WASHINGTON, DC – January 25, 2023 – Dr. Blake Fagan, the Director of Opioid Treatment Services at the Mountain Area Healthcare Education Center (MAHEC), joined members of Congress and other leaders from across the country for a White House event on January 25th to celebrate the signing of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act on December 29th. This bill will make it easier for health care providers to treat patients with opioid use disorder (OUD). Dr. Fagan was invited to the White House for his work at MAHEC and educating lawmakers about the importance of removing barriers that keep many physicians from treating patients with this disorder. The bill will enable patients to get treatment without having to find another physician for care.
MAT has been proven to be the most effective treatment for OUD. As a result of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, the FDA-approved medicine for OUD, called buprenorphine, will become easier for physicians to prescribe to people who seek treatment. Buprenorphine has been shown to be effective in reducing overdose deaths, curb the use of illegal drugs, and help people from dropping out of treatment. It is combined with naloxone, used to reverse opioid overdoses, to form one of the most widely-prescribed medicines (called Suboxone) to treat OUD.
The MAT Act eliminates the following barriers to care:
- Health-care provider prescribing. Any DEA-registered prescriber of controlled substances will be able to treat OUD patients with buprenorphine. Providers will no longer require additional training and certification to obtain a special DEA waiver to prescribe this medicine. Therefore, more providers will be able to prescribe it. Patients won’t have to search for a physician who can prescribe buprenorphine and travel long distances to get treatment. Taking time off from work and spending money on gas are major factors in reducing patients access to care.
- Disparities by geography and race. Underserved communities of color and rural populations have difficulty with access to buprenorphine. Having more health care providers to prescribe the medicine should reduce these disparities.
- Stigma in treating OUD. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is encouraging providers to treat patients with OUD by eliminating barriers to prescribing the controlled medicine.
More than 100 thousand Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021 and 75% were due to opioids. Over the past 20 years, more than one million Americans died from drug overdoses. However, in 2020 only 11% of people with this condition received medicine-assisted treatment. Therefore, federal legislators from both political parties are optimistic that the newly signed MAT Act will be a great step towards reducing the treatment gap. Health-care providers will be able to take care of patients with OUD (a disease of the brain) just as they take care of heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
In an interview with Mountain Xpress, Dr. Fagan remarked “I learned that it takes a lot to get bills passed, and you have to have to get a lot of coalitions together. There was a great sense of satisfaction with passing this bill. I felt honored to be able to be there for the celebration.”
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Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com