NIHCM Newsletter / February 2021

Substance Use Disorder, COVID-19 & Resources

Opioids & Substance Use Disorder - The Pandemic and the Epidemic

Over the past year, the opioid epidemic has continued to devastate communities and require expanded prevention efforts. Recent data from the CDC suggest that overdose deaths are accelerating during the pandemic, with synthetic opioids a primary driver of this increase.

  • Waiver Requirement: A January HHS announcement that physicians will no longer have to obtain a federal waiver to prescribe the opioid use disorder treatment buprenorphine was halted by the Biden administration. The new administration noted that the guidelines were issued prematurely and cited legal and operational problems.

  • Epidemic’s Cost: New data from the CDC shows that fatal opioid overdoses and opioid use disorder cost the US $1.02 trillion in 2017.

  • Civil Complaint: The Justice Department sued Walmart for filling thousands of suspicious opioid prescriptions.

  • Overdoses Increase: In San Francisco, there was an uptick in opioid overdoses and drug abuse as the pandemic strains resources and fentanyl’s presence increases.

  • Addiction Treatment: A New York Times piece describes the challenges for people with addiction during this time of isolation and how addiction treatment centers are shutting down because of the pandemic.

  • Research: Learn more about the new drug combination that may help stop some people’s use of methamphetamine.

Resources on Substance Use Disorder

  • BCBSMA announced two new initiatives designed to provide additional support to members living with substance use disorder.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

COVID-19 Update: Testing & Vaccines

As of February 3rd, the CDC reports 445,264 Americans have died from COVID-19, with total cases reaching over 25 million in the United States. While the numbers continue to rise, the focus has been placed on ramping up vaccine distribution and protecting American’s against new strains of the virus.

  • Vaccine Hesitancy: A new survey from Surgo Ventures looks at vaccine hesitancy among medical professionals.

  • Racial Disparities in Vaccine Rates: New Kaiser Health News analysis finds significant racial gaps in vaccination rates.

  • Unused Vaccines: Politico reported on states taking back or redirecting unused vaccines from the nursing homes rollout.

  • Testing Challenges: The Wall Street Journal details the testing challenges that remain in many communities - 20% of counties still lack a single testing site and many areas lacking testing are less affluent urban and rural counties.

Resources on Vaccines

  • View NIHCM’s resources on the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Washington Post Vaccine Tracker includes a state-by-state breakdown of vaccine distribution, vaccine administration and specific priority groups.

  • Vox released an explainer detailing what the vaccines mean with the new strains.

  • KFF State COVID-19 Data and Policy Actions Tracker - explore state-level data on a variety of COVID-19 metrics, including administered vaccines.

  • A new national poll, “The Language of Vaccine Acceptance,” uncovers the urgent need for political and health leaders to adjust how they message the COVID-19 vaccines and reveals the most effective language to improve confidence in the vaccines.

  • The Public Health Communications Collaborative shared information on misinformation campaigns and a collection of answers to questions about COVID-19 and the vaccine.

Resources: Addressing Racial & Ethnic Disparities

Resources: Support Aging Adults During the Pandemic

  • View NIHCM’s recent webinar on older adults, long term care, vaccination distribution and loneliness.

  • Kaiser Family Foundation released a new analysis of state-reported COVID-19 cases and death in long term care facilities.

  • A new Tradeoffs podcast looks at the impact of COVID-19 in nursing homes and what can be done to address vaccine hesitancy among nursing home workers.

  • A podcast featuring Dr. Craig Thomas, the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) director of population health, looks at social isolation and loneliness among older adults and what you can do to help.

  • NIHCM’s infographic outlines the prevalence of loneliness and its impact on health and offers key strategies to help combat loneliness and social isolation.

Children & Youth Health

The pandemic has disrupted children’s lives by causing economic challenges for families, food insecurity, and harming mental health and well-being.

  • Poverty: A survey from the Urban Institute found that 40% of parents with children under six reported they have experienced economic fallout during the pandemic.

  • Food Insecurity: USA Today reports that teachers who visited their students at home to bring them free lunch learned more about the poverty those children experienced.

  • Suicide: A research brief from the Trevor Project reviews the association between the pandemic and suicide risk among LGBTQ youth and underscores the need for data and taking action to support LGBTQ youth’s needs.

  • Childhood Trauma: Under a NIHCM grant, PBS NewsHour released a two-part series about the consequences of childhood trauma, which impacts millions of Americans.


Food Insecurity

The pandemic has exacerbated or led to food insecurity for many individuals and families. A new brief from the Urban Institute reports that nearly 25% of families with school-age children reported food insecurity in September. The researchers found substantial racial and ethnic disparities in food security with 40% of Black or Hispanic parents of school-age children reporting food insecurity.

  • Nutrition Assistance: Recognizing the challenges facing individuals and families, President Biden issued an executive order asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider expanding and extending federal nutrition assistance programs.

Resources on Food Insecurity

  • An interview with Craig Samitt, President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, outlines their efforts to address food insecurity in Minnesota, including how they began investing in a food pharmacy when they found hunger was leading to high utilization of hospital emergency departments.

  • Food Tank, a think tank for food, put out a list of 121 organizations to watch in 2021 on food sustainability and access.

  • Anthem launched a Digital Incubator, which pairs financial backing with mentorship and opportunities for partnerships with universities and corporations. They are currently accepting applications to address community health challenges, including food insecurity and health literacy.

  • View NIHCM’s 2020 webinar & infographic on food insecurity and the impact of COVID-19.

Resources on Environmental Health & Justice

  • The EPA’s “The EJ and Systemic Racism” Speaker Series will illustrate how addressing systemic racism is highly relevant to the missions of EPA and other environmental agencies. Register now for the March 4th event on mapping inequality.

  • NIHCM’s August 2020 webinar brought together experts to discuss how environmental racism impacts communities and share evidence-based solutions and community initiatives that are addressing these challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

  • NIHCM produced an infographic on air pollution in America and the unequal impact it has on Black and Latino communities.

  • Health Affairs dedicated its December issue to Climate & Health - catch up on the latest research.

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