Press Releases

Reps. Kuster, Blunt Rochester, Turner and Walorski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment in Correctional Facilities

Providing MAT in correctional facilities can help reduce opioid overdose deaths upon re-entry by 60 percent

Washington, DC, June 26, 2019

Today, Reps. Annie Kuster (D-NH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Mike Turner (R-OH), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced H.R. 3496, the Community Re-Entry through Addiction Treatment to Enhance (CREATE) Opportunities Act, legislation to help expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for justice-involved individuals. This legislation would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice for state and local governments to provide MAT in their correctional facilities. The program would require grantees to provide more than one MAT option and to develop a plan for connecting individuals to continued treatment upon release into the community. Data indicates recently released individuals are 129 times more likely to die from opioid overdose in the first two weeks of release.

Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Rep. Kuster originally introduced this legislation last year during the 115th Congress.

“Too many incarcerated individuals in our jails suffer from untreated mental health and substance use disorder, and most lack access to the treatment they need,” said Rep. Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force. “Medication assisted treatment (MAT) has an important role to play in helping incarcerated individuals suffering from substance use disorder recover and reclaim their lives to become productive, contributing members of our society. Reducing recidivism is a win for our communities: it’s good for public safety, public health, and budgets. The CREATE Opportunities Act is commonsense legislation to provide a commonsense solution to put an end to the cycle between addiction and the criminal justice system.”

“Our local jails are on the frontlines of the response to the nation’s opioid overdose crisis,” said Senator Markey. “Too often, our local jails witness some of the most devastating impacts of the opioid crisis, but don’t have the resources to mount a robust and appropriate response. My bill would help change that. We know we cannot incarcerate our way out of this crisis. Instead, we must rehabilitate in order to reduce recidivism and save lives. Providing reliable access to evidence-based treatment within correctional facilities will help counties and states respond to this crisis like the public health issue that it is. I thank Senator Murkowski and Representative Kuster for their partnership in this endeavor.”

“For years I have worked on a bipartisan basis to combat the deadly opioid crisis,” said Congressman Turner. “I am proud to co-sponsor the CREATE Opportunities Act to help improve access to substance abuse treatment for incarcerated individuals. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation to get us closer towards ending this deadly epidemic.”

“It is increasingly clear that our correctional facilities are exacerbating one of the worst public health emergencies the country has ever seen,” said Blunt Rochester. “The failure to provide the resources needed to properly treat mental health and substance use disorder in our correctional facilities allows this crisis to continue unabated. While we continue to work together as a nation to address the opioid and heroin epidemic, I urge my colleagues to provide the evidence-based, medication-assisted treatment and recovery services we know work during incarceration and after release. We have already lost so many of our loved ones due to a lack of appropriate care in our criminal justice system. We must prioritize the resources correctional facilities need so we don’t lose generations to come. I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for taking this important step to addressing a crucial part of this crisis.”

“As communities across the country face the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic, we have to keep working together to advance prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “State, county, and local law enforcement agencies should have access to the tools and resources they need to combat the opioid crisis. This bipartisan bill would support evidence-based solutions to treat addiction and make our communities safer.”

“Cheshire County is very excited by the opportunity Congresswoman Kuster’s MAT Bill brings to those individuals currently in our correction facility,” said Cheshire County Administrator, Chris Coates. “As the Congresswoman is aware after touring our facility here in Cheshire County, 88% of inmates have a substance abuse disorder, it is why Cheshire County Department of Corrections has developed one of the first MAT Programs in the State of NH. Congresswoman Kuster’s MAT bill will only enhance programmatic growth and opportunity so to support those in our care that are struggling with addiction.”  

“In jails across America, sheriffs see first-hand the devastating impacts that the mental health crisis and the opioid epidemic have on their communities, said National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director, Jonathan Thompson. “This common-sense legislation introduced by Congresswoman Kuster provides a solution to inmates’ lack of mental health care/medically assisted treatment, when they need it most. We commend Congresswoman Kuster’s efforts to create a grant program that can be widely accessed by both urban and rural sheriffs.”

“Today ASAM commends Senators Markey and Murkowski for their efforts to provide evidence-based addiction treatment to people with opioid use disorder who have been incarcerated,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). “The CREATE Opportunities Act would establish a much-needed federal grant program that can provide addiction treatment access during incarceration and warm handoffs to community-based care upon release that will significantly reduce the risk of opioid-related overdose.  In short, this legislation will save lives.”

Organizations endorsing the legislation include: American Society of Addiction Medicine, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, Drug Policy Alliance, Harm Reduction Coalition, AIDS United, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Council for Behavioral Health, SMART Recovery, Center on Addiction + Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Young People in Recovery, National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery, American Psychological Association, CADA of Northwest Louisiana, Connecticut Certification Board.

Congresswoman Kuster has been outspoken in her support of MAT, visiting the Cheshire County Department of Corrections (DOC) last week to discuss MAT programming for inmates and pre-trial detainees. In 2018, she hosted a bipartisan discussion on efforts to expand access to medication assisted treatment for incarcerated adults.

The text of the legislation can be viewed here.