Federal Health Care News



The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the appointment of national experts to guide a new initiative to better serve Americans with serious mental illness.

The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) was established by the 21st Century Cures Act to improve federal coordination of efforts that address the pressing needs of adults with serious mental illness and children and youth with serious emotional disturbance.  Individuals with these conditions too often lack access to evidence-based treatment and supports and experience high rates of suicide, unemployment, homelessness, criminal justice involvement and other negative outcomes.

The ISMICC is composed of senior leaders from ten federal agencies including HHS, the Departments of Justice, Labor, Veteran Affairs, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor and the Social Security Administration along with 14 non-federal public members.

The following national experts were selected to serve three-year terms:

The ISMICC will report on advances in research on serious mental illness among adults and serious emotional disturbance among children and on federal outcomes related to measures of suicide, drug overdoses, emergency hospitalizations, criminal justice involvement, homelessness, unemployment, and other issues.  The ISMICC also will recommend actions that federal agencies can take to better coordinate the administration of mental health services for adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbance.

The ISMICC will hold its first meeting on August 31, 2017, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington DC. Public access to the meeting will available by webcast (http://www.hhs.gov/live) and phone (see the link on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website below for instructions). 

Notice of the meeting appears in the Federal Register and on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website: http://www.samhsa.gov/about-us/advisory-councils/smi-committee



The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded nearly $105 million to 1,333 health centers in all U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia as an investment in quality improvement, building upon their 2016 achievements.

Health centers will use these funds to improve the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the health care delivered to the communities they serve.

Health centers are receiving these funds to continue improving their services based upon high levels of performance in one or more of the following categories: Improving Quality of Care, Increasing Access to Care, Enhancing Delivery of High Value Health Care, Addressing Health Disparities, and Achieving Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Recognition.

HRSA also released new data compiled from health centers through its Uniform Data System (UDS) reporting, providing an update on the primary care services being provided to patients. In 2016, nearly 26 million people (approximately 1 in 12 U.S. residents) relied on a HRSA-funded health center for affordable, accessible primary health care including:

One in three people living in poverty;

For more than 50 years, health centers have delivered affordable, accessible, quality, and cost-effective primary health care services to patients. Today, nearly 1,400 health centers operate more than 10,400 service delivery sites nationwide.

For a list of FY 2017 Quality Improvement Awards recipients, visit: https://bphc.hrsa.gov/programopportunities/fundingopportunities/qualityimprovement/index.html

To learn more about HRSA’s Health Center Program, visit: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about

To find a health center in your area, visit: http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov


The number of U.S. adults and children with epilepsy is increasing, with at least 3.4 million people living with the disorder, according to data released today in Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first report to offer epilepsy estimates have been available for every state.

The data show the disorder is widespread. In 2015, about 3 million U.S. adults and 470,000 children had active epilepsy (under treatment or with recent seizures). The number of adults with active epilepsy rose from 2.3 million in 2010 to 3 million in 2015. The number of children with the condition increased from 450,000 in 2007 to 470,000 in 2015. These increases are likely due to population growth.

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes seizures. Different conditions can cause epilepsy, such as stroke, brain tumor, head injury, central nervous system infections, or genetic risks. Although epilepsy is widely recognized by the public, few people understand it, even among those who know someone with the disorder.

The CDC study provides national and state-specific estimates of epilepsy prevalence based on the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, and the National Survey of Children’s Health, and the 2014 Current Population Survey.

Data from 2010-2015 indicate increases in the number of persons with active epilepsy, probably because of population growth.

CDC’s Epilepsy Program collects data to monitor epilepsy trends, mortality, costs, and impact on families.



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Vyxeos for the treatment of adults with two types of acute myeloid leukemia (AML): newly diagnosed therapy-related AML (t-AML) or AML with myelodysplasia-related changes (AML-MRC).

Vyxeos is a fixed-combination of chemotherapy drugs daunorubicin and cytarabine.

AML is a rapidly progressing cancer that forms in the bone marrow and results in an increased number of white blood cells in the bloodstream. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health estimates that approximately 21,380 people will be diagnosed with AML this year; approximately 10,590 patients with AML will die of the disease in 2017. T-AML occurs as a complication of chemotherapy or radiation in approximately 8 to10 percent of all patients treated for cancer within an average of five years after treatment. AML-MRC is characterized by a history of certain blood disorders and other significant mutations within cancer cells. Patients with t-AML or AML-MRC have very low life expectancies.

Manufactured by Jazz Pharmaceuticals, the prescribing information for Vyxeos includes a boxed warning not to interchange Vyxeos with other daunorubicin- and/or cytarabine-containing products. 

The FDA granted this application Priority Review and Breakthrough Therapydesignations. Vyxeos also received Orphan Drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.



Suicide among teen girls between the ages of 15 and 19 has hit a 40-year high, according to new data released by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Male teens, by comparison, experienced an increase in suicides from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.

Academic pressure, cyberbullying and undiagnosed mental disorders could offer a partial explanation of why a young person might consider or attempt suicide, according to experts. This is especially true of young people who are gay, trans or questioning.

In 2015, more than 44,000 people took their own lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34. More than one million people attempt suicide every year.

Men are more likely to die by suicide, but women are more likely to attempt it, the CDC reported. The disparity comes down to method: men gravitate towards suicide by firearms and hanging while women turn to overdosing on medication. The latter has a higher chance of reversal with timely medical attention.



The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) announced 16 awards to public and private nonprofit entities across the nation.

The projects were selected to address the primary and/or secondary prevention of prescription and illegal opioid misuse by women across the lifespan. Funds will be used to reach girls aged 10-17 years, women of reproductive age, and women aged 50 years and older in underserved populations.

Last month a report - PDF issued by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that hospitalizations involving opioid pain relievers and heroin increased 75 percent for women between 2005 and 2014, compared to a 55 percent increase among men. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1999 and 2015, overdose deaths from prescription pain killers increased 218 percent in men, while for women it increased over 471 percent. Between 2002 and 2013, heroin use among men increased 50 percent, compared to 100 percent in women.

The organizations each receiving awards of approximately $100,000 are:

In addition to the grant awards, OWH also recently issued a report - PDF that examined the impact of the opioid epidemic on women and highlighted promising practices that address their specific needs.

For additional information on the HHS Secretary's Initiative aimed at reducing prescription opioid and heroin related overdose, deaths, and dependence, visit: www.hhs.gov/opioids.


More than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of 2015, 30.3 million Americans – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes. Another 84.1 million have pre-diabetes, a condition that if not treated often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years.

The report confirms that the rate of new diabetes diagnoses remains steady. However, the disease continues to represent a growing health problem: Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015. The report also includes county-level data for the first time, and shows that some areas of the country bear a heavier diabetes burden than others.

Diabetes is a serious disease that can often be managed through physical activity, diet, and the appropriate use of insulin and other medications to control blood sugar levels. People with diabetes are at increased risk of serious health complications including premature death, vision loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and amputation of toes, feet, or legs.

The National Diabetes Statistics Report, released approximately every two years, provides information on diabetes prevalence and incidence, prediabetes, risk factors for complications, acute and long-term complications, mortality, and costs in the U.S.

The current report finds that:

Other differences include:



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device specifically for neonatal brain and head imaging in neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

An MRI is a medical imaging procedure that records images of the internal structures of the body. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields and radio waves (radiofrequency energy) to generate the images. The signal comes mainly from the protons in fat and water molecules in the body. When interpreted by a trained physician, images from an MRI provide information that may be useful in determining a diagnosis.

The Embrace Neonatal MRI System is designed specifically for imaging of the neonatal head. The Embrace Neonatal MRI System may be used on neonates with a head circumference up to 38 centimeters and weight between 1 and 4.5 kilograms. The system has a temperature-controlled incubator placed directly into the MRI system, minimizing movement of the baby. If urgent access to the baby is necessary during the imaging process, the baby can typically be removed from the system in less than 30 seconds.

The Embrace Neonatal MRI System can be placed inside a NICU environment because the system does not require a safety zone or a radiofrequency shielded room. Since the system is fully enclosed, medical device implants in close proximity to the system are not required to be “MR Conditional” or “MR Safe.”

To avoid putting vulnerable patients at risk, the efficacy of the Embrace Neonatal MRI System was demonstrated primarily based on non-clinical testing including images of phantoms simulating an infant brain that were determined to be of sufficient quality for diagnostic use by an independent board-certified radiologist. The safety of the Embrace Neonatal MRI System was demonstrated through performance testing, including a review of electrical and mechanical safety measures.

The FDA granted clearance of Embrace Neonatal MRI System to Aspect Imaging Ltd.

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