WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) joined leaders and advocates at the White House today to celebrate the passage of his Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act, which was signed into law as part of the federal omnibus package. Tonko’s MAT Act eliminates the outdated bureaucratic requirement that practitioners apply for a separate waiver—known as the “x-waiver”—to prescribe buprenorphine for substance use disorder treatment.
Tonko’s remarks at the White House can be viewed HERE and read below as prepared for delivery.
Thank you to my friend Senator Hassan. We wouldn't be here today without your strong leadership. Thank you for agreeing to partner with me on the MAT Act and for all your leadership on addiction issues!
As I look around this room, I see many friends who have been on this journey together. I am so happy to be here today with all of YOU!
Over the last decade, I’ve focused my advocacy in Congress on knocking out every single barrier to addiction treatment so that when an individual struggling with the disease of addiction reaches out for help, we have a medical system ready to welcome them with open arms.
This is not a journey that any of us undertook lightly. As I have worked on these issues and connected with fellow advocates – like so many of you in the room today - all too often it is tragedy that has led us into this line of work.
The loss of a daughter, son, father, mother, sister or brother. A neighbor dying much too young and leaving behind a grieving family. Communities being ripped apart by poisons seemingly beyond our control.
This is what drives us. This is how we measure our success. In lives saved. In families kept whole. In communities healed.
Today’s celebration is both the culmination of a long journey and the beginning of a new one.
As many of you know, I had the distinct privilege of authoring the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act.
You guided me through this process every step of the way.
When we first introduced the MAT Act after some initial legislative success on addressing DATA waiver issues, it’s fair to say that we had an uphill battle in front of us.
When the opponents talked about government sponsored addiction and the naysayers said we were dreaming too big, you all stood by my side, pushed this forward and refused to take no for an answer.
You brought data to the fight that helped us make the case – showing that evidence-based and science-based policy making still has a future here in DC.
You knocked doors, wrote letters, and made a lot of noise. As Congressman John Lewis would say, you made a lot of “Good Trouble”.
Together we built a strong bipartisan coalition supported by advocates across the nation including family members who lost loved ones, individuals who faced the disease of addiction, doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, AGs, law enforcement, fire chiefs, emergency physicians, district attorneys, addiction specialists, faith leaders and healthcare, addiction, harm reduction, mental health and justice advocates of every stripe.
Working hand in hand, we told every member of Congress how federal law made it easier to prescribe potentially addictive opioids than to treat someone with opioid use disorder.
And for some, we told them over and over and over again.
And slowly but surely, we won over hearts and minds and built strong and deep support.
I am forever grateful for everyone who helped get this lifesaving bill signed into law.
Senator Hassan, Senator Murkowski and Congressman Mike Turner were true partners in this endeavor. Thank you for all for your leadership and friendship.
And thank you to President Biden, and this administration, who recognized the value in eliminating this barrier to save lives. Thank you to Dr. Gupta, Dr. Delphin Rittman and Anne Milgram for your commitment.
This commonsense step will vastly expand access to addiction treatment and will reduce stigma.
And this would not have happened without ALL of you.
And while the legislative fight on MAT is over – the battle to make treatment on demand a reality and to save lives is still well underway.
We need to keep pushing and I know we’ve got the right group here to do just that.
Thank you all for your dedication and hard work. The fight is not yet over, but this is a pivotal step forward. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And with that it is my pleasure to introduce Dr. Alister Martin who is an Emergency Medical Specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Alister Martin.