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Updated: 11 hours 20 min ago

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan Holds High-Level Opioids Meeting

11 hours 20 min ago

On Tuesday, December 12, Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan held an unprecedented meeting with leaders from across the healthcare and human services components of HHS to discuss strategies for addressing America’s opioid crisis.

Following HHS’s declaration, at President Trump’s direction, of a historic nationwide public health emergency regarding the crisis, the meeting encouraged a new level of discussion and cooperation among key leaders of HHS’s divisions.

Acting Secretary Hargan offered opening remarks highlighting the dedication HHS has shown in response to President Trump’s call to action on the crisis. Leaders of operating divisions and staff divisions of HHS then shared updates on their work and their future plans for coordinating across the department.

Principals attending the meeting included:

Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary;
Elinore F. McCance-Katz, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use;
Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
Francis Collins, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health;
Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration;
Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services;
George Sigounas, Administrator, Health Resources and Service Administration;
RADM Michael Weahkee, Acting Director, Indian Health Service;
Gopal Khanna, Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality;
Mary Lazare, Principal Deputy Administrator, Administration for Community Living;
VADM Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General;
Don Wright, M.D., Acting Assistant Secretary for Health;
Roger Severino, Director, Office of Civil Rights;
Daniel Levinson, Inspector General;
Donald Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health Information Technology; and
Bruce Greenstein, Chief Technology Officer

Discussion was organized around HHS’s comprehensive five-point strategy to combat the opioid crisis:

  • Better prevention, treatment, and recovery services
  • Better targeting of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Better data on the epidemic
  • Better research on pain and addiction
  • Better pain management

To conclude the meeting, Acting Secretary Hargan thanked the HHS leaders and all HHS staff for their work, reiterated the President’s commitment to fighting the opioid crisis, and shared plans for ongoing regular meetings in the new year.

HHS announces the winners of the HHS Opioid Code-a-Thon

Sat, 12/09/2017 - 18:23

On December 6 and 7, HHS hosted a first-of-its-kind two-day Code-a-Thon to help turn data into lifesaving solutions to the opioid epidemic.

Fifty teams, comprised of three to five members of computer programmers, public health advocates, and innovators worked for over 24 hours to create data-driven solutions that can have immediate and practical impact on the opioid crisis.

“HHS’ code-a-thon was a major step forward in the efforts to use data to address the opioid crisis,” said Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan. “The innovative ideas developed today could turn into tomorrow’s solutions as we work to combat the scourge of opioid addiction sweeping the nation. On behalf of the administration, I commend all of our technology partners and the HHS staff for their hard work on this unprecedented event.”

HHS Chief Technology Officer Bruce Greenstein said, “We put the call out across the tech and entrepreneur communities to join us in Washington, D.C., so that we might multiply our combined skills and resources to combat the opioid epidemic. Over 300 coders answered the call and 50 teams joined us at HHS Headquarters to create a community that will continue to use data and technology to develop new solutions to address the epidemic.”

Teams used data from HHS and other federal agencies, some of it released for the first time, to analyze trends and patterns and propose solutions in three challenge areas.

Out of the 50 teams competing, nine teams were selected for the final judging round. The three winners that were awarded $10,000 prizes are:

  • In the prevention track coders were asked, “How can you help federal, state, and local stakeholders predict and analyze the supply and movement of legal and illicit opioids?The Visionist Inc. team came up with a program called Take Back America, to assess the unmet need in five states for takeback programs at pharmacies where unused or unneeded opioids can be returned, therefore taking a source of opioids out of circulation.
  • In the treatment track coders were asked, “How can you help federal, state, and local stakeholders improve access to effective treatment and recovery services?” The Origami Innovations team, from Yale University, produced a model designed for real-time tracking of overdoses, allowing first responders and health authorities to be prepared for tracking events such as an outbreak of fentanyl overdoses in communities. This real time tracking would enable area hospitals and local health departments to allocate resources where they are most needed.
  • In the usage track coders were asked, “How can you help federal, state, and local stakeholders identify at-risk populations and their underlying risk characteristics of opioid misuse or abuse?” The Opioid Prescriber Awareness Tool (OPAT) team developed a program to provide physicians with a visual representation of their opioid prescribing patterns compared with their peers. The tool also allows physicians to visualize the prescribing patterns of other physicians in their area that they might refer their patients to.

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan’s visit to CDC headquarters

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 15:17

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday to discuss the departmental response to the opioid overdose epidemic and other ongoing public health emergencies with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma.

Acting Secretary Hargan first joined Director Fitzgerald and Administrator Verma at a roundtable at CDC Headquarters, where they were joined by CDC officials to discuss the departmental response to ongoing public health emergencies, including coordinated approaches to scaling up and extending effective strategies to address the opioid epidemic.

At a press conference following the roundtable, all three reaffirmed HHS’s commitment to bringing all resources the Department and the Trump Administration have to bear to address public health emergencies. Specifically, Acting Secretary Hargan highlighted HHS’s five-point strategy to combat the opioid crisis, which includes:

  • Improving access to prevention, treatment and recovery support services;
  • Targeting the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs;
  • Strengthening public health data reporting and collection;
  • Supporting cutting-edge research on addiction and pain; and
  • Advancing better practices for pain management.

During today’s visit, Acting Secretary Hargan also participated in a hurricane and preparedness briefing and toured several CDC laboratories and the Emergency Operations Center.


Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan's Visit to Mechanicsville, Virginia

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 09:38

Acting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Eric Hargan traveled to Mechanicsville, Virginia today to meet with veterans representing multiple service eras and branches to thank them for their service and sacrifice to our country, and to discuss their experiences with the Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS) program.

Acting Secretary Hargan first met with local veterans to discuss the VD-HCBS program, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and HHS, and how its availability, and their ability to tailor their care to fit their individual needs, has affected their lives.

After meeting with these veterans, Acting Secretary Hargan delivered remarks to a group of local veterans, caregivers, and community members at American Legion Post 175. Mr. Hargan reaffirmed President Trump’s commitment to providing veterans the quality care they so rightfully deserve and noted that the VD-HCBS program “is also in accord with the patient-and-people first principles that this administration brings to healthcare and human services.”

Information on the Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services program can be found here.


Members Appointed to New Tick-Borne Disease Working Group

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 16:33

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced today the appointment of 14 members to the new Tick-Borne Disease Working Group.

The Working Group will hold its inaugural public meetings on Dec. 11, 2017, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET, and Dec. 12, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET, in the Great Hall of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C.

The Working Group was established by the 21st Century Cures Act to improve federal coordination of efforts related to tick-borne diseases. Members will review all HHS efforts related to tick-borne diseases to provide expertise and help ensure interagency coordination and minimize overlap, examine research priorities and identify unmet needs. The Working Group expects to issue its first report to the HHS Secretary and Congress by December 2018.

 “We are pleased that the members of the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group are now ready to focus on this important public health issue that affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year,” said Don Wright, M.D., M.P.H., acting assistant secretary for health. “We are impressed by the combined expertise and experience of the Working Group and are committed to doing everything we can to support its success.”

The Working Group’s members represent a diverse set of stakeholders, including physicians and other medical providers with experience in diagnosing and treating tick-borne diseases; scientists or researchers with expertise in this field; patients and family members; patient advocates; and federal experts who work in related areas.

Members of the public may attend the meeting in person or via webcast. For more information, visit the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group webpage.

The Working Group members are:


Wendy Adams, M.B.A.
Research Grant Director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation

John N. Aucott, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Division of Rheumatology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Director, Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center

Richard Horowitz, M.D.
Member, World Health Organization’s Ad Hoc Committee for Health Equity

Lise E. Nigrovic, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Population Health Sciences and Health Services Research Center of the Institutional Centers for Clinical and Translational Research, Boston Children’s Hospital; Chair, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Collaborative Research Committee, American Academy of Pediatrics

Patricia V. Smith
President, Lyme Disease Association

Karen Vanderhoof-Forschner, L.L.M., J.D., M.B.A.
Co-founder, Lyme Disease Foundation

Gary Wormser, M.D.
Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Pharmacology, and Vice Chairman, Department of Medicine, New York Medical College


Charles Benjamin Beard, Ph.D.
Acting Deputy Director, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Associate Editor, Emerging Infectious Diseases

Commander Scott J. Cooper, MMSc, PA-C, United States Public Health Service
Senior Technical Advisor and Lead Officer for Medicare Hospital Health and Safety Regulations, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Dennis M. Dixon, Ph.D.
Chief, Bacteriology and Mycology Branch, Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Kristen Honey, Ph.D., P.M.P.
Senior Policy Analyst, Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President; Senior Research Scholar, Stanford University; Member, Stanford University Lyme Disease Working Group

Captain Estella Jones, D.V.M.
Director, Medical Countermeasure Regulatory Science and Senior Regulatory Veterinarian, Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats, Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Allen Richards, Ph.D.
Director, Rickettsial Diseases Research Program, Naval Medical Research Center, U.S. Department of Defense

Vanila M. Singh, M.D., M.A.C.M.
Chief Medical Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Background on Tick-Borne Diseases
Lyme disease accounts for the majority of tick-borne disease in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year—but only about 30,000 of those cases are reported to local and state health departments and the CDC.  While most cases of Lyme disease are treated successfully with short courses of antibiotics, some individuals who contract this illness may develop debilitating health problems.

While Lyme disease is the most prevalent of the tick-borne diseases in the United States, it is not alone. Different tick species across the country can spread other pathogens to humans, causing a range of illnesses. Bacterial diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis, infections caused by Powassan and Bourbon viruses, and the parasitic disease babesiosis all occur in the United States. There are additional pathogens transmitted by ticks outside of the United States and new infectious agents continue to be identified.

New Members Named to Serve on Health Information Technology Advisory Committee Established in 21st Century Cures Act

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 02:25

Today, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan named three members to the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC).

The committee, created by the 21st Century Cures Act, is charged with making recommendations to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology relating to the implementation of national and local health information technology (health IT) infrastructure. These recommendations include, “policies,…standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria” that advance the electronic access, exchange, and use of health information.

The HITAC provides the opportunity for stakeholders and the public to provide direct input to HHS about the implementation and use of health IT. The committee is supported by HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

Acting Secretary Hargan has appointed the following individuals to the HITAC:

  • Leslie Lenert, M.D., Chief Research Information Officer, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC (Public Health Appointment)
  • Clem J. McDonald, M.D., Director, Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, Bethesda, MD (HHS Representative Appointment)
  • Robert Wah, M.D., Global Chief Medical Officer, DXC Technology, McLean, VA (At-large Appointment)

The HHS-appointed members join 15 Government Accountability Office-appointed members who will serve for one-, two-, or three-year terms:

  • Michael Adcock, Executive Director of the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Christina Caraballo, Director of Healthcare Transformation at Get Real Health
  • Tina Esposito, Vice President of Information and Technology Innovation at Advocate Health Care
  • Brad Gescheider, Senior Director of Provider and Payer Solutions at PatientsLikeMe
  • John Kansky, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Indiana Health Information Exchange
  • Kensaku Kawamoto, Associate Chief Medical Information Officer, University of Utah Health, and Assistant Professor, University of Utah Department of Biomedical Informatics
  • Denni McColm, Chief Information Officer at Citizens Memorial Healthcare
  • Brett Oliver, Chief Medical Information Officer for Baptist Health
  • Terrence O’Malley, Massachusetts General Hospital and Spaulding Nursing and Therapy Center North End
  • Carolyn Petersen, patient advocate and Senior Editor for Mayo Clinic’s health information website
  • Raj Ratwani, Acting Center Director and Scientific Director of the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare within MedStar Health, and Assistant Professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine
  • Sasha TerMaat, Director at Epic
  • Sheryl Turney, Senior Director of All-Payer Claims Database Analytics and Data Policy and Administration at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Andrew Truscott, Managing Director for Health and Public Service at Accenture
  • Denise Webb, Chief Information Officer of Marshfield Clinic Health System and Chief Executive Officer of Marshfield Clinic Information Services, Inc

In addition, six of eight appointments have been made by Congressional leaders:

  • Cynthia Fisher, Founder and Managing Director, WaterRev, LLC
  • Dr. Anil Jin, Vice President and Chief Health Informatics Officer, IBM Watson Health
  • Dr. Steven Lane, Clinical Informatics Director for Privacy, Health Information Security & Interoperability, Sutter Health
  • Arien Malec, Vice President for the Data Platform Solution Line, RelayHealth
  • Steven Ready, System Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Norton Healthcare
  • Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, Chairman and CEO, NantWorks

Learn more about the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee on

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan's Visit to Missouri to Discuss Tax Reform

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 02:25

Yesterday, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan traveled to O’Fallon, Missouri where he was hosted by the Phoenix Textile Corporation to discuss the need for tax reform in the United States.

Acting Secretary Hargan toured and met with leadership of the Phoenix Textile Corporation which distributes textile products—such as scrubs, laboratory coats, uniforms, linens, and other items—to hospital and nursing homes across the nation. They have been in business since 1983 starting with a handful of employees and today have grown to have over 100 employees. As Acting Secretary Hargan noted in his speech, “This is a really special place — the epitome of the great American tradition of family-owned small businesses: 34 years in business, growing to 110 employees, woman-owned, passed down from one generation to the next. Businesses like this are the backbone of the American economy.”

Acting Secretary Hargan and the Trump Administration understand that businesses like Phoenix Textile Corporation across all sectors, including the healthcare industry, contribute to a healthier American economy and workforce. With this in mind, Acting Secretary Hargan concluded his visit with formal remarks on President Trump’s vision for reforming our nation’s broken tax code.

As Acting Secretary Hargan noted in his speech, “…strong small businesses don’t just create jobs and economic opportunity. They also provide a strong foundation for local communities and a good living for hardworking employees to support their families. In turn, healthy communities and strong families mean healthier Americans, which is why I’m here today. President Trump’s commitment to building a strong American economy, and to all the benefits that come with a strong economy, extends across his Administration.”

To learn more about President Trump’s vision for tax reform, please visit and to read Acting Secretary Hargan’s full remarks as prepared for delivery, please visit

HHS Names Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge Winners

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 08:10

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) today announced the winners of the Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge.

ONC selected the winning submissions from over 140 competing teams and almost 7,000 submissions using an ONC-provided dataset.  “Patient matching” in health IT describes the techniques used to identify and match the data about patients held by one healthcare provider with the data about the same patients held either within the same system or by another system (or many other systems). The inability to successfully match patients to any and all of their data records can impeded interoperability resulting in patient safety risks and decreased provider efficiency.

“Many experts across the healthcare system have long identified the ability to match patients efficiently, accurately, and to scale as a critical interoperability need for the nation’s growing health IT infrastructure.  This challenge was an important step towards better understanding the current landscape,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology.  

Winners include:

Best “F-score” (a measure of accuracy that factors in both precision and recall):

  • First Place ($25,000): Vynca
  • Second Place ($20,000): PICSURE
  • Third Place ($15,000): Information Softworks

Best First Run ($5,000): Information Softworks

Best Recall ($5,000): PICSURE

Best Precision ($5,000): PICSURE

Each winner employed widely different methods. PICSURE used an algorithm based on the Fellegi-Sunter (1969) method for probabilistic record matching and performed a significant amount of manual review. Vynca used a stacked model that combined the predictions of eight different models. They reported that they manually reviewed less than .01 percent of the records. Although Information Softworks also used a Fellegi-Sunter-based enterprise master patient index (EMPI) system with some additional tuning, they also reported extremely limited manual review.

The dataset and scoring platform used in the challenge will remain available for students, researchers, or anyone else interested in additional analysis and algorithm development, and can be accessed via the Patient Matching Algorithm Challenge website.

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan's Visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 23:22

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec traveled to St. Thomas today to meet with local officials assisting with response efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

Acting Secretary Hargan first met with U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp and local officials at the U.S. Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency to discuss the ongoing response efforts, and was later briefed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the environmental health of residents of the Islands. Acting Secretary Hargan then toured the USVI Departments of Health and Human Services in St. Thomas, as well as a shelter currently housing victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Updates and health information also are available at:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan's Visit to Puerto Rico

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 20:39

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec traveled to Puerto Rico on Thursday to assess the recovery efforts from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and to meet with HHS officials who are on the ground assisting with the ongoing recovery efforts.

Acting Secretary Hargan first toured the Disaster Medical Assistance Team site located in Fajardo, and praised local volunteers for their assistance in the recovery efforts. He then conducted an aerial damage assessment, and later met with the Puerto Rico Secretary of Health and other local government officials to discuss the latest updates on the response efforts. Acting Secretary Hargan thanked officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense, and the HHS Incident Response Coordination Team.

Acting Secretary Hargan traveled to Puerto Rico on Thursday to assess the recovery efforts.


Information on health, safety and HHS actions is available at Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Updates and health information also are available at:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov

HHS activa ayuda para habitantes sin seguro de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. que necesitan medicamentos

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 18:19

Como parte de la respuesta de todos los estratos del gobierno del Presidente Trump ante el huracán Irma y María, el Secretario Adjunto de Preparación y Respuesta (ASPR, en inglés) del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de los Estados Unidos activó su Programa de asistencia para medicamentos en casos de emergencia (EPAP, en inglés) para que los residentes de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. tengan acceso a los medicamentos imprescindibles que necesitan. El programa cubre los costos de los medicamentos recetados para personas sin seguro médico afectadas por catástrofes. Trece farmacias de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. participan en el EPAP.

“Este programa brinda asistencia esencial a personas sin seguro que dependen de ciertos medicamentos recetados para proteger su salud luego de catástrofes”, expresó el Dr. Robert Kadlec, Secretario Adjunto de Preparación y Respuesta de HHS. “Invitamos a los residentes de las Islas Vírgenes de EE.UU. que puedan usar esta asistencia que la aprovechen para asegurarse de obtener el suministro adecuado de los medicamentos que necesitan”.

Sin costo para los pacientes no asegurados, quienes necesitan ciertos medicamentos durante una situación de emergencia pueden obtener un suministro para 30 días en cualquiera de las farmacias que trabajan con el EPAP. La mayoría de los farmacéuticos que figuran en la base de datos de Express Scripts están disponibles. Para más información, consulte

Los pacientes pueden renovar sus recetas cada 30 días mientras esté activo el EPAP.

También pueden recurrir al programa para reemplazar medicamentos recetados de mantenimiento, algunos suministros médicos específicos, vacunas o equipos médicos que perdieron como resultado directo de una emergencia declarada o como resultado secundario de las pérdidas o daños causados al transitar un sitio en emergencia para acceder al refugio designado.

El EPAP ofrece un mecanismo eficiente para que las farmacias inscritas procesen reclamaciones de medicamentos recetados, suministros médicos específicos, vacunas y algunos tipos de equipos médicos duraderos para personas elegibles en áreas de desastre identificadas a nivel nacional.

Los residentes de las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU sin seguro afectados por el huracán Irma y María pueden llamar a Express Scripts al 855-793-7470 para saber si su medicamento o equipos médicos duraderos en particular están cubiertos por el EPAP y para encontrar una farmacia participante.

El Presidente Donald Trump declaró a las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU área de catástrofe de grandes dimensiones el 21 de septiembre de 2017, a raíz del paso del huracán María.

El ASPR encabeza el equipo del HHS que prepara al país para responder a y recuperarse de los efectos adversos para la salud que suponen estas situaciones de emergencia, a través del apoyo a las comunidades para que puedan soportar la adversidad, fortaleciendo sus sistemas de salud y respuesta y optimizando la seguridad sanitaria nacional. El HHS es la principal agencia del gobierno nacional para la protección de la salud de los estadounidenses y la provisión de servicios humanos esenciales, especialmente para los más vulnerables.

Hay información acerca de las acciones de salud, seguridad y el HHS en En puede acceder a anuncios de servicios públicos con consejos de salud para después de un temporal. Invitamos a los residentes del territorio continental de los Estados Unidos a que compartan estos consejos con sus familiares y amigos en Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU.

Hay actualizaciones e información de salud disponibles también en:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov

HHS activates aid for uninsured U.S. Virgin Islands residents needing medicine

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 18:19

As part of the Trump Administration’s government-wide response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) activated its Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP) for the U.S. Virgin Islands to give residents access to the critical prescription medications they need. The program pays for prescription medications for people without health insurance who are affected by disasters. Thirteen pharmacies in the U.S. Virgin Islands participate in EPAP.

“This program provides vital assistance to people without insurance who rely upon certain prescription medicines to protect their health after disasters,” said HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “I encourage U.S. Virgin Islands residents who can use this assistance to take advantage of it to ensure they have an adequate supply of the medicines they need.”

At no cost to uninsured patients, those needing certain drugs during an emergency can obtain a 30-day supply at any of the EPAP participating pharmacies. Most pharmaceuticals listed in the Express Scripts database are available. For more information see

Patients can renew their prescriptions every 30 days while the EPAP is active.

They also can use the program to replace maintenance prescription drugs, specific medical supplies, vaccines or medical equipment lost as a direct result of the declared emergency or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit from the emergency site to the designated shelter facility.

EPAP provides an efficient mechanism for enrolled pharmacies to process claims for prescription medication, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area.

Uninsured U.S. Virgin Islands residents affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria can call Express Scripts, 855-793-7470, to learn if their medication or specific durable medical equipment is covered by EPAP and to find a participating pharmacy.

President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 21, 2017, due to Hurricane Maria.

ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Updates and health information also are available at:

ASPR - @PHEgov

HHS - @HHSgov

CDC - @CDCgov

Readout of U.S. Surgeon General VADM Jerome Adam’s Visit to Local Addiction Treatment Facility

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 16:18

Following President Donald Trump’s call to action on Thursday regarding America’s opioid epidemic, U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams visited Phoenix House in Arlington, VA, to highlight work being done by nonprofit organizations to combat the epidemic and hear from treatment experts and other heroes on the frontlines.

Phoenix House offers evidence-based addiction treatment to teens, adults, and families, as well as unique services for pregnant women, mothers with young children, and the military community. During his visit, Surgeon General Adams was able to tour various parts of the facility, meet with current patients and learn firsthand of their experience and treatment programs.

Surgeon General Adams had the following to say about his visit:

“It was an honor to visit a treatment center today in Virginia as part of a coordinated effort for top Trump Administration officials to hold listening sessions on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic, the day after the President directed agencies to use all appropriate emergency and other relevant authorities to address the opioid crisis and the Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a nationwide public health emergency as a result of the opioids crisis. Empowering local communities and civil-society groups is a key part of the Department of Health and Human Services’s comprehensive strategy for tackling opioid addiction. We enjoyed hearing the perspectives of a number of treatment experts today. We look forward to more such visits to come, as we raise awareness of the crisis that President Trump has made a top priority.”

More information on Phoenix House may be found here:

Readout of Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz’s Opioids Listening Session in Nashua, New Hampshire

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 16:18

On Friday, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, and senior HHS officials visited Harbor Homes in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Along with New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, they toured the Harbor Homes facility and held a roundtable discussion with first responders, medical experts, local non-profit leaders, and people receiving treatment in all stages of the recovery process.

Mary-Sumpter Lapinski, Counselor to the Secretary of HHS for Public Health & Science, opened the meeting by welcoming participants and thanking them for their willingness to share their stories. She reiterated President Trump and the entire Administration’s commitment to confront the opioids epidemic and discussed the historic significance of yesterday’s actions.

During the session, recovering addicts shared their personal stories in vivid detail. They spoke of friends and relatives who lost their lives to the scourge of addiction. Community leaders and experts talked about the challenges and opportunities they experience providing services in New Hampshire. They also discussed Nashua’s Safe Spaces Program and its unique approach to providing assistance to those looking to start their path to recovery.

The federal government is marshaling all relevant agencies and personnel to address this crisis. Yesterday afternoon, following a Presidential Memorandum, HHS declared a Public Health EmergencyToday, Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz, and other top officials are fanning out across the country to hear from communities on the front lines.

The following individuals participated in the New Hampshire event:

  • Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
  • Governor Chris Sununu, State of New Hampshire
  • Mayor Jim Donchess, City of Nashua
  • Peter Kelleher, President and CEO, Partnership for Successful Living
  • Mary-Sumpter Lapinski, Counselor to the Secretary for Public Health & Science
  • Jaime Gormley, LICSW, MLADC, Director of Residential Services, Keystone Hall
  • Scott Slattery, Director of Housing, Harbor Homes
  • Christopher Stawasz, Regional Director, American Medical Response
  • Chief Steve Galipeau, Nashua Fire Rescue
  • Assistant Chief Brian Rhodes, Nashua Fire Rescue
  • Dr. Garciela Sironich-Kalkan, Medical Director, Harbor Care Health and Wellness Center
  • Allen Irwin, Peer Recovery Support Manager, Revive Recovery Resource Center
  • Harbor Homes patients (names withheld to respect their privacy)

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan’s Opioids Listening Session in Lexington, Kentucky

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 16:18

On Friday, Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan and senior HHS officials traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, to visit the Polk-Dalton Clinic and the PATHways Program, which serves pregnant women recovering from addiction and their babies. Acting Secretary Hargan toured the facility and held a roundtable discussion with medical experts, local non-profit leaders, individuals receiving treatment and in recovery, and others impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Acting Secretary Hargan opened the roundtable discussion by thanking the group for their willingness to share their stories and for their work to address the crisis in the community. He highlighted HHS’s and the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to address the opioid epidemic and the significance of Thursday’s action of declaring a nationwide public health emergency on the opioid crisis.

During the meeting, individuals in recovery shared their personal stories, many of which began with addiction in early teen years. One woman shared how the unique approach of the PATHways program has allowed her to stay sober, become a more present mother, and even become a peer support specialist to other women joining the PATHways program. A mother shared the personal story of losing her son to the epidemic and her commitment to educate others about the crisis. Community expert and leaders discussed opportunities and challenges they experience in providing services in Kentucky. The individuals participating in the roundtable shared their personal views that addiction must be addressed as a chronic condition requiring a multi-layered approach to include community connection, innovative treatment and ongoing support.

The following individuals participated in the Kentucky event:

  • Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan
  • Mark Birdwhistell, Vice President for Administration & External Affairs, UK HealthCare  
  • Alex Elswick, Co-Founder, Voices of Hope
  • Dr. Agatha Critchfield, Co-Founder & Medical Director, PATHways Program
  • Nikki Strunk, Parent of Deceased, Brendan Strunk
  • “L,” PATHways Patient
  • Rachel Coburn Smith, Executive Director, Refuge Clinic
  • Cornelia ‘Neal’ Vaughan, Founder, Chrysalis House
  • Dr. Peter Giannone, Chief, Division of Neonatology & Vice Chair, Pediatric Research, UK  HealthCare

HHS Office for Civil Rights Issues Guidance on How HIPAA Allows Information Sharing to Address the Opioid Crisis

Sat, 10/28/2017 - 11:39

Following President Trump’s call to action yesterday that led to the declaration of a nationwide public health emergency regarding the opioid crisis, the HHS Office for Civil Rights is releasing new guidance on when and how healthcare providers can share a patient’s health information with his or her family members, friends, and legal personal representatives when that patient may be in crisis and incapacitated, such as during an opioid overdose.

“HHS is bringing all of the resources our department has to bear in order to address this crisis. This will ensure families have the right information when trying to help loved ones who are dealing with the scourge of drug addiction,” said Acting HHS Secretary Eric D. Hargan. “I commend Roger Severino and the HHS Office for Civil Rights for their swift action in clarifying for healthcare providers how they can share information with a patient’s family and friends.”

“We know that support from family members and friends is key to helping people struggling with opioid addiction, but their loved ones can’t help if they aren’t informed of the problem,” said Director Roger Severino, of the HHS Office for Civil Rights.  “Our clarifying guidance will give medical professionals increased confidence in their ability to cooperate with friends and family members to help save lives.”

Current HIPAA regulations allow healthcare providers to share information with a patient’s loved ones in certain emergency or dangerous situations.  This includes informing persons in a position to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to a patient’s health or safety.  Misunderstandings about HIPAA can create obstacles to family support that is crucial to the proper care and treatment of people experiencing a crisis situation, such as an opioid overdose.  It is critical for healthcare providers to understand when and how they can share information with patients’ family members and friends without violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule. 

For more information, visit

It is important to note that state or other federal privacy laws may also apply.  HIPAA does not interfere with state laws or medical ethics rules that are more protective of patient privacy.

HHS Acting Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency to Address National Opioid Crisis

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 10:34

Acting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Eric D. Hargan issued the following statement upon declaring a nationwide public health emergency regarding the opioid crisis, as requested by President Donald Trump on Thursday:

“Today’s declaration, coupled with the President’s direction that executive agencies use all appropriate emergency authorities and other relevant authorities, is another powerful action the Trump Administration is taking in response to America’s deadly opioid crisis.

“President Trump has made this national crisis a top priority since he took office in January, and we are proud to be leading in this effort at HHS. His call to action today brings a new level of urgency to the comprehensive strategy HHS unveiled under President Trump, which empowers the real heroes of this fight: the communities on the frontlines of the epidemic.”


  • Each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 Americans die from drug overdoses, 91 specifically due to opioids.
  • 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015, and preliminary numbers indicate at least 64,000 died in 2016.
  • Declaring a nationwide public health emergency will enable HHS to accelerate temporary appointments of specialized personnel to address the emergency (pending any funding needed); work with DEA to expand access for certain groups of patients to telemedicine for treating addiction; and provide new flexibilities within HIV/AIDS programs.
  • Under President Trump, in April 2017, HHS unveiled a new five-point Opioid Strategy, with the five following priorities:
    • Improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
    • Target the availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
    • Strengthen public health data reporting and collection
    • Support cutting-edge research on addiction and pain
    • Advance the practice of pain management
  • In Fiscal Year 2017, HHS invested almost $900 million in opioid-specific funding, including to support state and local governments and civil society groups—to support treatment and recovery services, target availability of overdose-reversing drugs, train first responders, and more.
  • HHS has supported the efforts of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and the department looks forward to reviewing the upcoming final report.

Read the opioid public health emergency declaration *


* Temporary accomodation has been requested until document can be made 508 accessible

U.S. Government Participates in 4th High Level Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Meeting

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 08:19

In a meeting on September 20, 2017, President Donald Trump underscored his commitment to promote the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) by noting, “We cannot have prosperity if we’re not healthy. We will continue our partnership on critical health initiatives.” That is the message that U.S. government officials carry to the 4th High Level GHSA Ministerial Meeting in Kampala, Uganda this October 25-27, 2017.

Rear Admiral R. Timothy Ziemer of the National Security Council leads the multi-sectoral U.S. Delegation comprised of the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense, Agriculture, Treasury, and the Agency for International Development to deliver on President Trump’s commitment. Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and Director of the Office of Global Affairs, Garrett Grigsby, serve as the chief representatives to the meeting on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services.  

In Kampala, the U.S. Delegation has bilateral meetings with government officials from GHSA member countries to discuss the ongoing collaboration between the U.S. and our partners on global health security. At the meeting Rear Admiral Ziemer delivered the plenary address and Director Fitzgerald will deliver closing remarks on behalf of the Trump Administration, reaffirming U.S. support for the Global Health Security Agenda and underscoring the goal to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases.

Launched in 2014, the GHSA is a worldwide effort to help build countries’ capacity to help create a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and elevate global health security as a national and global priority. Through a growing multisectoral partnership of international organizations, non-governmental stakeholders, and more than 60 countries, GHSA is accelerating efforts to build countries’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases.

To learn more, read Rear Admiral Ziemer’s blog entitled Securing Global Health through U.S. Leadership and follow the 4th High Level GHSA Ministerial Meeting in Kampala, Uganda by visiting the GHSA website and by checking out #GHSAKampala, #GlobalHealthSecurity, and #GHSAgenda on social media.

OCR Addresses National Origin Discrimination in Alabama Child Welfare Programs

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 08:19

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Alabama Department of Human Resources (ADHR). The Agreement resolves a finding that ADHR administered its Child Welfare Programs (CWP) in a manner that had the effect of delaying or denying access to its programs and services on the basis of nation origin, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). As a recipient of Federal financial assistance from HHS, ADHR is subject to Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Under Title VI, recipients must take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to their programs for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP).

The U.S. Department of Justice referred a report to OCR that ADHR’s CWP discriminated against a Guatemalan father engaged in a parental rights case because he was unable to speak English. The Akateco-speaking father was attempting reunification with his daughter who had been placed in foster care by ADHR after the death of his wife. Under Title VI, ADHR is required to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to its programs by persons with LEP and is otherwise prohibited from discriminating against persons on the basis of their national origin. OCR determined that ADHR was required by Federal law and its own policies to provide services to help the father attempt reunification with his daughter. OCR’s investigation found that the father’s LEP was a significant factor in ADHR’s failure to provide timely language assistance and other services essential for reunification. Additionally, OCR’s investigation found that ADHR consistently failed to take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to its programs by Latino persons with LEP. Thus, OCR determined that ADHR administered its programs in a manner that had the effect of delaying or denying access to its programs and services on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI.

“Separating families can lead to irreversible loss of parental rights and trauma to children. It is critical that child welfare agencies administer their programs in accordance with laws designed to protect the rights of all family members to ensure family unity when possible, without regard to their race, color or national origin,” said Director Roger Severino, OCR. “OCR remains committed to this basic principle of civil rights and will enforce the laws and protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Under the settlement agreement with OCR, ADHR affirms it will: comply with Title VI; train staff on Title VI compliance; and provide competent language assistance at no cost and in a timely manner to persons with LEP. These and other commitments will help to ensure persons with LEP have meaningful access to the full range of programs, services and benefits administered by CWP. Additionally, ADHR will update its Family Services policies and procedures, and pending OCR’s review, publish them appropriately.

OCR enforces civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, religion or conscience.

A copy of the Agreement can be found at

To learn more about non-discrimination and health information privacy laws, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit us at

Follow OCR on Twitter at

United States Government Statement on the Montevideo Roadmap at the WHO Global Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 20:06

HHS Principal Deputy Director for Global Affairs Tom Alexander, U.S. Head of Delegation to the WHO Global Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) made the following statement on the Montevideo Roadmap:

"The United States thanks Uruguay for convening and leading the WHO Global Conference on NCDs and the many hours spent in developing the Montevideo Roadmap with co-chairs Finland and Russia. We consider the Roadmap to be a “snapshot” of the current state of discussion on NCDs.

"The United States strongly supports efforts to combat non-communicable diseases. We believe that the best approach to addressing the global rise in incidence of NCDs requires identifying and pursuing comprehensive, cost-effective, evidence-based, and multi-sectoral strategies. Strategies must be appropriate to each national context, and consistent with Member States’ domestic and international obligations, including trade obligations. We applaud efforts to encourage universal health access, understanding that each country will develop a system within their own contexts and priorities and that efforts to expand access do not imply primarily government-centric solutions or mandates which we do not support.

"The Montevideo Roadmap does note the benefits of broad engagement across sectors, including the need to leverage the strengths of the private and public sectors to tackle the complex challenge of NCDs. However, we emphasize that it is not the role of UN agencies or other multilateral bodies to advocate for a particular outcome in legal challenges, whether local or international disputes, to which they are not a party.

"In addition, any work to evaluate the impact of policies on health outcomes must be inclusive, evidence-based, and take a holistic approach that considers all economic factors. We urge the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism to take an interdisciplinary approach that includes diverse experts as well as entities with equities in this dialogue.  

"We note the particular focus on tobacco taxation as a tool for promoting public health.  The consumption of tobacco is addictive, inherently unhealthy, and therefore distinct from other risk factors for NCDs.  Therefore, given the distinct nature of tobacco, we cannot effectively advance public health goals by attempting to base national strategies to control NCDs primarily on experience with tobacco.  

"A better approach is to work together to find common ground on a set of principles to prevent and control NCDs. We look forward to working with WHO and other nations in  achieving this end, including close examination at the upcoming Executive Board and World Health Assembly meetings on how to incorporate cooperation among all sectors."