In this issue

Advocacy updates

Tobacco control and cessation; proposed National Institute of Substance Use and Addiction; HIV/AIDS and substance abuse congressional briefing; Disaster Distress Helpline; and sequestration may cause loss of research funding

By V. Vatsalya and Marion Coe, BA
Tobacco control and cessation; proposed National Institute of Substance Use and Addiction; and HIV/AIDS and substance abuse congressional briefing
  1. The American Psychological Association (APA) partnered with the Center for Tobacco Free Kids and other leading public health advocates in July 2012 to lobby against the exemption of cigars from FDA oversight. This month marks the three-year anniversary since the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed, which gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco products. However as the bill that funds the FDA has worked its way through the appropriations process, new attempts have been made to exclude certain tobacco products from FDA oversight, in this case cigars. APA partnered with the Center for Tobacco Free Kids and other leading public health advocates to lobby against any possible amendments that would provide a cigar exemption or reduce the resources available to the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products to continue science-based regulation of all tobacco products. Following the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), APA partnered with the American Lung Association and other public health advocates to urge the Secretary of Health and Human Services to collect as much information as possible (PDF, 303KB) on the availability of comprehensive tobacco cessation programs to ensure that those treatment services are covered as Essential Health Benefits in implementing the ACA.

  2. In September 2010, the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB), established pursuant to Sec. 401 (e) of the PHS Act, recommended that NIH create a new Institute focused on substance use, abuse, and addiction-related research. After extensive discussions with experts from within and outside the NIH, the SMRB found that the current organization of substance use, abuse, and addiction research at the NIH is not optimal for fulfilling the agency’s mission or optimizing research in substance use, abuse, and addiction. The SMRB recommended that the NIH Director establish a new Institute focusing on addiction-related research and public health initiatives. As such, NIH proposes to create a new Institute, with the working name of “The National Institute of Substance Use and Addiction Disorders,” through inclusion in the President’s Budget for fiscal year 2014. A planning committee that includes scientific representatives from the potentially affected Institutes and Centers is developing a Scientific Strategic Plan for the proposed Institute with the primary goal of identifying new scientific opportunities that are not currently supported in the existing NIH research portfolios and public health initiatives on substance use, abuse, and addiction-related disorders.

  3. APA member Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot presented her research on the expansion of HIV testing among vulnerable populations, including text messaging interventions with teens. On July 18, the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in conjunction with the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus hosted a congressional briefing titled “Treatment as Prevention: HIV/AIDS and Substance Abuse,” organized by the APA Science Government Relations Office. The briefing, seventeenth in the Charles R. Schuster Congressional Briefing Series, was co-sponsored by 20 member organizations of the Friends of NIDA coalition and drew an audience of over 70 including 19 congressional staff. The briefing featured presentations by NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow and three other scientists whose research is funded by the institute. Dr. Nora Volkow presented on the shift in direction of HIV/AIDS research (PDF, 1.5MB) since the 2011 breakthrough discovery that early antiretroviral therapy prevented transmission, likely by suppressing HIV viral load.

Other headlines

  • The Disaster Distress Helpline (800) 985-5990 provides immediate crisis counseling and help to people affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Helpline is a 24/7 resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling after experiencing a natural or manmade disaster or tragedy. Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Helpline immediately connects callers to trained and caring professionals from the closest crisis counseling center within a nationwide network of centers. A disaster or tragedy is unexpected and often brings out strong emotional reactions. The Helpline staff will provide confidential counseling, referrals, and other needed support services.

  • White House Drug Policy Office awarded more than $84 million on October 5, 2012 to local communities to prevent youth substance use. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, announced funding for Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC) grants to 692 communities across the country. These grants will provide local communities support to prevent youth substance use and reduce the demand for drug consumption in the United States.

  • A new, updated guide to finding local substance abuse treatment programs is now available from SAMHSA. This electronic, searchable version of SAMHSA’s updated National Directory of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Programs is available on the Web.
  • SAMHSA showcased behavioral health advocates and community leaders in recovery at the 2012 Voice Awards held on August 22 in Los Angeles. This federal program recognizes community, sports, TV, and film industry leaders who raise awareness about recovery and promote understanding of mental and substance use disorders. Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers received a special recognition award from SAMHSA for raising awareness about mental health issues and for the financial support of nonprofit organizations.

Editor’s note

Urge Congress to take action and not reduce funding for scientific research as part of sequestration. Under sequestration, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) may potentially lose funding for up to 2,300 grants, representing 25 percent of the NIH grant portfoilio per year. The National Science Foundation (NSF) may lose up to $600 million in yearly grant support. This can have devestating consequences for scientific research and innovation. Exercise your scientific voice and tell your Senators and Representatives to not cut funding to NIH and NSF. This website makes that process easy by providing you with an email template and automatically sending your letter to your specific Senators and Representatives. Become involved!