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Tonko, Turner, Hassan, Murkowski Push for Broader Access to Addiction Treatment

Bipartisan Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act would open doors to safe, effective treatment for millions of Americans

  • Rep. Paul Tonko

WASHINGTON—Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and Michael Turner (R-OH) and Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced the reintroduction of their Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act, legislation that would vastly increase access to life-saving addiction medicine by eliminating a duplicative bureaucratic hurdle—colloquially known as the “x-waiver”—currently blocking millions of highly-trained health professionals from prescribing buprenorphine to their patients. After France took similar action to make buprenorphine available without a specialized waiver, opioid overdose deaths declined by 79 percent over a four-year period. Representatives Antonio Delgado (D-NY) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) are also co-leading the bill in the House.

“With the COVID pandemic driving the national opioid crisis to scary new heights, taking action to expand access to safe, proven treatments could not be more urgent,” Congressman Tonko said. “For years now, America’s response to our addiction epidemic has been missing one key element: widespread access to treatment. Buprenorphine has a two-decade track record of safely and effectively helping countless patients escape the iron grip of addiction and get on the path to recovery. Our bipartisan Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act would open doors of access to this life-changing medication by ending the bureaucratic ‘x-waiver’ that has long stood in the way of highly-trained health professionals who would otherwise prescribe this safe, effective treatment. I urge my colleagues and all of America’s champions for addiction treatment and recovery to take up our bipartisan call and help us push to deliver this legislation into law.”

"As the opioid epidemic rages on, government should not stand in the way of millions of Americans battling opioid addiction who desperately need treatment options,” Congressman Turner said. “I am proud to join Congressman Paul Tonko to introduce landmark, bipartisan legislation, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (MAT), that would expand practitioners’ ability to prescribe Buprenorphine, which medical experts agree helps treat opioid addiction. I urge Congress to take action to pass this critical legislation that will help families across our country combat the deadly opioid crisis."

“The substance misuse epidemic continues to devastate communities in New Hampshire and across the country, and we must do more to support access to treatment,” said Senator Hassan. “The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act is a commonsense bill that will help ensure that more Americans grappling with addiction have access to evidence-based treatment that can save lives. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the Biden administration to fix this issue once and for all.”

“Substance-use disorder and addiction have disproportionately impacted Alaskan communities for far too long,” said Senator Murkowski. “And now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, substance-abuse-related mortalities have drastically increased and the opioid public health crisis continues to worsen. It’s critical that we ensure that Americans struggling with these issues have access to safe, effective, live-saving treatments. This legislation will expand access to Medically Assisted Treatments and eliminate barriers to important behavioral health and community-based therapies. Access to care is the key to solving any medical issue—the substance-use epidemic is no different.” 

"The opioid epidemic is ravaging communities across the country, including upstate New York. Yet, backward policies make it harder for health professionals to prescribe addiction treatment medications than it is to prescribe opioids themselves," said Rep. Antonio Delgado. "I'm proud to reintroduce the bipartisan MAT Act, which removes regulatory barriers to buprenorphine and other addiction treatment medications that prevent opioid overdose deaths. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, communities have seen an increase in opioid-related deaths across the country. Congress must move quickly pass this lifesaving legislation."

“The United States remains in the midst of an opioid crisis that continues to cause tremendous pain and suffering for American families,” Rep. Gonzalez said. “Despite clear evidence that buprenorphine is a safe and effective treatment for opioid use disorder, few physicians are aware of its benefits and licensed to prescribe it. By eliminating needless red tape and educating providers on the benefits of buprenorphine, we can save thousands of lives and start rebuilding the social and economic fabric of our communities. The MAT Act is common sense legislation and I encourage the Biden Administration to support this bipartisan effort.”

As the sponsor of Timothy’s Law in New York, one of the first mental health parity laws in the nation, Rep. Tonko has long championed greater support for mental and behavioral health. During his years in Congress, he has advanced numerous bills to expand addiction treatment and address the nation’s opioid crisis. Earlier this month, Tonko and his colleagues sent a letter to President Biden calling for him to support the bipartisan MAT Act and strengthen access to medication-assisted treatment.

Organizations supporting the MAT Act include: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of PAs, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT), American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ,Americans for Prosperity, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Pharmacists Association, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Big Cities Health Coalition, Center for Popular Democracy, Community Catalyst, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Drug Policy Alliance, End SUD, Harm Reduction Coalition, Housing Works, Mental Health America, National Association of Attorneys General, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, National League for Nursing, Orexo, People’s Action, Popular Democracy, Shatterproof, Society of Hospital Medicine, Society of General Internal Medicine,  Stand Together, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The Pew Charitable Trusts

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