U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) today joined 93 of his colleagues in passing the 21st Century Cures Act, which will support advancements in medical research toward the development of new cures and treatments for serious diseases, along with other priorities of Senator Sullivan.
“I am excited to see members of Congress coming together in this ambitious effort to accelerate the discovery of new cures and treatments for diseases afflicting millions of Americans and many Alaskans,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “The 21st Century Cures Act includes two provisions of particular importance to Alaskans - a major funding boost to our fight against the opioid epidemic and an extension of the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration (RCHD) Project, which began in 2003. The RCHD program enables two Alaskan hospitals to continue improving care in some of our smaller communities, and is critical to their bottom line.”
Senator Sullivan and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) previously cosponsored legislation extending the RCHD Project, which passed the Senate earlier this year. The extension impacts Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna and Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau.
“Central Peninsula Hospital is extremely grateful for the support of the Alaska congressional delegation’s effort in getting the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program reauthorized in the 21st Century Cures Act. This program has allowed Central Peninsula Hospital the flexibility to provide new service lines and an expanded facility for our service area residents,” said Bruce Richards, Director of External Affairs for Central Peninsula Hospital.
“On behalf of Bartlett Regional Hospital and the community of Juneau, I would like to thank Senator Sullivan for his support and persistence in getting the CMS Rural Demonstration Project extended for an additional five years as part of the 21st Century Cures Act,” said Chuck Bill, CEO of Bartlett Regional Hospital. “This project ensures that Bartlett is paid at cost for Medicare inpatients and will significantly improve our viability and ability to offer other programs such as behavioral care and substance abuse treatment.”
“The 21st Century Cures Act invests $1 billion in the fight against opioid addiction ravaging so many communities across the country, including in Alaska,” Senator Sullivan added. “Following the progress made at this summer’s Alaska Wellness Summit—which brought together community organizations, state stakeholders, federal officials and more than 400 engaged Alaskans—I know this new federal support will give hope to many more Alaskans struggling with addiction, and to their families.”
The $1 billion allocated to combat opioid abuse will be disbursed over two years in grants supporting state efforts, including prevention activities, training for health care providers and expanding access to treatment programs. The legislation also enables existing funds to be channeled to the specific needs of local entities, including training for law enforcement, mental health courts, transition support for those in recovery, and jail diversion programs.
In addition to the opioid and rural community health provisions, the Act:
· Secures an additional $4.8 billion over ten years for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research into cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic and certain rare pediatric diseases.
· Strengthens important mental health programs and clarifies existing rules requiring parity between physical and mental health coverage.
· Directs NIH to support innovative EUREKA Prize Competitions, similar to the X-prize concept, to advance biomedical science and improve health outcomes for serious diseases.
· Provides liability protection for healthcare professionals who volunteer their services at community health centers.
· Reauthorizes the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking, which continues efforts to prevent underage drinking through different avenues.
· Reauthorizes the suicide prevention and intervention Garret Lee Smith Memorial Act, and expresses the Sense of Congress that suicide prevention efforts should be prioritized to populations disproportionately affected, including Alaska Natives.