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Kuster, Energy and Commerce Committee Colleagues Hold Hearing on Legislation to Reauthorize Critical Public Health Programs

Today, Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) participated in a virtual Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing titled, “Improving Access to Care: Legislation to Reauthorize Key Public Health Programs.” Kuster’s line of questioning focused on the School Based Health Center Reauthorization Act of 2019 and The United States Anti-Doping Agency Reauthorization Act of 2019, both of which she is a cosponsor of. 

Kuster and her committee colleagues heard from Robert Boyd, MCRP, MDiv, President of the School-Based Health Alliance; Linda Goler Blount, MPH, President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative; Nancy Goodman, MPP, JD, Founder and Executive Director of Kids v Cancer; Aaron Seth Kesselheim, MD, JD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School; Brian Lindberg, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel at the National Bone Marrow Donor Program, and Travis T. Tygart, Chief Executive Officer at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. 

“In addition to our ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19, Congress must continue to support important health programs that maintain and promote overall health and wellbeing, including School Based Health Centers,” said Kuster. “These health centers are critical in providing comprehensive care and identifying at-risk students before they develop issues such as substance misuse and addiction, conditions that are being made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. By protecting access to these essential health services, we can address adverse childhood experiences early on and prevent future substance use disorder and addiction.” 

During the hearing, the Subcommittee considered multiple bills that Rep. Kuster has cosponsored including:

  • The Creating Hope Reauthorization Act
  • The School-Based Health Centers Reauthorization Act
  • The EARLY Reauthorization Act
  • The US Anti-Doping Agency Reauthorization Act 

Watch Kuster’s line of questioning here, or read below. The full hearing is available here.

KUSTER: While this committee has been keenly focused on the coronavirus pandemic, there are many public health programs that we need to continue to support, and one of those is School Based Health Centers. I am a proud cosponsor of H.R.2075, introduced by my colleague Congressman Sarbanes. These health centers are critical in providing comprehensive care, including care to identify at-risk students before they develop substance dependence and addiction. In New Hampshire and communities across the country, we are battling two crises: the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 epidemic.

In fact, preliminary data shows that COVID is worsening pre-existing issues with substance misuse. The current pandemic and resulting economic downturn are exacerbating behavioral health risk factors such as social isolation and stress. Prior to COVID-19, I heard from teachers regarding the generational effects of the opioid epidemic, and how children cope with Adverse Childhood Events, or ACEs, outside of their home. As the COVID pandemic continues, how can school-based health centers ensure that we continue to address adverse childhood events (ACEs) closer to the occurrence of the event, which increases the ability to treat an acute condition before it becomes chronic? And I’m asking Mr. Boyd if you could speak to the role of School Based Health Centers in nurturing age-appropriate resilience that’s helpful to mitigate self-medication and to further substance use disorders in early adulthood.

BOYD: Yeah, this us another good question. We work very closely with youth as well. We have a Youth Advisory Committee that, you know, feeds into our programmatic work, and actually, a part of one of our federal grants is to work with the youth. The dilemma right now, as you know, is that the pandemic has exponentially grown–potentially–the abuse and use of alcohol and drugs. We’ve seen it in liquor store sales. We don’t have, you know, good numbers on any increases in sales of opioids in particular.

Our need right now is to get the School Based Health Centers that we have reopened and to expand that reach. Part of expanding that reach is also expanding the services that are offered, and substance abuse services are critical in school-based environments. One of our –

KUSTER: Thank you, thank you. My time is limited, I’m sorry to have to cut you off. I really find this very important, and I want to support you, and your work, and your colleagues all across the country, including here. Another program I want to focus on is the USADA, United States Anti-Doping Agency, recognized by Congress as the national anti-doping organization for our Olympic community, and I am the niece and cousin of Olympic alpine ski racers, and I wanted to ask, Mr. Tygart, in your testimony you discuss a culture change in terms of the way the United States was perceived on the international sports stage. Can you talk about this shift and why it’s so important for youth, when they look up to Olympic athletes, to know that they are drug-free?

TYGART: Yes ma’am, and thank you for the question. Well, it’s absolutely critical to have true heroes today, and we may be more desperate today in the world of sport than we ever have been to have people that our young kids can look up to, and try to emulate, and attempt to become. So, when Congress set up an independent organization to ensure that the fox was no longer guarding the hen house, what it did was gave confidence to athletes that this independent organization was not there just to promote them but is there to ensure that they follow the rules.

And we know whether a young person becomes an Olympic athlete and becomes one of those heroes, or goes into any other, you know, career or industry in their life outside of sport, the lessons they learn on the playing field are important life lessons that they’ll take with them, and respecting the rule of law, respecting “yes, we want to win, but we want to win in the right way” is absolutely essential, and our athletes today, you know, a short 20 years ago since we were established have embodied that notion and are truly the heroes that we want them to be. Not to say that some won’t attempt to cut the rules, but we’re here to have a fair program that ensures that their decision to do it right is enforced.

KUSTER: Well, my time is up, but I can certainly say as a parent, I appreciate the role that you play, and thank you again. Thank you, Madam Chair, and I yield back