HR 7079, the Corrections Public Health and Community Re-entry Act of 2018, would authorize the Attorney General to issue grants to develop, implement, and expand programs that provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to opioid-addicted individuals who are incarcerated at local and state corrections facilities. MAT takes a comprehensive approach to treating substance use disorders by utilizing drugs approved for maintenance or de-toxification treatment alongside counseling and behavioral therapies. This type of treatment has been shown to decrease opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, and criminal activity.
A 2009 article from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs indicates that hundreds of thousands of people enter US jails and prisons every year, and at least 15% of these individuals are estimated to be addicted to opioids. Thus, the prison population presents a large pool of individuals who have both engaged in criminal activity and need treatment for opioid-use disorder. As such, HR 7079 aims to (1) develop MAT programs with the help of nonprofit organizations with expertise on the topic, (2) reduce overdoses in individuals who were recently released from prison, and (3) reduce the rate of recidivism.
Each approved program would employ drug providers that can prescribe opioid antagonist and agonist medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and explain the benefits and risks of the different medications to patients. The programs would also have a certified recovery coach to support newly released individuals through their re-entry to the community. Jurisdictions interested in having a program would submit a grant application to the Attorney General with a description of their program’s proposed objectives, activities, and methods for data collection and progress assessment. To be approved, the prison or jail where the program would run must have expertise in security, medical health, mental health, and addiction care. Specifically, each correctional facility must show it can provide access to clinicians, a secure way to store medications, an outreach and education component to encourage participation, psychosocial counseling services, and continuity of care after release including assistance with Medicaid registration.
The grant applications would be reviewed by a panel that includes employees of the Department of Justice and of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, as well as other stakeholders with expertise on the opioid epidemic, drug treatment, and community addiction services. The programs would stay in effect for four years, after which the Attorney General may choose to grant extensions based on outcome data.