e-News 6/15/2018

Hope and Skepticism on North Korea
“Why Truly Disarming North Korea is So Difficult”: Worth A Read!
Taking Aim at the Deadliest Drug Crisis in US History: Opioids
Appropriations Committee: Getting Our Work Done
Salute: To the late CPL Gaetano Nicastro of Nutley – Silver Star honoree

Hope and Skepticism on North Korea

The headlines this week have been dominated by the President’s “summit” meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un in Singapore. At the meeting, the President committed to provide security guarantees to the Democratic people’s Republican of Korea (North Korea) and Chairman Kim reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

It is perfectly reasonable to hope that we are seeing the beginning of a process that will lead to a complete, permanent, verifiable end to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.  It is also perfectly reasonable to suspend belief and be very skeptical of North Korea’s intentions, given its long history of broken agreements. 

In the months ahead, it will be North Korea’s actions, not their words that matter.   Will they actually take the concrete steps necessary to “de-nuclearize” the Korean Peninsula?  Will they allow us to objectively verify that their deeds are genuine? 

As we continue to measure North Korea’s behavior, it is absolutely essential that we maintain diplomatic and economic sanctions and continue to strengthen our Armed Forces to allow us to maintain “peace through strength.” 

Worth a read: “Why Truly Disarming North Korea is So Difficult” in the New York Times


Taking Aim at the Deadliest Drug Crisis in US History: Opioids

Our nation is in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in its history.  All across America, families are grappling with an opioid crisis that has wreaked havoc in their lives.  Over 2,000 New Jersey residents died of an opioid overdose in 2016. But beyond the death toll, we are witnessing so much potential squandered - people at the peak of their lives brought down as they struggle with addiction. 

The House spent this week debating and approving dozens of bipartisan bills that collectively can make a difference.  This legislation will bolster enforcement efforts to protect our communities, advance prevention and public health efforts, and address coverage and payment issues within Medicare and Medicaid.

H.R. 449 - Synthetic Drug Awareness Act - Introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), H.R. 449 would require the Surgeon General to report to Congress on the public health effects of the rise in synthetic drug use among young people aged 12 to 18 years old in order to further educate parents and the medical community on the health effects of synthetics.  

H.R. 4284 - INFO Act - Introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), H.R. 4284 would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create a public and easily accessible electronic dashboard linking to all of the nationwide efforts to combat the opioid crisis. 

H.R. 5002 - ACE Research Act - Introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), H.R. 5002 would authorize the NIH to conduct research on innovative non-addictive pain medications.  

H.R. 5009 - Jessie's Law -Introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), H.R. 5009 would allow medical professionals to have access to a consenting patient’s complete health information when making treatment decisions by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to develop and annually disseminate best practices regarding the prominent display of substance use disorder history in records of patients who have previously provided this information to a health care provider. 

H.R. 5041 - Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act - Introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), H.R. 5041 would permit certain licensed employees of hospice programs to dispose controlled substances onsite after a patient’s death. 

H.R. 5102 - Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act -Introduced by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), H.R. 5102 would create a loan repayment program for substance use disorder treatment providers.  

H.R. 5176 - Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms Act - Introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), H.R. 5176 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop protocols and a grant program for health care providers to address the needs of people who survive a drug overdose.  

H.R. 5197 - ALTO Act - Introduced by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), H.R. 5197 would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out a demonstration program to test alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments.  

H.R. 5228 - SCREEN Act - Introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), H.R. 5228 would provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with stronger recall and seizure authority to disrupt the entry of counterfeit and illicit drugs through International Mail Facilities. 

H.R. 5261 - TEACH to Combat Addiction Act - Introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), H.R. 5261 would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to designate regional Centers of Excellence to enhance and improve how health professionals are educated in substance abuse disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery through development, evaluation, and distribution of evidence-based curricula for health profession schools.  

H.R. 5272 - Introduced by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), H.R. 5272 would require the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory, established by the 21st Century Cures Act, to issue guidance to applicants for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grants that support evidence-based practices.  

H.R. 5327 - Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act - Introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), H.R. 5327 would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to at least 10 providers that offer treatment services for people with opioid use disorder. 

H.R. 5329 - Poison Center Network Enhancement Act - Introduced by Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), H.R. 5329 would reauthorize the national network of Poison Control Centers. Specifically, the legislation reauthorizes the toll-free number, national media campaign, and grant program. 

H.R. 5353 - Eliminating Opioid Related Infectious Diseases Act - Introduced by Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), H.R. 5353 would authorize the CDC to work with states to improve education, surveillance, and treatment of infections associated with injection drug use.

H.R. 5473 - Better Pain Management Through Better Data Act - Introduced by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), H.R. 5473 would direct the FDA to hold a public meeting and issue guidance to industry addressing data collection and labeling for medical products that reduce pain and may replace, delay, or reduce the use of oral opioids.  

H.R. 5483 - Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act - Introduced by Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), H.R. 5483 would direct the Department of Justice to issue regulations to improve the flexibility in the practice of telemedicine for remote diagnosis and treatment of patients within one year of the bill’s enactment. 

H.R. 5582 - Abuse Deterrent Access Act of 2018, as amended - Introduced by Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), H.R. 5582 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to report to Congress on existing barriers to access to “abuse-deterrent opioid formulations” by Medicare Part C and D beneficiaries.  

H.R. 5583 - Introduced by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), H.R. 5583 would require states to include behavioral health indicators in their annual reports on the quality of care under Medicaid beginning in 2024.  

H.R. 5587 - Peer Support Communities of Recovery Act - Introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-MN), H.R. 5587 would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to peer support specialist organizations for the development and expansion of recovery services.  

H.R. 5685 - Medicare Opioid Safety Education Act - Introduced by Rep. John Faso (R-NY), H.R. 5685 directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to compile education resources for  beneficiaries regarding opioid use, pain management, and alternative pain management treatments, and include these resources in the “Medicare and You” handbook. 

H.R. 5800 - Medicaid IMD ADDITIONAL INFO Act - Introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), H.R. 5800 directs the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) to conduct a study on institutions for mental disease that receive Medicaid reimbursement. 

H.R. 5812 - CONNECTIONS Act - Introduced by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), H.R. 5812 would authorize the CDC to provide technical assistance to improve state-based Prescription Drug Monitoring systems to improve data collection, and interoperability.

H.R. 4275 - Empowering Pharmacists in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse Act - Introduced by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), H.R. 4275 requires the Department of Health and Human Services and the DEA to develop and disseminate materials for training pharmacists, health care practitioners, and the public about the circumstances under which a pharmacist may decline to fill a prescription. 

H.R. 5294 - Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act of 2018 - Introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), H.R. 5294 would clarify that the Appalachian Regional Commission may enter into contracts with and provide grants to people and organizations in Appalachia for projects and other activities aimed at reducing drug abuse and the negative effects of drug abuse, including opioid abuse, in the region. 

H.R. 5752 - Stop Illicit Drug Importation Act - Introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), H.R. 5752 seeks to strengthen the FDA’s seizure powers and authority to detain, refuse, seize, or destroy illegal products offered for import and expand the use of civil penalties. 

H.R. 6902 - REGROUP Act - Introduced by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA), H.R. 6902 would reauthorize the comprehensive opioid abuse grant program through 2023.  

H.R. 5889 - Recognizing Early Childhood Trauma Related to Substance Abuse Act - Introduced by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), H.R. 5889 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to disseminate information to professionals working with young children on ways to recognize children impacted by trauma related to an adult’s substance use, and how to respond in a manner that will provide the best support for the child.  

H.R. 5890 - Assisting States’ Implementation of Plans of Safe Care Act - Introduced by Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA), H.R. 5890 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide states with enhanced guidance to support the implementation of their “plan of safe care” assurance, which is required under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and designed to address the needs of infants affected by prenatal substance abuse.   

H.R. 5891 - Improving the Federal Response to Families Impacted by Substance Use Disorder Act - Introduced by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI), H.R. 5891 would establish an interagency task force to develop a strategy on how federal agencies can implement a coordinated approach to responding to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on the existing programs that support infants, children, and their families. 

H.R. 5892 - Introduced by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN), H.R 5892 would create an Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary of Labor on actions the Department can take to address the impact of opioid abuse on the workplace.   

House Amendment to S. 1091 - Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act - Introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R- ME), S. 1091 would establish an Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. The Council shall issue a report that should include best practices, identify existing resources, and offer other useful information for grandparents and other older relatives raising children because of family circumstances, with a particular emphasis on those impacted by the opioid epidemic. 

H.R. 2147 - Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act - Introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), H.R. 2147 would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire at least 50 Veterans Justice Outreach specialists at eligible VA medical centers to ensure veterans who become involved in the criminal justice system have greater access to Veterans Treatment Courts. 

H.R. 4635 - Introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), H.R. 4635 would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase the number of female peer counselors so that female veterans who are separating or newly separated from military service can receive support from other female veterans. 

The opioid crisis will not soon disappear.  There is no “silver bullet.”  But as long as this menace continues to threaten our family, friends, and neighbors, we owe more effort to those who have lost their battle with addiction, those currently battling addiction, and all the families that have suffered alongside their loved ones.  We must stem this tide.

For more information, please visit


Appropriations Committee: Getting Our Work Done

The House Committee on Appropriations, which I chair, completed work on two more important funding bills this week – the Defense Appropriations bill and the Financial Services-General Government bill. 

With this action, nine of the twelve annual appropriations bills have been approved by the full Committee. Three have been passed by the full House. 

Both pieces of legislation approved this week include funding for programs important to New Jersey.

Defense Appropriations

Passed by a bipartisan margin of 48-4, the legislation funds military operations at home and overseas, increases the purchase of new aircraft and ships and improves readiness of our troops to meet global threats.  The measure also provides for a 2.6% pay raise for our troops and strengthens the various health programs for military personnel and their families.  In addition, the FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill assures New Jersey’s continued contribution to our national security.

In addition to providing base operating funds for New Jersey’s military installations, Picatinny Arsenal, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Naval Weapons Station Earle and the 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City, the legislation includes funding that will increase New Jersey’s military contributions. 

For example, the FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill contains over $300 million in new funding to allow scientists, engineers and technicians at Picatinny Arsenal, the DoD Joint Center of Excellence for Armaments, to accelerate their urgent work to ensure that our weapons systems overmatch those of our adversaries. 

The bill also includes funding to expand production of the new KC-146 Pegasus air refueling tankers that will be stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst beginning in 2020, enhancing the future missions of that New Jersey base. 

To protect New Jersey residents at home and abroad, the measure includes $1.3 billion above the President’s budget for key readiness programs to prepare forces, including New Jersey’s National Guard and Reserve, for peace-time missions and potential overseas operations. 

For more information, please visit


Financial Services Appropriations

The bill provides annual funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other related agencies.

The bill contains $737 million for the SBA to help promote opportunities for small businesses to begin, grow, and prosper. This includes full funding to support $30 billion in 7(a) and $7.5 billion in 504 small business loans. Also included is:

$18 million for Women’s Business Centers, to support organizations like the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship [WCEC] in Chatham, Morris County to help elevate women to business success through education, counseling, mentoring and entrepreneurial training. 

$130 million for Small Business Development Centers which will support The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) network which is committed to guiding established small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to create and expand their business enterprises which will, in turn, result in sustainable growth, job creation and economic development across our state.  The NJSBDC network includes 12 centers across New Jersey, including: NJSBDC at William Paterson University (Passaic County), NJSBDC at Rutgers Newark (Essex County) and NJSBDC of Northwest Jersey (Morris and Sussex County).

$12.3 million for veterans programs to maximize small business opportunities for veterans, service-disabled veterans, and their dependents or survivors.

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) – receives $191 million, the President’s FY 2019 budget request had eliminated the program. This funding will continue to support organizations that make credit, capital, and other critical financial services available to disadvantaged businesses and low-income communities throughout NJ. Since 1996, over 3,000 CDFI loans have been made in NJ totaling $388 million.

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) – The bill provides level funding of $280 million for HIDTA, which provides assistance to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the U.S. This grant program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). There are currently 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 18 percent of all counties in the United States and 66 percent of the U.S. population. The following New Jersey counties are in the HIDTA NY/NJ region: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, and Union.

In addition to these funds, the bill provides an extra $15.4 million over the budget request to the US Postal Service Office of Inspector General to continue drug interdiction efforts and investigations.

In addition to funding of interest to New Jersey, the legislation maintains $45 million in funding for the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, including $15 million for Opportunity Scholarships. These funds provide a “lifeline” for low-income families in Washington, D.C. who wish to send their children to a private or parochial school. 

For more information, please visit


Salute: To the late Corporal Gaetano Nicastro of Nutley who this week was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for heroic action and gallantry under fire on Pork Chop Hill, Korea in 1953.   

My staff and I worked with CPL Nicastro’s son, Father Thomas Nicastro, literally for years to collect historical information, seek eye-witness testimony, and guide “Father Tom” through the Army’s labyrinthine bureaucracy, including a personal appearance before the Army Review Board Agency. 

Over these many years that we worked together to correct the historical record on behalf of CPL Nicastro, I often thought of the words of Bill McWilliams, the author of “On Hallowed Ground,” a book about the Battle of Pork Chop Hill.  Said McWilliams, “Acts of self-sacrifice and heroism all too often go unreported because there are not surviving witnesses, or the witnesses do not take the initiative to ensure the men they have seen perform valorous acts are recognized.”  

Too often, that recognition becomes the responsibility of those left behind.   I am gratified that CPL Nicastro’s memory was not penalized because he never promoted his own gallantry. 

Yesterday was a proud day for the Nicastro family.