Thursday, June 27, 2013

CPDD Annual Meeting Public Policy Forum: Part I: Congress, the NIH Budget, and Friends of NIDA

The CPDD Annual Meeting Public Policy Forum was held on Wednesday June 19th and Co-Chaired by Drs. Martin Iguchi and William Dewey.  Dr. Iguchi opened the session by noting that this was the 10th anniversary of the Forum being held at the CPDD Annual Meeting.  He introduced Dr. Edward Long from van Scoyoc Associates, CPDD's lobbying firm in Washington, DC, who reported on Congress and the NIH Budget.

Ed began his presentation by discussing our current NIH budget crunch, including failed negotiations on budget cuts by the bipartisan Supercommittee, which triggered the Sequester that began in March 2013.  He noted that discretionary spending, which covers funding for NIH, is at its lowest levels since the Carter Administration, resulting in an effective "undoubling" of the NIH budget after accounting for inflation.  Ed said that it is not clear whether the Sequester will continue in future years.

The Sequester resulted in an operating plan that had to accommodate a 5.7% cut versus the prior year budget, which most severely affected NIDA competing grants, the numbers of which were reduced this past year by 7.7% versus the prior year.

The NIDA budget could be cut further in FY 2014 if the House budget, which calls for discretionary spending budgets to absorb the entire Sequester budget reduction (leaving non-discretionary budgets intact), is approved.  This could result in another 26% reduction in the NIH and NIDA budgets.  While this worst-case scenario seems unlikely to occur, Ed suggested that the FY 2014 budget likely will be close to the current post-Sequester budget, which he characterized as a "limp-along" budget.

Ed noted that now is the time to contact your representatives and tell them about the impact of budget issues.  He observed that Congress can act very quickly (even within a single day) and in a bipartisan manner when motivated.  The most recent example of this is the passage of a House bill that prevented Air Traffic Controller furloughs resulting from Sequester cuts, which, had they occurred, threatened to cause serious slowdowns at some major airports and shutdowns of other airports.

The next presentation was made by Forum Co-Chair Dr. William Dewey, who spoke about Friends of NIDA (FON).  He said that FON, which represents over 2 million scientists including CPDD members, supports concentrated lobbying efforts on behalf of addiction researchers, and has been doing so for the last 20 years.

Bill noted that FON has presented 18 Congressional briefings over the last 10 years, the most recent of which was in early March, focusing on addiction concerns for veterans and their families.  FON worked to get the Department of Defense (DoD) involved in supporting addiction research, and there now is a DoD appropriation to fund addiction-related medical research projects within the US Army Peer Review Medical Research Program.

FON also supports the Intel Science Fair by providing funds for awards involving addiction-related research projects, in hopes of stimulating the development of young science enthusiasts who one day may become addiction researchers.

Bill indicated that the role of FON is key because it can lobby Congress directly in support of addiction research, something that NIDA can't do because it is a federal agency.

Bill urged everyone to become involved in lobbying efforts on behalf of NIDA and addiction research.  For those interested in meeting with their Representatives, Friends of NIDA working together with Ed Long and van Scoyoc Associates can help to arrange Capitol Hill meetings in Washington DC and, if you aren't traveling to Washington, also can help set up meetings in your home district, which are equally important.

CPDD via its Education, Outreach and Public Policy and Media Relations Committees intends to provide training to members interested in speaking with Representatives, the Media, and the Public, so we can get the message out regarding the importance and effectiveness of addiction research and treatment, as well as on the economic savings improved treatments confer.

Coverage of Part II of the Public Policy Forum (Marijuana Legalization) can be found here.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member's thoughts on this issue.

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