Skip to main content

State Assembly Fentanyl Committee Calls for Emergency Efforts to Increase Access to Methadone and other Addiction Medications

Stakeholders across the State convene critical hearing on how to modernize California’s strategies on methadone and other opioid addiction drugs

For immediate release:
  • Nate Allbee
  • (415) 756-0561

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today the California State Assembly held its third hearing for the Select Committee on Fentanyl, Opioid Addiction, and Overdose Prevention, chaired by Matt Haney (D-San Francisco). The hearing focused on medication assisted treatment – also known as MAT – and included addiction experts from San Francisco, Davis, and Santa Clara. The Committee also heard from leaders at the California Department of Health Care Services, and from a patient on MAT, who shared their personal experience with addiction and recovery. Chair Haney called for the legislature to act urgently to remove all unnecessary barriers to methadone and other addiction medications.

“With thousands of Californians losing their lives annually, it is utterly maddening that we would withhold one of the most powerful addiction treatments from those who desperately need it,” said Haney. “Medication assisted treatment is scientifically proven to help individuals with addiction – it’s unacceptable that there are so many barriers in place to accessing MAT, that it is often easier for people to get the illicit drugs instead.”

MAT is proven to be the most effective method for people with opioid addiction to change their lives. These medications reduce the likelihood of dying from an opioid overdose by more than 50%. There are 2.5 million Americans suffering from opioid addiction, and thousands are dying annually because they are unable to receive care due to bureaucratic barriers. Fewer than one in ten people in the US with opioid addiction are currently enrolled in treatment.

Bringing together experts from different areas of this crisis, the hearing included Dr. Leslie Suen, an Addiction Medicine Physician and Researcher at UC San Francisco; Dr. Aimee Moulin, Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and Chief of the Division of Addiction Medicine at UC Davis Health; and Dr. Lee Trope, Pediatric Hospitalist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and an Affiliated Clinical Instructor at Stanford University. Testimonies were also heard from Axl Kaminski, a graduate student at UC Davis currently enrolled in treatment; Tyler Sadwith, State Medicaid Director at DHCS; and Paula Willhelm, Assistant Deputy Director at DHCS.

“When we are in the midst of the deadliest overdose crisis, we need to make all evidence based treatment options as accessible as possible,” said Dr. Suen. “Changing our state policies on methadone treatment to follow federal guidelines will reduce barriers to care and help curb overdose deaths.”

In contrast to the United States and California, many European countries make it easy to access medication assisted treatments – like methadone – and have used it to address the opioid crisis for decades. Their success rate is clear. In 2022, the entire continent of Europe had only 6,100 deaths from opioid overdoses. In comparison, California alone had over 7,300 deaths in 2023.

“I could talk all day about what is wrong with our current system, but I would like to end on what’s right,” said Kaminski. “The medication works. It’s been shown to reduce illicit drug use by a third and quadruple treatment retention. Methadone has allowed me to accomplish so much in my life, and despite all of the issues caused by the way we deliver methadone, it’s still been worth it.”

Assemblymember Haney introduced AB 2115 this year. AB 2115 will make sure California is following federal regulations on reducing barriers to methadone treatment. The Committee on Fentanyl, Opioid Addiction, and Overdose Prevention will continue to hold hearings throughout the state that will identify the root causes of the opioid epidemic, and immediate laws that need to take effect to tackle the crisis and expand treatment.