Congress is Removing Barriers to MAT, but More Needs to be Done
Jul 29, 2022
The MAT Act Has Passed the House, Now the Senate Must Act
In June, Congress began to take new steps to stem the historic level of overdose deaths in the United States by advancing legislation that would enhance access to life-saving Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment and better prepare health care providers to identify and care for people struggling with addiction.
The epidemic of overdose deaths has reached an alarming and deadly milestone, with 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 2021, an increase of nearly 15% from the 93,655 deaths estimated in 2020. Opioids were the cause of most of these fatalities, representing 80,816 of overdose deaths in 2021.
The need for evidence-based medication-assisted treatment for Opioid Use Disorders has significantly increased over the past few years as opioid abuse grew and as fentanyl, an ultra-potent opioid, became more widespread across the county. Historically, it has been challenging access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), considered the gold standard approach for people with Opioid Use Disorder. MAT involves the use of specific medications, such as buprenorphine, combined with behavioral therapies and counseling, to provide a comprehensive approach to treating OUD for substances such as heroin or prescription pain relievers containing opiates, and to help prevent opioid overdoses.
Historically, accessing MAT has been challenging due to limits on how many people a single health care provider can prescribe medication for that dates back to a law enacted in 2000, long before the U.S. entered the acute phases of the opioid overdose crisis of recent years. Congress has begun to recognize the barriers facing people who need access to MAT and to act.
In June, the House of Representatives advanced two bills that would improve the landscape for treatment. One measure, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act of 2021, would eliminate the special registration requirements for prescribers of MAT, which would quickly increase the number of health care providers able to treat people for OUD. Modernizing outdated, 20-year-old treatment and prescribing practices would go a long way toward addressing the massive gap between those who need MAT and those who receive it.
A second bill, the Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act, would better prepare health care providers on the needs of people with SUD and how to care for them. The MATE Act would increase training for health care providers on treating and managing patients with SUD, including the appropriate clinical use of MAT and establish a grant program to support provider education and the integration of SUD education into the standard curriculum for health education programs.
Although the House approved both of these bills with broad bipartisan support, the work here isn’t done. The bills need to be considered in the Senate or incorporated into a larger behavioral health package the Senate may advance in the fall. However, there is real shot at achieving genuine improvements in the field of treatment for SUD before the end of 2022.
Congress needs to hear from you, patients and health care providers, regarding the importance of enacting these bills into law and the lifesaving changes it would bring to patients, families, and communities across the country. CleanSlate Centers supports MAT programs and advocates for the Senate to pass the MAT Act and the MATE Act before the November elections to remove the arbitrary barriers placed on health care providers, enhance access to MAT, and to give health professionals better education and training on how to care for people seeking to overcome addiction.
Together we can make a difference. Act now. Join us in urging Congress to pass the MAT Act and begin saving lives today.
To reach Senators from your state, dial the Senate Switchboard at 202.224.3121.
H.R. 1384 – 117th Congress: Mainstreaming Addiction for All Act. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1384
United States Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA Finalizes Measures to Expand Medication-Assisted Treatment. www.dea.gov/press-releases/2021/06/28/dea-finalizes-measures-expand-medication-assisted-treatment Web. Assessed May 14, 2022.
National Counsel for Mental Wellbeing. Hill Day at Home 2022, House Committee Votes in Favor of MAT and MATE Act Amendments. www.thenationalcouncil.org/hill-day-at-home-2022-house-committee-votes-in-favor-of-mat-and-mate-act-amendments/ Web. Assessed July 16, 2022.
Shatterproof. Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-being Act Passes House Vote, off to the Senate. www.shatterproof.org/press/restoring-hope-mental-health-and-well-being-act-passes-house-vote-senate Web. Assessed July 16, 2022.