess the recovery efforts from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and to meet with HHS officials who are on the ground assisting with the ongoing recovery efforts.

Acting Secretary Hargan first toured the Disaster Medical Assistance Team site located in Fajardo, and praised local volunteers for their assistance in the recovery efforts. He then conducted an aerial damage assessment, and later met with the Puerto Rico Secretary of Health and other local government officials to discuss the latest updates on the response efforts. Acting Secretary Hargan thanked officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense, and the HHS Incident Response Coordination Team.

Acting Secretary Hargan traveled to Puerto Rico on Thursday to assess the recovery efforts.

 

Information on health, safety and HHS actions is available at www.phe.gov/emergency. Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html. Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Updates and health information also are available at:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov

HHS activa ayuda para habitantes sin seguro de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. que necesitan medicamentos

November 02, 2017

Como parte de la respuesta de todos los estratos del gobierno del Presidente Trump ante el huracán María, el Secretario Adjunto de Preparación y Respuesta (ASPR, en inglés) del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de los Estados Unidos activó su Programa de asistencia para medicamentos en casos de emergencia (EPAP, en inglés) para que los residentes de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. tengan acceso a los medicamentos imprescindibles que necesitan. El programa cubre los costos de los medicamentos recetados para personas sin seguro médico afectadas por catástrofes. Trece farmacias de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. participan en el EPAP.

“Este programa brinda asistencia esencial a personas sin seguro que dependen de ciertos medicamentos recetados para proteger su salud luego de catástrofes”, expresó el Dr. Robert Kadlec, Secretario Adjunto de Preparación y Respuesta de HHS. “Invitamos a los residentes de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. que puedan usar esta asistencia que la aprovechen para asegurarse de obtener el suministro adecuado de los medicamentos que necesitan”.

Sin costo para los pacientes no asegurados, quienes necesitan ciertos medicamentos durante una situación de emergencia pueden obtener un suministro para 30 días en cualquiera de las farmacias que trabajan con el EPAP. La mayoría de los farmacéuticos que figuran en la base de datos de Express Scripts están disponibles. Para más información, consulte http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/epap/Pages/formulary.aspx

Los pacientes pueden renovar sus recetas cada 30 días mientras esté activo el EPAP.

También pueden recurrir al programa para reemplazar medicamentos recetados de mantenimiento, algunos suministros médicos específicos, vacunas o equipos médicos que perdieron como resultado directo de una emergencia declarada o como resultado secundario de las pérdidas o daños causados al transitar un sitio en emergencia para acceder al refugio designado.

El EPAP ofrece un mecanismo eficiente para que las farmacias inscritas procesen reclamaciones de medicamentos recetados, suministros médicos específicos, vacunas y algunos tipos de equipos médicos duraderos para personas elegibles en áreas de desastre identificadas a nivel nacional.

Los residentes de las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU sin seguro afectados por el huracán María pueden llamar a Express Scripts al 855-793-7470 para saber si su medicamento o equipos médicos duraderos en particular están cubiertos por el EPAP y para encontrar una farmacia participante.

El Presidente Donald Trump declaró a las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU área de catástrofe de grandes dimensiones el 21 de septiembre de 2017, a raíz del paso del huracán María.

El ASPR encabeza el equipo del HHS que prepara al país para responder a y recuperarse de los efectos adversos para la salud que suponen estas situaciones de emergencia, a través del apoyo a las comunidades para que puedan soportar la adversidad, fortaleciendo sus sistemas de salud y respuesta y optimizando la seguridad sanitaria nacional. El HHS es la principal agencia del gobierno nacional para la protección de la salud de los estadounidenses y la provisión de servicios humanos esenciales, especialmente para los más vulnerables.

Hay información acerca de las acciones de salud, seguridad y el HHS en www.phe.gov/emergency. En https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html puede acceder a anuncios de servicios públicos con consejos de salud para después de un temporal. Invitamos a los residentes del territorio continental de los Estados Unidos a que compartan estos consejos con sus familiares y amigos en Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU.

Hay actualizaciones e información de salud disponibles también en:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov

HHS activates aid for uninsured U.S. Virgin Islands residents needing medicine

November 02, 2017

As part of the Trump Administration’s government-wide response to Hurricane Maria, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) activated its Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP) for the U.S. Virgin Islands to give residents access to the critical prescription medications they need. The program pays for prescription medications for people without health insurance who are affected by disasters. Thirteen pharmacies in the U.S. Virgin Islands participate in EPAP.

“This program provides vital assistance to people without insurance who rely upon certain prescription medicines to protect their health after disasters,” said HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “I encourage U.S. Virgin Islands residents who can use this assistance to take advantage of it to ensure they have an adequate supply of the medicines they need.”

At no cost to uninsured patients, those needing certain drugs during an emergency can obtain a 30-day supply at any of the EPAP participating pharmacies. Most pharmaceuticals listed in the Express Scripts database are available. For more information see http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/epap/Pages/formulary.aspx

Patients can renew their prescriptions every 30 days while the EPAP is active.

They also can use the program to replace maintenance prescription drugs, specific medical supplies, vaccines or medical equipment lost as a direct result of the declared emergency or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit from the emergency site to the designated shelter facility.

EPAP provides an efficient mechanism for enrolled pharmacies to process claims for prescription medication, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area.

Uninsured U.S. Virgin Islands residents affected by Hurricane Maria can call Express Scripts, 855-793-7470, to learn if their medication or specific durable medical equipment is covered by EPAP and to find a participating pharmacy.

President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 21, 2017, due to Hurricane Maria.

ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at www.phe.gov/emergency. Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html. Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Updates and health information also are available at:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov

Readout of U.S. Surgeon General VADM Jerome Adam’s Visit to Local Addiction Treatment Facility

October 31, 2017

Following President Donald Trump’s call to action on Thursday regarding America’s opioid epidemic, U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams visited Phoenix House in Arlington, VA, to highlight work being done by nonprofit organizations to combat the epidemic and hear from treatment experts and other heroes on the frontlines.

Phoenix House offers evidence-based addiction treatment to teens, adults, and families, as well as unique services for pregnant women, mothers with young children, and the military community. During his visit, Surgeon General Adams was able to tour various parts of the facility, meet with current patients and learn firsthand of their experience and treatment programs.


Surgeon General Adams had the following to say about his visit:

“It was an honor to visit a treatment center today in Virginia as part of a coordinated effort for top Trump Administration officials to hold listening sessions on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic, the day after the President directed agencies to use all appropriate emergency and other relevant authorities to address the opioid crisis and the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a nationwide public health emergency as a result of the opioids crisis. Empowering local communities and civil-society groups is a key part of the Department of Health and Human Services’s comprehensive strategy for tackling opioid addiction. We enjoyed hearing the perspectives of a number of treatment experts today. We look forward to more such visits to come, as we raise awareness of the crisis that President Trump has made a top priority.”

More information on Phoenix House may be found here: https://www.phoenixhouse.org/

Readout of Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz’s Opioids Listening Session in Nashua, New Hampshire

October 31, 2017

On Friday, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, and senior HHS officials visited Harbor Homes in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Along with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, they toured the Harbor Homes facility and held a roundtable discussion with first responders, medical experts, local non-profit leaders, and people receiving treatment in all stages of the recovery process.

Mary-Sumpter Lapinski, Counselor to the Secretary of HHS for Public Health & Science, opened the meeting by welcoming participants and thanking them for their willingness to share their stories. She reiterated President Trump and the entire Administration’s commitment to confront the opioids epidemic and discussed the historic significance of yesterday’s actions.

During the session, recovering addicts shared their personal stories in vivid detail. They spoke of friends and relatives who lost their lives to the scourge of addiction. Community leaders and experts talked about the challenges and opportunities they experience providing services in New Hampshire. They also discussed Nashua’s Safe Spaces Program and its unique approach to providing assistance to those looking to start their path to recovery.

The federal government is marshaling all relevant agencies and personnel to address this crisis. Yesterday afternoon, following a Presidential Memorandum, HHS declared a Public Health EmergencyToday, Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz, and other top officials are fanning out across the country to hear from communities on the front lines.

The following individuals participated in the New Hampshire event:

  • Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
  • Governor Chris Sununu, State of New Hampshire
  • Mayor Jim Donchess, City of Nashua
  • Peter Kelleher, President and CEO, Partnership for Successful Living
  • Mary-Sumpter Lapinski, Counselor to the Secretary for Public Health & Science
  • Jaime Gormley, LICSW, MLADC, Director of Residential Services, Keystone Hall
  • Scott Slattery, Director of Housing, Harbor Homes
  • Christopher Stawasz, Regional Director, American Medical Response
  • Chief Steve Galipeau, Nashua Fire Rescue
  • Assistant Chief Brian Rhodes, Nashua Fire Rescue
  • Dr. Garciela Sironich-Kalkan, Medical Director, Harbor Care Health and Wellness Center
  • Allen Irwin, Peer Recovery Support Manager, Revive Recovery Resource Center
  • Harbor Homes patients (names withheld to respect their privacy)

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan’s Opioids Listening Session in Lexington, Kentucky

October 31, 2017

On Friday, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and senior HHS officials traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, to visit the Polk-Dalton Clinic and the PATHways Program, which serves pregnant women recovering from addiction and their babies. Acting Secretary Hargan toured the facility and held a roundtable discussion with medical experts, local non-profit leaders, individuals receiving treatment and in recovery, and others impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Acting Secretary Hargan opened the roundtable discussion by thanking the group for their willingness to share their stories and for their work to address the crisis in the community. He highlighted HHS’s and the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to address the opioid epidemic and the significance of Thursday’s action of declaring a nationwide public health emergency on the opioid crisis.


During the meeting, individuals in recovery shared their personal stories, many of which began with addiction in early teen years. One woman shared how the unique approach of the PATHways program has allowed her to stay sober, become a more present mother, and even become a peer support specialist to other women joining the PATHways program. A mother shared the personal story of losing her son to the epidemic and her commitment to educate others about the crisis. Community expert and leaders discussed opportunities and challenges they experience in providing services in Kentucky. The individuals participating in the roundtable shared their personal views that addiction must be addressed as a chronic condition requiring a multi-layered approach to include community connection, innovative treatment and ongoing support.

The following individuals participated in the Kentucky event:

  • Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan
  • Mark Birdwhistell, Vice President for Administration & External Affairs, UK HealthCare  
  • Alex Elswick, Co-Founder, Voices of Hope
  • Dr. Agatha Critchfield, Co-Founder & Medical Director, PATHways Program
  • Nikki Strunk, Parent of Deceased, Brendan Strunk
  • “L,” PATHways Patient
  • Rachel Coburn Smith, Executive Director, Refuge Clinic
  • Cornelia ‘Neal’ Vaughan, Founder, Chrysalis House
  • Dr. Peter Giannone, Chief, Division of Neonatology & Vice Chair, Pediatric Research, UK  HealthCare

HHS Office for Civil Rights Issues Guidance on How HIPAA Allows Information Sharing to Address the Opioid Crisis

October 28, 2017

Following President Trump’s call to action yesterday that led to the declaration of a nationwide public health emergency regarding the opioid crisis, the HHS Office for Civil Rights is releasing new guidance on when and how healthcare providers can share a patient’s health information with his or her family members, friends, and legal personal representatives when that patient may be in crisis and incapacitated, such as during an opioid overdose.

“HHS is bringing all of the resources our department has to bear in order to address this crisis. This will ensure families have the right information when trying to help loved ones who are dealing with the scourge of drug addiction,” said Acting HHS Secretary Eric D. Hargan. “I commend Roger Severino and the HHS Office for Civil Rights for their swift action in clarifying for healthcare providers how they can share information with a patient’s family and friends.”

“We know that support from family members and friends is key to helping people struggling with opioid addiction, but their loved ones can’t help if they aren’t informed of the problem,” said Director Roger Severino, of the HHS Office for Civil Rights.  “Our clarifying guidance will give medical professionals increased confidence in their ability to cooperate with friends and family members to help save lives.”

Current HIPAA regulations allow healthcare providers to share information with a patient’s loved ones in certain emergency or dangerous situations.  This includes informing persons in a position to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to a patient’s health or safety.  Misunderstandings about HIPAA can create obstacles to family support that is crucial to the proper care and treatment of people experiencing a crisis situation, such as an opioid overdose.  It is critical for healthcare providers to understand when and how they can share information with patients’ family members and friends without violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule. 

For more information, visit https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/hipaa-opioid-crisis.pdf

It is important to note that state or other federal privacy laws may also apply.  HIPAA does not interfere with state laws or medical ethics rules that are more protective of patient privacy.

HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opioid Crisis

October 26, 2017

Acting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Eric D. Hargan issued the following statement upon declaring a nationwide public health emergency regarding the opioid crisis, as requested by President Donald Trump on Thursday:

“Today’s declaration, coupled with the President’s direction that executive agencies use all appropriate emergency authorities and other relevant authorities, is another powerful action the Trump Administration is taking in response to America’s deadly opioid crisis.

“President Trump has made this national crisis a top priority since he took office in January, and we are proud to be leading in this effort at HHS. His call to action today brings a new level of urgency to the comprehensive strategy HHS unveiled under President Trump, which empowers the real heroes of this fight: the communities on the frontlines of the epidemic.”

Background:

  • Each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 Americans die from drug overdoses, 91 specifically due to opioids.
  • 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015, and preliminary numbers indicate at least 64,000 died in 2016.
  • Declaring a nationwide public health emergency will enable HHS to accelerate temporary appointments of specialized personnel to address the emergency (pending any funding needed); work with DEA to expand access for certain groups of patients to telemedicine for treating addiction; and provide new flexibilities within HIV/AIDS programs.
  • Under President Trump, in April 2017, HHS unveiled a new five-point Opioid Strategy, with the five following priorities:
    • Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
    • Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
    • Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
    • Support cutting-edge research on addiction and pain
    • Advance the practice of pain management
  • In Fiscal Year 2017, HHS invested almost $900 million in opioid-specific funding, including to support state and local governments and civil society groups—to support treatment and recovery services, target availability of overdose-reversing drugs, train first responders, and more.
  • HHS has supported the efforts of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and the department looks forward to reviewing the upcoming final report.

Read the opioid public health emergency declaration *

 

* Temporary accomodation has been requested until document can be made 508 accessible

U.S. Government Participates in 4th High Level Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Meeting

October 25, 2017

In a meeting on September 20, 2017, President Donald Trump underscored his commitment to promote the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) by noting, “We cannot have prosperity if we’re not healthy. We will continue our partnership on critical health initiatives.” That is the message that U.S. government officials carry to the 4th High Level GHSA Ministerial Meeting in Kampala, Uganda this October 25-27, 2017.

Rear Admiral R. Timothy Ziemer of the National Security Council leads the multi-sectoral U.S. Delegation comprised of the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense, Agriculture, Treasury, and the Agency for International Development to deliver on President Trump’s commitment. Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and Director of the Office of Global Affairs, Garrett Grigsby, serve as the chief representatives to the meeting on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services.  

In Kampala, the U.S. Delegation has bilateral meetings with government officials from GHSA member countries to discuss the ongoing collaboration between the U.S. and our partners on global health security. At the meeting Rear Admiral Ziemer delivered the plenary address and Director Fitzgerald will deliver closing remarks on behalf of the Trump Administration, reaffirming U.S. support for the Global Health Security Agenda and underscoring the goal to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases.

Launched in 2014, the GHSA is a worldwide effort to help build countries’ capacity to help create a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and elevate global health security as a national and global priority. Through a growing multisectoral partnership of international organizations, non-governmental stakeholders, and more than 60 countries, GHSA is accelerating efforts to build countries’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases.

To learn more, read Rear Admiral Ziemer’s blog entitled Securing Global Health through U.S. Leadership and follow the 4th High Level GHSA Ministerial Meeting in Kampala, Uganda by visiting the GHSA website and by checking out #GHSAKampala, #GlobalHealthSecurity, and #GHSAgenda on social media.

OCR Addresses National Origin Discrimination in Alabama Child Welfare Programs

October 25, 2017

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Alabama Department of Human Resources (ADHR). The Agreement resolves a finding that ADHR administered its Child Welfare Programs (CWP) in a manner that had the effect of delaying or denying access to its programs and services on the basis of nation origin, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). As a recipient of Federal financial assistance from HHS, ADHR is subject to Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Under Title VI, recipients must take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to their programs for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP).

The U.S. Department of Justice referred a report to OCR that ADHR’s CWP discriminated against a Guatemalan father engaged in a parental rights case because he was unable to speak English. The Akateco-speaking father was attempting reunification with his daughter who had been placed in foster care by ADHR after the death of his wife. Under Title VI, ADHR is required to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to its programs by persons with LEP and is otherwise prohibited from discriminating against persons on the basis of their national origin. OCR determined that ADHR was required by Federal law and its own policies to provide services to help the father attempt reunification with his daughter. OCR’s investigation found that the father’s LEP was a significant factor in ADHR’s failure to provide timely language assistance and other services essential for reunification. Additionally, OCR’s investigation found that ADHR consistently failed to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to its programs by Latino persons with LEP. Thus, OCR determined that ADHR administered its programs in a manner that had the effect of delaying or denying access to its programs and services on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI.

“Separating families can lead to irreversible loss of parental rights and trauma to children. It is critical that child welfare agencies administer their programs in accordance with laws designed to protect the rights of all family members to ensure family unity when possible, without regard to their race, color or national origin,” said Director Roger Severino, OCR. “OCR remains committed to this basic principle of civil rights and will enforce the laws and protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Under the settlement agreement with OCR, ADHR affirms it will: comply with Title VI; train staff on Title VI compliance; and provide competent language assistance at no cost and in a timely manner to persons with LEP. These and other commitments will help to ensure persons with LEP have meaningful access to the full range of programs, services and benefits administered by CWP. Additionally, ADHR will update its Family Services policies and procedures, and pending OCR’s review, publish them appropriately.

OCR enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, religion or conscience.

A copy of the Agreement can be found at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ADHR-agreement.pdf.

To learn more about non-discrimination and health information privacy laws, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit us at www.hhs.gov/ocr.

Follow OCR on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HHSOCR.

United States Government Statement on the Montevideo Roadmap at the WHO Global Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases

October 19, 2017

HHS Principal Deputy Director for Global Affairs Tom Alexander, U.S. Head of Delegation to the WHO Global Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) made the following statement on the Montevideo Roadmap:

"The United States thanks Uruguay for convening and leading the WHO Global Conference on NCDs and the many hours spent in developing the Montevideo Roadmap with co-chairs Finland and Russia. We consider the Roadmap to be a “snapshot” of the current state of discussion on NCDs.

"The United States strongly supports efforts to combat non-communicable diseases. We believe that the best approach to addressing the global rise in incidence of NCDs requires identifying and pursuing comprehensive, cost-effective, evidence-based, and multi-sectoral strategies. Strategies must be appropriate to each national context, and consistent with Member States’ domestic and international obligations, including trade obligations. We applaud efforts to encourage universal health access, understanding that each country will develop a system within their own contexts and priorities and that efforts to expand access do not imply primarily government-centric solutions or mandates which we do not support.

"The Montevideo Roadmap does note the benefits of broad engagement across sectors, including the need to leverage the strengths of the private and public sectors to tackle the complex challenge of NCDs. However, we emphasize that it is not the role of UN agencies or other multilateral bodies to advocate for a particular outcome in legal challenges, whether local or international disputes, to which they are not a party.

"In addition, any work to evaluate the impact of policies on health outcomes must be inclusive, evidence-based, and take a holistic approach that considers all economic factors. We urge the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism to take an interdisciplinary approach that includes diverse experts as well as entities with equities in this dialogue.  

"We note the particular focus on tobacco taxation as a tool for promoting public health.  The consumption of tobacco is addictive, inherently unhealthy, and therefore distinct from other risk factors for NCDs.  Therefore, given the distinct nature of tobacco, we cannot effectively advance public health goals by attempting to base national strategies to control NCDs primarily on experience with tobacco.  

"A better approach is to work together to find common ground on a set of principles to prevent and control NCDs. We look forward to working with WHO and other nations in  achieving this end, including close examination at the upcoming Executive Board and World Health Assembly meetings on how to incorporate cooperation among all sectors."

Acting Secretary Hargan declares public health emergency in California due to wildfires

October 16, 2017

Following President Trump’s major disaster declaration for California, Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan today declared a public health emergency in California due to the wildfires devastating the state. The declaration allowed the secretary to issue a waiver under section 1135 of the Social Security Act for the state to enable the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to take action that gives beneficiaries and their health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting critical health needs.

“Wildfires burning across more than 200,000 acres and 10 Northern California counties threaten the lives of tens of thousands of people,” said Acting Secretary Hargan. “Today’s public health declaration will ensure that those who rely upon Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage will receive uninterrupted care during this disaster. HHS stands ready to assist California’s medical response to the wildfires should it be needed.“

The public health emergency declaration is effective retroactively to October 8.

HHS deployed four regional emergency coordinators (RECs) for the area to coordinate with state and local emergency response officials. RECs serve as HHS’ primary representatives throughout the country at the regional level and build relationships with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officials and healthcare representatives to plan for effective federal emergency responses and facilitate coordinated response activities with local officials. Two Regional Incident Support Team pharmacists were deployed to the region to provide technical support if the state requests the activation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ambulance contract to support the transport of a large number of patients.

Staff from HHS’ National Disaster Medical System and the U.S. Public Health Service also stand ready to provide medical care and public health support if needed.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline is available to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the wildfires and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals. Residents can call 1-800-985-5990 toll free or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Critical updates will also be available at:

Trump Administration Takes Action to Abide by the Law and Constitution, Discontinue CSR Payments

October 13, 2017

U.S. Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric Hargan and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma released the following statement announcing that cost-sharing reductions payments will be discontinued immediately based on a legal opinion from the Attorney General:

“It has been clear for many years that Obamacare is bad policy.  It is also bad law. The Obama Administration unfortunately went ahead and made CSR payments to insurance companies after requesting - but never ultimately receiving - an appropriation from Congress as required by law.  In 2014, the House of Representatives was forced to sue the previous Administration to stop this unconstitutional executive action. In 2016, a federal court ruled that the Administration had circumvented the appropriations process, and was unlawfully using unappropriated money to fund reimbursements due to insurers.  After a thorough legal review by HHS, Treasury, OMB, and an opinion from the Attorney General, we believe that the last Administration overstepped the legal boundaries drawn by our Constitution.  Congress has not appropriated money for CSRs, and we will discontinue these payments immediately.”

Read CSR Payment Memo*

* Temporary Section 508 Accommodation has been requested for PDF 

HHS, FEMA, DOD and VA continue to provide sustained and critical medical care support for Puerto Rico as part of Trump Administration response to Hurricane Maria

October 12, 2017

Before Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and every day since, federal response personnel from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Defense (DoD), and Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been coordinating efforts with local emergency response officials to ensure that medical care will be available for Puerto Rico residents as soon after the storm as possible, and to re-establish the island’s healthcare infrastructure.

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, it devastated the island’s infrastructure, shutting off communication and transportation to the island, and causing widespread power outages. In its wake were people who would need medical care, either for chronic medical conditions or issues arising as a direct result of the storm. 

Saving Lives:

The healthcare infrastructure on Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. To address the medical needs arising following the storm, HHS coordinated with DoD to transport medical personnel from HHS’ National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) as well as needed medical supplies to the island.

Today, there are more than 600 HHS medical personnel on the island to help those affected by the hurricane. To address medical needs on the island, HHS is operating a three-tier system of care in coordination with the Puerto Rico Department of Health. The first tier of care HHS is providing is at Centro Medico in San Juan, which is the only Tier 1 trauma center on the island. For the second tier of the strategy, HHS medical personnel are supporting hospitals in each of the regions by providing supplies and patient care. For the final tier of the system, through a collaborative effort with DoD, each of the remaining hospitals that are operational in some capacity have liaisons from DoD assigned to them to help ensure they are receiving the supplies they need to continue providing care to their patients.

Traveling around Puerto Rico to aid residents affected by Hurricane Maria is the U.S. Navy’s hospital ship USNS Comfort, which includes facilities allowing for resuscitation and stabilization care, initial wound and basic surgery, and postoperative treatment. 

After receiving care at hospitals, some patients require help with ongoing healthcare needs. HHS is in the process of setting up four Federal Medical Stations, each capable of housing up to 250 patients at a time, which give these patients a place to stay while receiving the care they need.

To date, HHS medical personnel have provided care to more than 3,800 people affected by Hurricane Maria.

HHS also coordinated with VA before Hurricane Maria hit to ensure that patients suffering from end-stage renal disease, who are among the most vulnerable populations during disasters because their health depends upon regular dialysis treatment, were transported to more stable environments where they could receive care. VA and HHS transported more than 350 dialysis and critical care patients to more secure locations in San Juan; Miami; Shreveport, Louisiana; Atlanta; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi. Most of these patients were transferred from the U.S. Virgin Islands to San Juan to receive care after Hurricane Irma devastated those islands only two weeks before Hurricane Maria made landfall in the islands.

Ensuring their proper care also required coordination with non-governmental organizations to provide the patients with personal assistance services, emergency financial assistance and renal diets. The coordination of resources was enabled by HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ End Stage Renal Disease Networks and their partners.

After the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, HHS also played an important role in addressing critical needs at some of the most severely impacted dialysis facilities so that patient care could continue. HHS has worked with the Puerto Rico Department of Health to prioritize resources needed for dialysis facilities on the island and facilitated with FEMA to help ensure critical supplies were delivered where they were needed. The supplies received by the dialysis facilities proved vital to a number of them continuing to operate in some capacity, which is critical to people whose health depends upon regular dialysis treatments.  

To help ensure that uninsured residents of Puerto Rico can continue to receive the prescription medication upon which their health depends, HHS activated its Emergency Prescription Assistance Program. This program provides 30-day supplies of certain medications free-of-charge through participating pharmacies. More than 750 pharmacies in Puerto Rico participate in this program, and residents of Puerto Rico who were displaced by Hurricane Maria can access the program through local pharmacies where they currently reside.

Stabilizing the Healthcare System:

In the three weeks since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, the island’s healthcare infrastructure is showing signs of stabilizing. Nearly all medical facilities are operating in some capacity and 45 of the island’s 51 dialysis centers are reported to be fully operational. More than half of the hospitals in Puerto Rico are receiving electricity through a power grid that, at times, has proven unstable.

Communications continue to improve for Puerto Rico residents. To help overcome the continuing communications challenges, DoD personnel are positioning communications equipment at each open hospital to ensure supplies can be coordinated.

HHS also is working to confirm the operational status of the hundreds of elder care facilities in Puerto Rico to ensure their needs are being met.

HHS has held daily calls with private-sector partners to ensure that critical infrastructure needs for the healthcare sector are identified so they can be addressed and appropriately prioritized. Through these collaborative efforts, private sector interests that typically may be in competition with each other continue working together to address the needs of those affected by the storm.

For example, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers in Puerto Rico are vital to the supply chain in the continental United States. HHS is working closely with these manufacturers to quickly identify potential disruptions resulting from the devastation caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and to support their efforts to maintain the availability of critical healthcare products in Puerto Rico and the continental United States. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was able to expedite processes and procedures to help pharmaceutical manufacturers adjust production levels at facilities unaffected by the storm to ensure that overall U.S. supply was not jeopardized by damage to facilities on Puerto Rico. 

In addition to the efforts provided by HHS and DoD, VA provided both commodities and services for several tons of medical supplies, food, fuel, and water. VA collaborated with two HHS Federal Medical Stations to provide care to Veterans and serve as a Community Based Out-Patient Clinics. VA forward deployed mobile medical centers, pharmacies, counseling units and 196 volunteers to support both Veterans and the public. VA was able to self-sustain and feed employees and families with more than 33,589 meals. VA deployed satellite communications for the VA Hospital, Regional Office, and Clinics to enable communications throughout its Healthcare System. VA further assisted the community by providing Damage Assessment Teams to assess civilian hospitals throughout out the island.

Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at www.phe.gov/emergency. Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/psa/index.html. A full toolkit with text messages, social media, phone prompts, and other information to share with people in the affected areas can be found at ‎https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/diaspora_toolkit.html.

Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Updates and health information also are available at:

Acting Secretary Hargan Welcomes Opportunity to Expand Affordable Healthcare Choices

October 12, 2017

Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric Hargan issued the following statement regarding President Trump’s executive order to expand affordable healthcare choices:

“Obamacare’s Washington-knows-best approach has left too many Americans without access to affordable health coverage. Instead of lower costs and more choices, millions of Americans continue to suffer under a system that features surging costs and dwindling choices,” said HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan. “Fortunately, President Trump is taking action on patient-centered solutions that would enable Americans to purchase health coverage that works best for them instead of being left with only unaffordable options that have been dictated by Washington. The status quo is unsustainable; it’s time to put Americans back in charge of their healthcare decisions.”

HHS Acting Secretary Wright declares public health emergencies in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi due to Hurricane Nate

October 09, 2017

Following President Trump’s emergency declarations for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Don Wright, M.D., M.P.H., today declared public health emergencies in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Nate made landfall in the Gulf Coast states. The declarations allow HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to take action that gives beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.

"As communities in our Gulf Coast states are facing Hurricane Nate, HHS is ready to provide critical support to our fellow citizens in need,” said HHS Acting Secretary Wright, M.D. “The public health emergency declarations for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi will help ensure our department’s continued ability to protect access to healthcare – particularly for those with Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. HHS assets and personnel will also continue to assist state and local authorities in getting aid to those individuals and families impacted by these storms.”

In addition to increasing the flexibilities in how CMS helps beneficiaries in the path of Hurricane Nate, HHS located two 250 bed federal medical stations in Louisiana to support any of the impacted communities along the Gulf Coast. Additionally, HHS’ Disaster Medical Assistance teams (DMATs) are on alert to assist if needed in the response.

Acting Secretary Wright acted under his authority in the Public Health Service Act and Social Security Act. These actions and flexibilities for Louisiana are effective October 5, 2017; for Alabama and Mississippi they are effective October 6, 2017; and for Florida, they are effective October 7, 2017.

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