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Two of Tonko’s Bills to Address Opioid Epidemic Receive Legislative Hearing

Legislation removes unnecessary barriers preventing access to medication, helps vulnerable populations receive treatment

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Washington, March 3, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON—Congressman Paul D. Tonko spoke today in ardent support of two ground-breaking bills that would work to combat the opioid epidemic and expand addiction treatment to all Americans during a hearing in the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. H.R.2482, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act would remove pointless barriers preventing medical professionals from providing medication-assisted treatment for individuals suffering from a substance use disorder. H.R.1329, the Medicaid Reentry Act offers states with the flexibility to restart Medicaid coverage for eligible incarcerated individuals up to 30 days prior to their release.

“Countless Americans have lost their friends, family and loved ones to the devastating disease of addiction, with tens of thousands of lives lost each and every year,” Congressman Tonko said. “In the midst of this epidemic, those suffering from this disease need to be given a sense of hope. We must ensure we remove the barriers for every American working to overcome the disease of addiction and find or follow the path of recovery. These critical bills work to save countless lives and vastly improve and expand upon access to treatment to those struggling with substance use disorder. I urge Congress to act at once to pass this legislation. For the millions in our nation struggling with this disease, we must do more.”

More than 68,500 lives were lost to the disease of addiction in the U.S. in 2018. Providing safe and effective medication-assisted treatment for individuals suffering with a substance use disorder makes great strides to lowering that appalling number. For more than two decades, buprenorphine has been providing that needed treatment to patients. Despite its long history of success, medical professionals need a special DEA waiver to prescribe buprenorphine to treat substance use disorder, resulting in treatment bottlenecks and a lack of providers. This outdated waiver requirement has continued even though medical professionals can prescribe the same drug for pain without jumping through bureaucratic hoops.

The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act

  • Eliminates the redundant, outdated requirement that practitioners apply for a separate waiver through the DEA to prescribe buprenorphine for substance use disorder treatment
  • Requires the Secretary of HHS to conduct a national campaign to educate practitioners about the change in law and encouraging providers to integrate substance use treatment into their practices

H.R.2482 is supported by the American Medical Association, National Council for Behavioral Health, American College of Emergency Physicians, Shatterproof, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, Society of General Internal Medicine, Drug Policy Alliance, Harm Reduction Coalition and a number of other organizations.

The Medicaid Reentry act works to aid one of the most vulnerable populations in the country. Individuals reentering society after incarceration are some 129 times more likely to die of a drug overdose in the first two weeks after release versus the general population.

The Medicaid Reentry Act

  • Grants states limited new flexibility to restart benefits for Medicaid-eligible incarcerated individuals 30 days pre-release
  • Makes it easier for states to provide effective addiction treatment and services, allowing for smoother transitions to community care and reducing risk of overdose deaths post-release
  • Does not expand Medicaid eligibility in any way

H.R.1329 has gained support from dozens of organizations, including American Society of Addiction Medicine, National Council for Behavioral Health, Treatment Advocacy Center, National Association of Counties, Treatment Communities of America, American Psychiatric Association, The Kennedy Forum, Young People in Recovery, National Alliance on Mental Illness and Clinical Social Work Association.

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