Hoeven: Congress Passes 21st Century Cures Act

Legislation Includes Funding to Combat Opioid Epidemic, Helps Increase Access to Outpatient Services at Critical Access Hospitals, Reforms and Reauthorizes Mental Health Programs

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that Congress has passed the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of new cures and treatments. The bill, which is fully paid for:
• Authorizes new funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
• Makes reforms to streamline and modernize the approval process for new drugs and medical devices.

“The 21st Century Cures Act is a bipartisan effort to help the scientific community develop cures and treatments for some of the most serious ailments we face today, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease,” Hoeven said. “At the same time, this legislation addresses many other important priorities for North Dakota. This includes funding to help states treat and prevent opioid addiction, regulatory relief for Critical Access Hospitals to increase access to important outpatient services, such as psychiatric care, cardiac rehabilitation and injury treatment, in rural areas and flexibility in federal mental health and substance abuse block grants to better meet local needs for these services.”

Combating the Opioid Epidemic

The Cures Act provides $1 billion over two years to supplement states’ efforts to combat opioid addiction. The funds can support treatment and prevention activities, such as prescription drug monitoring programs, training health care providers and expanding access to opioid treatment activities.

In addition to today’s legislation, Hoeven authored and introduced the Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act of 2016 with Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), which closes a loophole in current law that enables companies to circumvent the law and sell synthetic variations of drugs, like the powerful drug fentanyl, by labeling the products as “not for human consumption.” The senator also supported the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. This bipartisan bill expands prevention efforts, supports law enforcement, improves treatment of overdoses and enhances access to treatment for drug addiction.

Providing Regulatory Relief for Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs)

The Cures Act includes a provision that helps increase access to outpatient therapeutic services in rural hospitals, including drug infusions, blood transfusions, outpatient psychiatric services, wound treatment and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services, by maintaining the general supervision requirement for these services for calendar year 2016. In 2009, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) moved to require the direct supervision of a physician for these services, a policy that is overly burdensome for small hospitals and ignores the low-risk nature of the procedures. The general supervision standard would be made permanent by the Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services (PARTS) Act, a bipartisan bill that Hoeven has cosponsored.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Rural Health Caucus, Hoeven works to support rural health programs that benefit CAHs, including the Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants and Rural Health Outreach Grants. Earlier this year, the senator also successfully intervened on behalf of Jamestown Regional Medical Center with Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield to ensure the center would retain its CAH designation.

Reforming Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs

The Cures Act makes reforms to help ensure Americans who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders can receive the care they need. The bill reauthorizes the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, while also allowing the states greater flexibility in administering the programs to meet local needs. North Dakota has received nearly $7 million from these programs since Fiscal Year 2015.