NCCHC Hails Passage of MAT Act to Prevent Overdoses and Support Recovery - National Commission on Correctional Health Care
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opioidsJan 3, 2023

NCCHC Hails Passage of MAT Act to Prevent Overdoses and Support Recovery

In the last week of December, President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2023, which includes significant legislation to address the worsening overdose crisis. NCCHC applauds the passage and signing of the bill and its Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act provision, which will remove federal barriers to medications for opioid use disorder, reduce stigma, and increase access to life-saving treatment that prevents overdoses and supports recovery.

The MAT Act removes mandatory registration with SAMHSA and the DEA to prescribe buprenorphine, recognized as the gold standard of care, and removes limits on the number of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) that health care providers can treat with buprenorphine. Due to these onerous federal rules, 40% of U.S. counties lack a single health care provider who can prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, with the shortage especially acute in rural areas. The shortage of providers creates a significant barrier for correctional facilities, where individuals with OUD are disproportionately represented, that are seeking to provide MAT.

Overdose deaths are largely preventable through evidence-based treatment, including FDA-approved medications buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Methadone and buprenorphine prevent painful withdrawal symptoms and all three medications help stem opioid cravings, enabling a patient to achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction. Due in part to the now-defunct federal regulations, only about one in 10 people in need receive medications for OUD. Although there appears to be an increase in MAT availability in correctional facilities in recent years, most incarcerated individuals with OUD do not receive this treatment.

Data show a striking mortality benefit of providing MAT during incarceration. People leaving jail and prison without receiving MAT have up to 40 times higher risk of dying from overdose in the first two weeks following their discharge than the general population.

The MAT Act updates federal rules to address the public health crisis driven by the opioid epidemic and empowers all health care providers with a standard controlled medication license to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, just as they prescribe other essential medications. The MAT Act will help destigmatize a gold standard of care for opioid use disorder and will integrate substance use disorder treatment into primary care and behavioral health care practices throughout the health care system.

Correctional facilities on the front lines of the opioid epidemic will find it easier to treat OUD and provide an appropriate handoff to the community following release. Treatment during incarceration also provides an opportunity to assess for untreated mental health conditions that may be contributing to OUD.

We thank Reps. Paul Tonko, Mike Turner, and Anthony Gonzalez, and Sens. Maggie Hassan and Lisa Murkowksi and their staff for their sponsorship of the MAT Act and their tireless work to ensure that the bill was included in the omnibus. We also thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Leader Mitch McConnell, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone Jr. and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richard Burr, and Rep. David Trone and their staff for their leadership in passing the MAT Act.

NCCHC is one of nearly 550 organizations that called on Congress and the White House to pass the MAT Act. The Act won more than 275 Democratic, Republican, and Independent cosponsors in the House (H.R.1384) and the Senate (S.445) – a testament to the policy’s overwhelming bipartisan support.

The MAT Act is a significant step towards ensuring that everyone with substance use disorder receives the care they need to be and stay well.

NCCHC offers accreditation for OTP programs and technical assistance, consulting, and training for facilities wishing to implement or enhance their OTP programs. Contact NCCHC at [email protected] for more information.

By Claire Wolfe, Program Manager, NCCHC Resources

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