Senators Hassan, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would help health care providers more effectively treat patients suffering from substance use disorder. The bipartisan Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act would eliminate an outdated requirement that needlessly restricts health care providers from prescribing buprenorphine, a proven medication-assisted treatment that has helped countless Americans struggling with substance use disorder. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives.

“Medication-assisted treatment is the gold standard for treating substance use disorder, and we need to break down the barriers that prevent more health care providers from treating patients in need,” Senator Hassan said. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this commonsense, bipartisan measure in order to expand access to buprenorphine and help more people get on the road to recovery.”

“If healthcare professionals are able to prescribe opioids to patients, then they should able to prescribe medications that help manage opioid dependence as well. By removing barriers to life-saving medication-assisted treatments that have been clinically proven to help patients safely reduce or even end their dependence on opioids, we can ensure Americans struggling with substance abuse have access to the treatment they need to fully recover,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill also addresses some of the geographical challenges that many face in Alaska, by allowing community health aides and practitioners to offer MAT working with a provider through telemedicine. Overcoming addiction is already difficult enough. I’m proud to support this effort to increase access to recovery services and save lives.”

“I’d like to thank Senator Murkowski for introducing this important bill that will allow Alaskans better access to addiction treatment services throughout our state.  The vastness of Alaska makes it critical that individuals are able to attain services in their communities, no matter how remote,” said Andy Teuber, Chairman and President of Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. “The Community Health Aide Program is essential in providing health care in rural Alaska.  By allowing Community Health Aides and Practitioners to dispense needed medications locally, this bill will eliminate the significant travel burden that many Alaskans fighting addiction in rural communities currently face.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found MAT used for addiction to opioids can drastically reduce a person’s dependence. The bipartisan MAT Act would eliminate a requirement that requires practitioners to apply for a waiver through the Drug Enforcement Agency in order to prescribe buprenorphine for substance use disorder treatment. The bill would also require that the Secretary of Health and Human Services conduct a national campaign to educate practitioners about the change in law and encourage providers to integrate substance use treatment into their practices. Senator Murkowski worked with Alaskan stakeholders to develop language included in the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act that would amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow patients being treated by community health aides or community health practitioners to dispense a narcotic drug in schedule III, IV, or V, such as buprenorphine, or a combination of such drugs, to an individual for medication-assisted treatment if the drug is prescribed by a practitioner through telemedicine.