GHAI advances policy solutions that save lives and end the U.S. overdose crisis.
GHAI’s Overdose Prevention Initiative advocates to ensure that evidence-based treatment and harm reduction services that help save lives from drug overdose are within reach. By advancing federal policies that address the disparities, inequities, and stigma in the addiction treatment system, we can make a difference in the lives of people across the U.S. and prevent needless overdose deaths.
Where we work
We work with federal legislators and officials to:
- Identify policies that expand access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment at crucial points, such as in emergency rooms or in the carceral system.
- Eliminate federal regulatory barriers to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).
- Advance federal support for harm reduction services, such as expanded distribution of naloxone and fentanyl test strips.
Success Story: Advancing Legislation that Increases Access to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
More than 2.5 million Americans have opioid use disorder (OUD), and nearly 108,000 people died last year from opioid overdose. This devastating loss of life is even more tragic because each of these deaths was preventable. According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder, buprenorphine and methadone, can reduce mortality from overdose by approximately 50 percent. Yet, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated that only 11% of people with OUD received this life-saving medication in 2020.
An outdated federal law prohibited health care practitioners from prescribing buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder without being subject to onerous bureaucratic requirements. These unnecessary requirements contributed to a shortage of healthcare providers who could prescribe buprenorphine. As a result, the NASEM estimated that in 2019 only 2 to 3 percent of physicians in the United States were waivered to provide buprenorphine, and HHS found that 40% of counties in the United States did not have a single buprenorphine prescriber.
In February 2022, President Biden highlighted removing federal barriers to medications like buprenorphine in his State of the Union, naming it one of the top priorities of his “Unity Agenda.” Policy experts agreed that while the Biden Administration could update rules and regulations to ease certain restrictions around prescribing buprenorphine, an action from Congress was the only way to permanently remove the longstanding barrier — known as the “x-waiver.”
GHAI advocated for the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act, a bill that removed the outdated and obstructive registration requirement, known as the x-waiver, to prescribe the medication. Ahead of a crucial markup session conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, GHAI led the advocacy strategy of a coalition of hundreds of organizations to ensure the MAT Act would advance out of committee as an amendment to a bipartisan bill — a key step in passing the legislation.
Once the MAT Act passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives, GHAI maintained a steady drumbeat of advocacy to garner support in the U.S. Senate and keep the legislation top-of-mind for lawmakers. Throughout 2022, GHAI conducted outreach to and met with Senators and Representatives to secure additional cosponsorships for the MAT Act. GHAI also co-authored an opinion that was published in the Hill and advised on additional op-eds that made the case for the MAT Act, each of which was promoted on social media and distributed to members of the media and key decision-makers in Congress.
GHAI met with Senators and Representatives from all but eight U.S. states to advocate for the MAT Act.
Later in the year, GHAI led advocacy efforts to ensure the MAT Act was included in Congress’s end-of-year legislation package — considered a “must pass” to avoid government shutdown. GHAI led communications efforts around a sign-on letter endorsed by 200+ organizations, providing a template for a press release and sample social media posts for signees to use. In December 2022, the bill gained endorsements from the New York Times and the Washington Post editorial boards.
GHAI’s advocacy efforts resulted in the MAT Act clearing major hurdles in the legislative process. On May 18, 2022, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the MAT Act out of committee with a strong bipartisan majority (45-10). Members of both political parties spoke in favor of the amendment, and Chair Frank Pallone noted the advocacy efforts around the amendment. In June 2022, the MAT Act passed through the U.S. House of Representatives with near unanimous support (402-20).
Throughout the year, GHAI’s efforts led to numerous meetings with Senators and Representatives, totaling 123 by the end of 2022. As a result of this advocacy, GHAI helped to secure cosponsorships from 23 U.S. Senators after the MAT Act had passed the House — a key show of support from a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Starting in November 2022, GHAI led coalition efforts to advocate for the MAT Act’s inclusion in the end-of-year spending package and successfully activated the coalition, resulting in significant increases of relevant terms like “MAT Act” and #MATAct on social media. As a result of this concerted advocacy, the MAT Act was included in Congress’s end-of-year legislation package, which was passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, December 22 and by the House of Representatives on Friday, December 23. With the passage of the legislative package, GHAI delivered on our goal to pass the MAT Act and increase access to evidence-based treatment.
As a result of GHAI’s advocacy efforts, mentions of “MAT Act”, #MATAct, and other relevant terms increased on social media leading up to decisions about the end-of-year legislative package.
For more information on the Overdose Prevention Initiative at GHAI, email Libby Jones or visit https://www.actionforoverdose.org.
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