November 27, 2022

Photo Credit: Sam Metsfan – Public Domain

Where I live, the seasons change quickly. As soon as we put our jack-o-lanterns away in Kansas City, a cold wind blows off the prairie, bringing down leaves—and soon ice storms and snow.

But no matter how cold it gets, we’re always happy to see family and friends over the holidays. We all want our homes to be filled with joy, comfort, and the people we love most.

But many of us will miss someone at the holiday table because our country’s overdose crisis is now affecting almost every family and community. Overdoses claimed more than 108,000 lives this year, more than any other year on record. Overdose deaths affect us all – whether we are black, brown or white and whether we live in a big city or a small town.

Each of these deaths is a tragedy. It is also a tragedy that with effective and proven treatments like buprenorphine, a form of medically assisted treatment (MAT), the gold standard of treatment for opioid use disorders, so many lives could have been saved. But outdated laws prevent providers from prescribing this life-saving treatment.

I think of Jodi, who lives in rural New Hampshire. This is Jodi’s 13th Christmas without Kory, who died of an overdose on Christmas Eve when Jodi was nine months pregnant with their second child. Kory had struggled to access treatment during a long battle with addiction.

I’m also thinking of Shantae in Brooklyn, who will be celebrating the holidays without his son Jerome, an ambitious boy who hoped to become a bricklayer to support his girlfriend and child. Jerome was on his way to building a brighter future for himself when he died of an overdose.

And I think of Lisa in north Chicago gathering her family without her son Shane. Shane was a funny guy known for making the whole room laugh who was only 25 when he died. The week that Shane died, he spent days on the phone with his insurance company trying to get treatment for his addiction. His family later found out that his appeal had been denied.

I could go on but I won’t. Because I have good news. There’s a bill in Congress right now that could help people like Kori, Shane, Jerome and their families. The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act removes barriers to access buprenorphine and other treatments, and many lives can be saved if we pass it.

For more than two years, a broad coalition of both political parties has been working to pass the MAT law. More than 500 organizations and 264 members of Congress have joined forces to support this law.

But after the House passed in June, the MAT bill stalled in the Senate. Proponents are now pushing for it to be included in the Omnibus Spending Act, which Congress will vote on in December.

We and the 117th Congress have a unique opportunity to pass the MAT Act and save lives. So, as I look out my window at the first snow flurries, I remember picking up the phone to call my congressmen in the House and Senate and asking them to pass the MAT bill now. I hope you do too.

As our lawmakers gather to pass the MAT Act as one of their latest achievements at this convention, we will remember them for saving lives and helping families.

They will show us, even in a deeply divided era, that elected officials can help transform our families’ private pain into public action and solutions. Join us as we urge convention leadership to implement the MAT Act so there are no empty seats at our holiday table.

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