IHA Daily Briefing: Sept. 23

Friday, Sept. 23, 2022
New Center to Assist Rural Emergency Hospitals
HRSA Invests $104M to Combat Overdose Epidemic
FDA Loosens Naloxone Distribution Restrictions
Task Force Recommends Regular Anxiety Screening
Cancer Deaths Drop due to Better Treatments, Screening
Illinois COVID-19 Update
Briefly Noted


New Center to Assist Rural Emergency Hospitals
The nonprofit Rural Health Redesign Center has been tapped to provide technical assistance to help hospitals through the process of becoming newly designated Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs). REHs are a federal policy response to the growing number of rural hospital closures by allowing Critical Access Hospitals and certain hospitals of no more than 50 beds to convert to an REH facility with essential services—emergency department, observation care and additional outpatient services.

The REH Technical Assistance Center of the Health Resources and Services Administration announced yesterday that it will help these transitioning hospitals through the conversion process. On Oct. 12 at 2 p.m., the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy will host a webinar to explain the REH, new Technical Assistance Center and other FORHP-funded activities to support hospitals exploring the REH option.

More resources and information will be available in the coming weeks and months. Questions can be directed to REHsupport@rhrco.org.


HRSA Invests $104M to Combat Overdose Epidemic
Today, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced $104 million will be directed to expand treatment and prevention services for substance use in rural communities. The investment is part of the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, a multi-year initiative intended to reduce morbidity and mortality of rural Americans due to substance use.

HHS said the funding will provide needed financial resources to rural communities, which often face challenges in providing and accessing substance use treatment. The media release pointed out that nearly 37% of rural counties lack at least one clinician able to prescribe the opioid treatment buprenorphine. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that rural communities have seen a consistent rise in drug overdose deaths, increasing nearly five-fold between 1999 and 2019.

Funding will be awarded through the following three programs:


FDA Loosens Naloxone Distribution Restrictions
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidance yesterday announcing it will not enforce certain Drug Supply Chain Security Act requirements for public health programs that distribute naloxone to underserved communities, as long as the opioid public health emergency declaration is still in effect. The guidance is effective immediately.

The loosening of requirements surrounding the distribution of naloxone attempts to facilitate Americans’ access to the opioid overdose antidote to prevent opioid overdoses and reduce death. In a statement, FDA Deputy Center Director for Substance Use and Behavioral Health, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Marta Sokolowska noted this guidance was issued to help achieve the priority identified in the FDA’s Overdose Prevention Framework to expand availability of overdose reversal products, notably naloxone, and increase access to lifesaving medication.


Task Force Recommends Regular Anxiety Screening
For the first time, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force is recommending that adults under age 65 be regularly screened for anxiety and major depressive disorder. A public comment period on the draft recommendation is open until Oct. 17.

The recommendation applies to adults 19 and older, including those who are pregnant or postpartum, have not been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or demonstrate recognizable signs or symptoms of anxiety. Noting that under-detection of anxiety appears to be common, the task force said the benefits, including effective treatments, would outweigh any associated risks. The panel noted that anxiety disorders are common mental health conditions that affect about 40% of U.S. women at some point in their lives and about 26.5% of men.

The draft recommendation follows the surge of anxiety and depression stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found almost 1 in 10 Americans reported suffering from depression in 2020, with rates of the mental health disorder higher among adolescents and young adults. Previously the panel recommended that children 8 and older should be screened for anxiety.


Cancer Deaths Drop due to Better Treatments, Screening
Though cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the U.S., the 2022 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Progress Report found that the number of cancer deaths has gone down in recent years. The report cited a 2.3% annual drop each year between 2016 and 2019.

According to the report, approval of new anticancer therapeutics and progress using artificial intelligence-based tools help clinicians detect cancers earlier and provide more complete diagnoses. In a media statement, AACR President Lisa M. Coussens also cited the investment in cancer science and support for all levels of science education as “essential to drive the next wave of discoveries and accelerate progress.”

The report noted that despite the significant progress made in recent years, it is estimated that more than 600,000 American lives will be lost to cancer in 2022. Challenges to cancer research and patient care identified in the report include:

  • Cancer health disparities, with “racial and ethnic minorities and other medically underserved U.S. populations shouldering a disproportionally higher burden of cancer.”

  • Restriction of reproductive rights, due to a “reluctance or delay to start cancer treatment because that treatment may lead to the termination of a pregnancy,” raising concerns this could lead to cancer progression, making it more difficult to treat and more likely to threaten the life of the woman.

  • Global crises, such as ongoing war and the COVID-19 pandemic, which have an impact on cancer research and patient care.


Illinois COVID-19 Update
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 2,210 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 12 COVID-19 deaths.

Most recent IDPH hospitalization data show 1,069 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 147 patients were in the ICU and 40 patients were on ventilators.

The most recent update on the seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily in Illinois is 24,840 doses. IDPH reported that 78.5% of Illinoisans (18 years and older) have been fully vaccinated, while 86.7% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 12 years and older, 77.4% have been fully vaccinated, while 85.4% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 5 years and older, 74% have been fully vaccinated and 81.8% have received at least one dose.


Briefly Noted
The National Institutes of Health announced yesterday that more than $600 million in funding is being directed toward two initiative seeking to better understand brain cell types and tools necessary to access them. With this funding, researchers will seek to create a detailed map of the brain, with the intent of developing a better understanding of how the brain works and how it is affected by disease.