Policy Updates 9/23/2022

  1. Mental Health Care


What Does Behavioral Health Look Like in the U.S.?
Behavioral health conditions affect tens of millions of Americans, impacting their physical and emotional health as well as their social and economic well-being. Yet many people face serious barriers to treatment, including high costs, a shortage of providers, and cultural factors. In our new explainer, we discuss the prevalence of behavioral health problems in the U.S., how treatment is provided and paid for, why equitable access to care is an issue for many, and what we can do about it.



Integrating Behavioral Health to Make Access More Equitable
Although behavioral health and physical health are profoundly linked, behavioral health care in the U.S. is usually delivered separately from primary care — and the two are often poorly coordinated. There is also a severe shortage of behavioral health providers. A new explainer shows why integrating behavioral health care with primary care can help promote equitable access to behavioral health services.


After Student’s Death, LAUSD Will Stock Naloxone: Los Angeles public schools will stock campuses with the overdose reversal drug naloxone in the aftermath of a student’s death at Bernstein High School, putting the nation’s second-largest school system on the leading edge of a strategy increasingly favored by public health experts. Read more from the Los Angeles Times and Southern California News Group.

KHN: Many Refugees Dealing With Trauma Face Obstacles To Mental Health Care
As a young boy living in what was then Zaire, Bertine Bahige remembers watching refugees flee from the Rwandan genocide in 1994 by crossing a river that forms the two Central African nations’ border. “Little did I know that would be me a few years later,” said Bahige. Bahige’s harrowing refugee journey began when he was kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier when war broke out in his country, which became the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997. He escaped at age 15 to a Mozambique refugee camp, where he lived for five years until he arrived in Baltimore in 2004 through a refugee resettlement program. (Zurek and Rocha, 9/19)

USA Today: Adderall Shortage 2022: Limited Supplies Hit Two More US Drug Makers
Lannett Co. and Par Pharmaceuticals are the most recent companies experiencing with limited supplies of generic extended-release Adderall, according to the University of Utah Pharmacy Services website, which tracks drug shortages nationwide. More than six in 10 small pharmacies reported having difficulty in August obtaining the medication, a survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association found. (Neysa Alund, 9/21)

Newsweek: Antidepressants Work Better Than Sugar Pills Only 15 Percent Of The Time
Hailed as a revolution for the treatment of depression when they first came out in the 1980s, SSRIs have become a mainstay of mental health treatment. Family doctors with little psychiatric training now prescribe them for adults and children alike. In 2019, one in eight Americans—43 million in all—were taking an SSRI, and those numbers have likely risen among a public ridden with COVID-induced anxiety. During the pandemic, doctors phoned in so many new prescriptions for Zoloft, the FDA warned of a drug shortage. Evidence is mounting, however, that doctors are vastly overprescribing SSRIs. (Piore, 9/21)

Bloomberg: Kids Born After A Natural Disaster More Likely To Have Anxiety, Depression, Study Shows
The stress of a natural disaster during pregnancy may substantially increase the risk of childhood anxiety, depression or other behavior disorders, according to a new study published Wednesday in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. (Taylor, 9/21)

Newsom Vetoes Kids' Mental Health Bill: California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday vetoed a bill that aimed to help children with private insurance access mental health care at school, saying the program would cost too much. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle and CalMatters.

AP: US Adults Should Get Routine Anxiety Screening, Panel Says
The recommendations are based on a review that began before the COVID-19 pandemic, evaluating studies showing potential benefits and risks from screening. Given reports of a surge in mental health problems linked with pandemic isolation and stress, the guidance is “very timely,” said Lori Pbert, a task force member and co-author. Pbert is a psychologist-researcher at the University of Massachusetts’ Chan Medical School. The task force said evidence for benefits, including effective treatments, outweighs any risks, which include inaccurate screening results that could lead to unnecessary follow-up care. (Tanner, 9/20)

The Hill: Nearly 1 In 10 Americans Suffer From Depression, Study Says
A growing number of Americans are struggling with depression and most are not seeking treatment or are undertreated for the mental health disorder, according to a new study. A 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. (Guzman, 9/20)

  1. Tobacco

Los Angeles Times: Proposition 31 Will Let Voters Decide Whether They Want To Ban Flavored Tobacco Products
California voters will decide in November whether to uphold or block a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in 2020 that banned the sale of certain flavored tobacco products, an effort by anti-tobacco advocates to stop a youth vaping crisis and weaken the industry’s influence in the state. Senate Bill 793 would have prohibited retailers in California from selling flavored tobacco products, popular among teens, with exceptions made for hookah, some cigars and loose-leaf tobacco. The bill passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, despite intense lobbying by the tobacco industry and other interest groups. (Wiley, 9/23)

  1. Health Care Costs

KHN: Shattered Dreams And Bills In The Millions: Losing A Baby In America
The day after his 8-month-old baby died, Kingsley Raspe opened the mail and found he had been sent to collections for her care. That notice involved a paltry sum, $26.50 — absurd really, given he’d previously been told he owed $2.5 million for treatment of his newborn’s congenital heart defect and other disorders. (Weber, 9/23)

  1. COVID

CNBC: WHO Warns Ability To Identify New Covid Variants Is Diminishing
The World Health Organization on Thursday warned that it is struggling to identify and track new Covid variants as governments roll back testing and surveillance, threatening the progress made in the fight against the virus. (Kimball, 9/22)

Reuters: COVID Raises Risk Of Long-Term Brain Injury, Large U.S. Study Finds
People who had COVID-19 are at higher risk for a host of brain injuries a year later compared with people who were never infected by the coronavirus, a finding that could affect millions of Americans, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. The year-long study, published in Nature Medicine, assessed brain health across 44 different disorders using medical records without patient identifiers from millions of U.S. veterans. (Steenhuysen, 9/22)

KHN: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Biden Declares The Pandemic ‘Over’
President Joe Biden’s declaration in a national interview that the covid-19 pandemic is “over” has complicated his own administration’s efforts to get Congress to provide more funding for treatments and vaccines, and to get the public to go get yet another booster. Meanwhile, concerns about a return of medical inflation for the first time in a decade is helping boost insurance premiums, and private companies are scrambling to claim their piece of the health care spending pie. (9/22)

Bloomberg: Covid 19 Infection Linked To More Type 1 Diabetes In Kids And Teens
Covid-19 in children and teens appeared to raise the risk of developing diabetes in two studies that didn’t settle the debate about whether the coronavirus can trigger the chronic condition. Scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health used national health registries to examine new diagnoses of type 1 diabetes over two years after the start of the pandemic. They found that youngsters who had tested positive for the coronavirus were about 60% more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. (Lyu, 9/22)

The New York Times: Biden Says The Pandemic Is Over. But At Least 400 People Are Dying Daily.
With 400 to 500 Americans still dying every day of Covid-19, President Biden has declared that “the pandemic is over.” But don’t tell that to people like Debra McCoskey-Reisert, whose mother died in early August. Or Ben HsuBorger, who has chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition often brought on by viruses, including the coronavirus. Or Peter W. Goodman, whose wife died on Aug. 17. “It’s not over for me,” said a tearful Mr. Goodman, 76, who is retired after working as a journalism professor at Hofstra University on Long Island. Both he and his wife, Debbie, 70, became sick with Covid-19 last month. He recovered. She did not. (Stolberg, 9/19)

NBC News: Covid Will Be A Leading Cause Of Death Indefinitely In The U.S.
"It’s likely, when we think of the causes of death in our society, that Covid’s on the list probably forever,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the University of California, San Francisco’s department of medicine. "Whether we call it a pandemic or not, it’s still an important threat to people," he added. (Bendix and Pettypiece, 9/20)

Covid Still Kills, but the Demographics of Its Victims Are Shifting

Californians were far less likely to die from covid in the first seven months of 2022 than during the first two years of the pandemic. Still, the virus remained among the state’s leading causes of death in July, outpacing diabetes, accidental death, and a host of debilitating diseases. We break down who’s at risk. (Phillip Reese, 9/20 )

Los Angeles Times: California Ends COVID Test Mandate For Unvaccinated Workers
California has rescinded coronavirus testing requirements for unvaccinated workers at schools, healthcare facilities and other congregate settings, the latest rule to be rolled back as the state enters what officials say is a new phase of the pandemic. The changes, which took effect Saturday, mean employees in those fields who have not completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series will no longer need to undergo weekly tests. (Money and Lin II, 9/20)

Los Angeles Times: California Easing COVID-19 Mask Recommendations
In a new sign of improving coronavirus conditions, California will ease its mask-wearing recommendations for the first time in seven months. The state is largely rescinding its broad recommendation that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — mask up when in indoor public settings and businesses. That guidance had been in place since mid-February. (Lin II and Money, 9/21)

  1. Women’s Health

AP: White House: GOP Abortion Ban Would Mean A Nationwide Crisis
The White House and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said Thursday that a Republican-led proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks would endanger the health of women and have severe consequences for physicians. “If passed and enacted, this bill would create a nationwide health crisis, imperiling the health and lives of women in all 50 states,” according to a preliminary analysis of the bill by Jennifer Klein, the White House Gender Policy Council chairwoman, that was obtained by The Associated Press. “It would transform the practice of medicine, opening the door to doctors being thrown in jail if they fulfill their duty of care to patients according to their best medical judgment.” (Long, 9/22)

USA Today: CDC Analysis Shows More Than 80% Of US Maternal Deaths Are Preventable
A staggering number of maternal deaths in the United States were found to be preventable, according to a federal analysis of maternal death data released Monday. More than 80%, or roughly 4 in 5 maternal deaths in a two-year period, were due to preventable causes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found. (Hassanein, 9/19)

Perinatal Health Risks And Outcomes Among US Women With Self-Reported Disability, 2011–19

Willi Horner-Johnson et al.


  1. Children’s Health

USA Today: Black, Hispanic Kids Suffer More From Asthma. High Heat Makes It Worse
Higher temperatures mean higher levels of ozone, a gas that forms from burning fossil fuels. That’s a particular concern for inner-city kids of formerly redlined neighborhoods because of the urban heat island effect, which occurs when certain neighborhoods are exposed to more pollutions. These communities also have less green spaces. All of those factors make these areas hotter than other parts of a city, explained Dr. Bridgette Jones, an allergist and pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. (Hassanein, 9/22)

Shift in Child Hospice Care Is a Lifeline for Parents Seeking a Measure of Comfort and Hope

Terminally ill children, unlike adults, can get hospice services while continuing to receive life-extending or curative care. More than a decade after the inception of the federal policy, it is widely credited with improving the quality of life for ailing children and their families, even as some parents find themselves in a painful stasis. (Bernard J. Wolfson, 9/22 )

AP: Study: Too Few Kids With Sickle Cell Get Stroke Screen, Care
Too few U.S. kids with sickle cell anemia get a needed screening for stroke, according to a study released Tuesday. The study found fewer than half get the screening and only about half or fewer get a treatment that can help with pain and anemia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study, and called for more screening and treatment. (Stobbe, 9/20)

Becker's Hospital Review: Omicron Boosters For Kids Expected By Mid-October: CDC
Retooled COVID-19 booster shots that target omicron subvariants could be authorized and available for children to receive within a month, the CDC said in an vaccination planning guide released Sept. 20. Pfizer is developing a bivalent vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, while Moderna's would be eligible for those ages 6 to 17. (Bean, 9/21)

Stateline: More Children Have Gained Health Insurance During Pandemic
The rate of children without health insurance declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely the result of a provision passed by Congress that barred states from dropping anyone from Medicaid during the public health emergency. According to an analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau data by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, the child uninsurance rate in 2021 was 5.4%, compared with 5.7% in 2019, the year before the pandemic took hold. (Ollove, 9/21)

The Hill: Federal Judge Strikes Down Biden Administration’s Head Start Vaccine, Mask Mandate
A federal judge in Louisiana on Wednesday struck down a mandate from the Biden administration that required staffers at Head Start child care facilities to be vaccinated and to wear masks. U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty issued a permanent injunction against federal agencies enforcing Head Start vaccine and masking requirements. (Choi, 9/21)

  1. Gun Violence

California Takes Big Step To Curb Gun Violence Epidemic: California will soon be the only state in the nation to have a governmental office committed to preventing gun violence by keeping firearms away from “dangerous individuals,” state officials said Wednesday. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post.

  1. Health Care Workforce

Becker's Hospital Review: US Healthcare Workers More Emotionally Exhausted Amid Pandemic, Study Says
Emotional exhaustion among U.S. healthcare workers worsened over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and threatens to compromise patient care, according to a Sept. 21 analysis from JAMA Network Open. (Tucker, 9/21)

  1. Reproductive Health Care

The Colorado Sun: Young Teens In Foster Care Don’t Know About Birth Control
Teenagers in the child welfare system have sex two years younger on average than other young people and are 2.5 times more likely to get pregnant. New research from the University of Colorado points toward why: About two-thirds of eighth and ninth graders in metro Denver who have been involved with the child welfare system say they have never received information about birth control. (Brown, 9/21)

Bloomberg: STDs Chlamydia, Syphilis, Gonorrhea Increased In US In 2021
Rates of common sexually transmitted infections sharply increased in the US last year, alarming some health officials and sexual health advocates who argue the country needs to do more to stop the spread of preventable diseases. (Muller, 9/19)


  1. Gun Violence

CalMatters: Red Flag Laws: When Should Police Take Guns Away?
There were four more requests for gun violence restraining orders on Jeff Brooker’s desk when he arrived at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office that July morning. Officers had responded to a minor car crash at a mall where the driver, who carried a replica firearm, was rambling delusionally and threatening to kill the “one-percenters” and a public official. Another man, during an argument outside a family member’s home, had pulled a gun out of his waistband and pointed it at someone’s head as several others looked on. (Koseff, 9/19)

  1. Baby Formula

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Baby Formula Oversight Is Criticized In Internal Review
Problems ranged from outdated technology at the FDA to limited training on formula among FDA investigators, the report said. It said funding limitations and gaps in the understanding of cronobacter, the type of bacteria that prompted Abbott’s recall, impeded the FDA’s response to this year’s incidents and the agency’s ability to regulate and oversee formula. (Newman, 9/20)

KHN: Formula May Be Right For Infants, But Experts Warn That Toddlers Don’t Need It
Formulas for toddlers are a burgeoning business in the United States: Sales of the drinks more than doubled in recent years as companies convinced parents that their little ones needed the liquid boost. But many experts warn that these products, designed for children ages 1 to 3, fill no nutritional needs beyond what is available in a typical toddler diet, are subject to less regulation than infant formula, and are expensive. In addition, some parents feed the toddler versions to infants even though they do not meet federal standards for infant formula and may not provide babies with adequate nutrients to sustain their growth. (Szalinski, 9/21)