Disability Policy News In Brief

September 12, 2016

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September 12, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 89
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According to Congressional Quarterly Hill news, Senate Republican and Democratic negotiators worked through the weekend on a three-month stopgap spending bill that would include emergency aid to fight Zika as well as the fiscal 2017 Military Construction-VA bill (it is unclear how they will deal with the stalemate on Planned Parenthood funding).  The latest reports are that the Senate may move first to pass a relatively "clean" continuing resolution (one with no riders) that would extend federal funding at level-funding through December 9. That would mean Congress would have to return in a "lame-duck" session after the November elections to complete FY 2017 funding.  The Senate may adjourn immediately after the vote.  This means that if the CR passes the Senate, the House will be pressured to pass it as written to avoid a government shutdown.  The new fiscal year begins on October 1, less than two weeks away.  AUCD will continue to closely following the budget negotiations.


Heading into the seven-week summer recess, Congress had yet to send a final Zika response spending package to the president. On September 6, the Senate held another unsuccessful vote on a House conference report that included funding for response to the Zika virus. The measure was strongly opposed by Senate Democrats over its inclusion of controversial riders unrelated to Zika, including a prohibition on family planning funding in Puerto Rico. Funds are set to run out by September 30.  There is some hope that funds will be included in a continuing resolution that is currently under negotiation (see Budget above).

Health Care

HHS Zika Funding

As part of its efforts to sustain ongoing response to Zika, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced plans to use some of its remaining funds to support projects by partner organizations involved in combating the spread of the virus.  On September 7, HHS announced an $8.2 contract award to support the development of a vaccine for the Zika virus. The vaccine in question uses genetic material from the Zika virus to trigger an immune response in people and can be reproduced more quickly than vaccine models that rely on more traditional technologies. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will oversee the vaccine's development in partnership with the pharmaceutical company that received the award. The contract award marks complete use of funds that were reallocated to BARDA in order to support vaccine development. Funding for the entire Zika response is set to run out by September 30. The HHS Department also awarded $350,000 to the American Academy of Pediatrics to support health education for care providers at community health centers in areas affected by Zika. 

CDC Zika Funding

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $2.4 million to New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles County in order to establish and support information-gathering systems that will help detect cases of microcephaly and other conditions that have been linked to the Zika virus. The funds will enable local authorities to collect information about emerging health patterns that the CDC will use for its own data reporting. They will also make it easier to identify newborn babies with microcephaly earlier on and will connect their families with local health and social resources.

Mental Health Parity

On September 9 AUCD public policy staff attended a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing - An Examination of Federal Mental Health Parity Laws and Regulations. Witness included: Michael A. Trangle Senior Medical Director, Behavioral Health Division, Pamela Greenberg President and CEO, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, and Matt Selig, Executive Director, Health Law Advocates, Inc. During the hearing, witnesses provided testimony on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), compliance and enforcement, barriers, and offered next steps (e.g., a clearinghouse on mental health services that indicates what is covered vs what is not covered) as we continue to move forward with parity implementation. It was noted that a main goal of parity is to make sure insurance companies cover mental health the same way physical healthcare Is covered (e.g., conditions like cancer). Following testimony, subcommittee members asked questions regarding next steps, workforce shortage, and if higher Medicaid reimbursement or loan forgiveness should be supported.


AUCD signed onto a letter in support of the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act (S. 1719/H.R. 3099). The letter was sent to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) of the House Health, Education and Workforce Committee. The bill would implement the federal Commission on Long-Term Care's recommendation that Congress authorize the creation of a national strategy to support family caregivers, and would create and advisory body to make further recommendations. AUCD also signed onto an ad promoting the RAISE Act that appeared in Politico.      


School Resource Officers         

On September 8, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice issued new resources for state, local education and law enforcement agencies to use when managing the presence of school resource officers (SROs) in community schools. The Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics are meant to help ensure that the use of SROs is effective and falls in line with students' civil rights.  The Department of Education's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing services also issued letters to states, encouraging them to strengthen SRO program design and urge higher education institutions to follow campus policing recommendations made by the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

New Congress

Following the elections in November, there will be many changes in Congress, including with Committee leadership positions.  The latest information that AUCD has learned is that Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) will step down as Chairman of Energy & Commerce when the 114th Congress adjourns after reaching his term limit. The other three most senior Republicans - Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX), John Shimkus and Greg Walden - are interested in taking his place and will face off for the title. 

AUCD Public Policy Committee


Our monthly public policy committee meeting is being held Wednesday, September 14 at 4p. This week are pleased to have guest speakers Diane Dressler who will be providing an overview of HUD and how to engage with local housing authorities to increase affordable housing in states, and Joe Caldwell who will be speaking about Money Follows the Person. If you would like to join the call, please contact Christine Grosso

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All       

During this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviews Kelly Ethridge about her experiences in the Post-Secondary Education Program at Texas A&M University. In case you missed last week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviewed Michael Gamel-McCormick, Director of the Promise TA center and Leon Barnett, Program Specialist for the Promise TA center about the Promise TA center.


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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms 

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