The MAT Act is moving to the House floor! On May 18, 2022, the MAT Act (or Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act) went to markup and finally passed out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. We’re thrilled to be another step closer to passing this bill out of the House and moving it forward in the Senate, and (hopefully) soon making this life-saving treatment more widely available to our communities in New Jersey and across the country – especially for people on Medicaid and without insurance.
This is a moment for all of us to celebrate. Together, we played a lead role in organizing nationally to move this bill. Over the last 2 years our relationship with Congressman Pallone’s office and his willingness to lead on this issue (he is the chairman of the committee it moved out of!) have been key. We also deeply appreciate Congressman Kim’s efforts to advocate for the MAT Act. NJOP leaders have also fought tirelessly to make this happen. Special thanks to NJOP leaders Heather Shapter, Lisa Campanella, and Janit Buccella who all played essential roles in legislative meetings and are part of the reason we were able to get this bill moving.
In fact, during the markup last week, Congressman Pallone shouted us out, saying: “I want to take a moment to thank Priscilla Robinson, Heather Shapter, and all of the New Jersey Organizing Project advocated who have fought tirelessly for the MAT Act, and know firsthand how access to buprenorphine saves lives.”
Making MAT more accessible will be a game-changer for our loved ones with substance use disorder. Heather Shapter, an NJOP member from Toms River, shares how MAT changed her life, and how passing the MAT Act will do the same for countless others:
I have experienced barriers to getting access to MAT. I have been sober for a while, but in my mid-20s I was in a serious car accident that left me with a spine injury. I was prescribed high doses of oxycontin and oxycodone, which turned my life upside down. Previously, I had a full time job and was an athlete and mother. The strongest drug I ever took before the accident was one vicodin from the dentist. I didn’t know at the time that prescription opioids had a chance of creating dependency. I developed an addiction to opioids, which was very crippling. Heroin became my best friend once the pills weren’t enough anymore. I was scared of getting withdrawal sickness so I was always seeking or getting high.
I learned about methadone treatment in my community. At the time, however, Medicaid didn’t cover the $80 per week cost. I went every single day and it helped keep me accountable, but it was hard to get back to normalcy. Then I decided to try suboxone instead. Very few doctors were available and they were maxed out on patients, so I had to drive over an hour each way for a doctor and paid $180 out of pocket since Medicaid didn’t cover it. Medicaid did pay for the prescription though. I was only able to pay for visits and get appointments through family support. If I didn’t have that, like most drug users don’t, I would have struggled with transportation too and cash for appointments. We need more healthcare providers able to prescribe MAT. The MAT Act makes this possible by removing the unnecessary X waiver process.
We are glad to see the MAT Act being passed out of the Energy & Commerce. It took the hard work of everyday people impacted by overdose and substance use and our legislators to make this happen. While this is great progress, we look forward to fully passing the MAT Act into law. Thank you to the sponsors and supporters of this bill.