By: Mercy Care Staff

Who’s MAT? 

MAT is medication-assisted treatment, which is used to treat opioid use disorder. Most importantly, it works.

Opioid-related deaths and overdoses have taken a devastating toll on Arizona communities. Since June 2017, there have been nearly 4,000 suspected opioid-related deaths. And, nearly 30,000 opioid-related overdoses. 

Medication-assisted treatment is the “most effective intervention to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) and is more effective than either behavioral interventions or medication alone,” a study from the PEW Charitable Trust recently reported.

That’s why Mercy Care has launched a campaign to let people know that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) works. And, that treatment is available — even for people who are uninsured or underinsured. 

We’re calling the campaign, “Do You Know MAT?” You’ll probably start seeing messages pop up on the digital screens at Circle K stores, on billboards, in newspapers and on our social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also get more information at We want people to understand what MAT is and why MAT works. 

Get to know MAT

MAT involves using approved medicines and behavioral therapies, like counseling, to treat opioid use disorder. Those medications are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

When people abuse opioids, their bodies can become addicted or dependent on them. If they don’t have opioids in their system, they can feel opioid withdrawal. The symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and intense cravings. 

When you’re ready to get connected to MAT, these medications can help in your recovery from opioid dependence.

Methadone comes in a liquid dose. It may provide better control of withdrawal symptoms and cravings for long-term opioid users.

Buprenorphine reduces cravings from opioids. It can come in a pill form, cheek film or 6-month implant under the skin.

Naltrexone, which can be taken as a daily pill or monthly injection, works a little differently. If a person on naltrexone starts abusing opioids again, the naltrexone blocks the “high” and sedative effects. 

Why is MAT important?

Armando Peelman, Mercy Care General Mental Health Substance Use (GMHSU) Administrator, says that “MAT services give us a way to fight the disease and not just fear it.”

He added, “The research shows us that MAT services decrease the use of illegal drugs, criminal behavior, the spread of HIV and hepatitis, while increasing employment, treatment retention and chances of survival.” 

To truly understand the impact of MAT services you just have to listen to the stories from any of the thousands of Mercy Care members whose lives were changed because of these supports. 

“The mother who was able to graduate college, find a stable home, find employment and earned the right to have her child returned to her,” Peelman said, citing examples of member experiences. “The staff member that was homeless three years ago and is now working to conduct homeless outreach. The members who are reconnected to their family and friends. The ones that rejoin their faith community. The others that are now married and raising a family. And it goes on and on. I know MAT works because I have seen it work.”

MAT can support you

Your relationship with MAT will be about more than just meds. As part of your care, you’ll get counseling and behavioral therapies. Other services may include job resources, life skills, stress management, peer support and a ride to and from treatment. Some of our providers have sites called MAT Access Points that are open 24/7. 

If you’re ready, providers are ready to introduce you to MAT. They can show you how MAT can get you started on a path to recovery, health and wellness. You can visit to find a MAT provider near you.

Myths about MAT

Sometimes MAT gets a bad rap. Some people think MAT is just about trading one drug for another. But that’s just not true. 

When someone stops using opioids, the parts of their brain that have become dependent on those opioids are left empty and cause feelings of withdrawal. Sometimes people can’t, or won’t, stop using just to avoid those terrible feelings of withdrawal. MAT for treating opioid addiction works by interacting with some of the same receptors in the brain that are triggered by drugs. MAT can help in treating the physical effects of addiction, and should be used with counseling. MAT can stop the psychological cravings. They give you a safe and controlled dose of medication.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says research has shown that when given at the proper dose, MAT meds don’t have any negative effects on a person’s intelligence, mental or physical functioning or ability to work. 

Do you need insurance to get involved with MAT? 

Not necessarily. If you’re on an Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), or Medicaid, health plan, like Mercy Care, you can get MAT services at no cost to you. 

Many providers also accept private insurance or work on a sliding-fee scale (based on your income).

If you aren’t eligible for Medicaid, or if your private insurance doesn’t cover MAT services, that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out for MAT.

You can find a list of Mercy Care providers with grant funding to provide MAT services to uninsured or underinsured individuals at 

Until you’re ready, we want you and your loved ones to stay safe. 

Don’t share or reuse needles. 

Don’t mix drugs. 

Get medical attention if you feel unwell (physically or mentally).

Remember these steps if someone overdoses on opioids: 

  1. Call for help (dial 911).
  2. Check for signs of opioid overdose.
  • You can’t wake someone up by calling to them or rubbing their chest bone. 
  • They have shallow breathing, a slow heartbeat.
  • Their lips or fingernails are turning blue/purple.
  • They have extremely small “pinpoint” pupils.
  • They’re making a choking sound (death rattle).
  1. Support the person’s breathing. If oxygen isn’t available, rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) can be very effective.
  1. Monitor the person’s response and breathing until emergency help arrives.
  2.  Give the person Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose. You can access Naloxone (also known as Narcan) in your community at Sonoran Prevention Works at no cost by calling or texting 480-442-7086.