Lisa Murkowski

02/25/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/25/2021 14:42

Murkowski, Hassan, Tonko, Turner Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Broaden Access to Addiction Treatment

02.25.21

U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and Michael Turner (R-OH) 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.

'Substance-use disorder and addiction have disproportionately impacted Alaskan communities for far too long. 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,' said Senator Murkwoski

'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.'

'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. I am thankful for Senator Hassan's leadership on this critical issue, and am proud to join her in championing this bipartisan legislation that would expand practitioners' ability to prescribe lifesaving treatment for opioid addiction,' said Congressman Turner.

'The Opioid epidemic has had devastating impacts on Alaskans struggling with substance abuse. Making medications widely available to treat Alaskans affected by this epidemic is critical to reducing its impacts. Alaska Attorney General Taylor supports the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act to combat the Opioid epidemic and provide resources to combat its effects on Alaskans,' said Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor.

'I wholeheartedly support any effort making it easier to connect evidence-based treatment to those in need. Removing the X-waiver requirement for prescribing buprenorphine is an important step forward, facilitating access to care for those with opioid use disorder (opioid addiction). I am fortunate to work as both an emergency physician, and a physician treating patients with opioid use disorder. As part of that work in Fairbanks, I see the effects of opioid use disorder on individual lives, at different stages. A teenager's opioid prescription after an injury or surgery. A loved one's heroin overdose. A parent regaining custody of their child as they pursue treatment. Buprenorphine is a very effective medication for treating opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine helps those suffering from opioid use disorder, interrupt the cycle of addiction, and engage in treatment as they pursue recovery. Buprenorphine is not a cure, but it is a very effective tool. Though the motivation for the X-waiver was well intentioned, the effect has been to limit access to treatment, and increase stigma. As a result of the X-waiver process, we have been suffering through the opioid epidemic with an unnecessary barrier to one of our most effective treatment tools, buprenorphine. The presence of this unnecessary barrier is not good policy. This becomes all the more obvious when juxtaposed against the absence of any barrier to prescribing oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other opioids that have contributed to the opioid epidemic. While we know that there is more to treating opioid use disorder than prescribing a medication, facilitating access to buprenorphine, and decreasing the stigma associated with opioid use disorder treatment are important steps forward,' said Dr. Mark Simon, Emergency Physician in Alaska.

Background:

Earlier this month, Senators Hassan and Murkowski and Representatives Tonko, Turner, and colleagues sent a letter to President Biden to invite him to work with Congress to increase access to medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder.

Organizations supporting the MAT Act include:

American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Physician Assistants, 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 Council for Behavioral Health, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, Orexo, Shatterproof, Society of Hospital Medicine, Society of General Internal Medicine, Stand Together, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The Pew Charitable Trusts.