Bipartisan Opioid Bill Led by Kuster Receives Legislative Hearing
Watch Rep. Kuster’s remarks here.
Washington, DC - Today, Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02), founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, helped lead an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing titled, “Combating an Epidemic: Legislation to Help Patients with Substance Use Disorders.” The Committee examined Rep. Kuster’s (NH-02) bipartisan legislation, the Humane Correctional Health Care Act, which she introduced in August alongside Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). The bipartisan bill would repeal the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion, which strips health coverage from Medicaid enrollees who are involved in the criminal justice system, decreasing access to care and shifting costs to states and counties.
“What I’ve heard from many addiction experts, law enforcement and people on the frontlines is this: we cannot arrest our way out of the substance abuse epidemic in this country,” said Rep. Kuster. “If we are serious about overcoming addiction, we must treat it as a disease and not a moral failing. The Humane Correctional Health Care Act would allow justice-involved individuals to access the care they need to successfully reintegrate into their communities - including mental health and substance use disorder treatment - and save state and taxpayer dollars. I’m pleased this important, bipartisan legislation was included in today’s hearing and I urge leadership in both the Senate and House to consider it. I’ll continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure those who are struggling with addiction have the support and resources they need to recover and move forward with their lives.”
During the hearing, Kuster addressed the need for change within our criminal justice system and her work to reduce recidivism and end the cycle of addiction and incarceration. Last month, Kuster brought Ross Cunningham, the Superintendent of the Merrimack County Department of Corrections, as her guest to the State of the Union. Mr. Cunningham has worked to improve and expand access to drug-related treatment in New Hampshire’s jails and reduce recidivism from drug-related crimes. Rep. Kuster joined Sen. Cory Booker last fall to write an op-ed for the Washington Post about the Humane Correctional Health Care Act. The editorial also appeared in the Concord Monitor.
Many of those who are justice-involved have significant health needs. Approximately 60 percent of people in U.S prisons and jails meet the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD), and about 40 percent have been diagnosed with mental health disorders. Yet, very few incarcerated individuals receive adequate treatment to manage their conditions. Since the establishment of the Medicaid program in 1965, the United States prison population has grown by 650 percent: from approximately 200,000 to 1.5 million. This growth has contributed to a health care crisis that has strained the resources of states and counties, with states spending approximately $8.5 billion on insufficient health care in 2016 alone.
Watch Rep. Kuster speak in the Health Subcommittee here.