Awaiting President’s Budget, Priorities Inch Along in Congress
The Academy joined over 150 organizations in requesting Congressional appropriators provide $120 million for the Infectious Diseases and Opioid Epidemic program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) appropriations bill. Organizations specializing in HIV, hepatitis, public health, harm reduction and criminal justice reform requested this increase in funding to support and expand access to overdose prevention and syringe services programs (SSPs) as one way to help dramatically reduce the number of deaths caused by overdose. Additionally, the letter calls for an end to the ban on using federal funds to pay for syringes – an antiquated policy that promotes stigma against proven harm-reduction policies. Please view the full letter here.
As the country continues to confront an ongoing drug-overdose crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are on track to see potentially 100,000+ overdoses in 2021. SSPs need more help to prevent some of those overdoses and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Overdose deaths have increased across the board, but most dramatically among Black people and communities of color (2.2x) and Hispanic people (1.7x). By expanding access to SSPs, we can reduce health care costs, including infectious diseases treatment.
As for the status of the overall President’s budget, it remains delayed. Readers may recall that the pared down “skinny” budget is all that has been released so far. The lateness of the President’s budget request with specific spending numbers rather than top-lines, dials up the pressure on Congress – which only has until September 30 to pass an appropriations bill to avoid a continuing resolution or government shutdown.