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


Data indicates recently released individuals are 129 times more likely to die from opioid overdose in first two weeks of release


Washington (June 28, 2019) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today introduced the Community Re-Entry through Addiction Treatment to Enhance (CREATE) Opportunities Act, legislation to help expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) like Suboxone 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 first two weeks of release.


Companion legislation has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2).


“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.”


“Opioid use has skyrocketed in Alaska. And for those struggling with opioid abuse or a mental health disorder who are in the criminal justice system, the transition from incarceration into their community can be incredibly difficult.  To truly break the vicious cycle of substance abuse, we must ensure those incarcerated have a path to treatment,” said Senator Murkowski. “By combining access to approved medications in combination with behavioral health therapy, we’re not just decreasing the rate of relapses, re-incarcerations, and overdoses, we’re giving those in the criminal justice system hope for a future that isn’t dictated by substance abuse.”


“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. “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.”


A copy of the CREATE Opportunities Act can be found HERE.


“Drugs do not know age, race, gender, religion or economic status and the cost of addiction is astronomical – it tears families apart, ransacks communities and undermines public safety,” said Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA) President Sheriff Grady Judd. “On behalf of the largest Sheriff’s Offices in the U.S. we endorse Senator Markey’s effort to address the lack of access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in local correctional facilities. Through the creation of a new grant program within the Department of Justice, Sheriffs will have access to funds that provide a much-needed tool for corrections and can help reduce the likelihood of overdose deaths after release. We look forward to working with Senator Markey’s office to move this bill across the finish line.”


“People exiting the criminal justice system are at high risk of overdose deaths,” said Michael Collins, Director of the Office of National Affairs at Drug Policy Alliance. “Rhode Island’s jail system has shown that offering all three MATs is a successful way of reducing fatalities. We applaud Senators Markey and Murkowski for their work on this important bill.”


“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 NSA’s Executive Director, Jonathan Thompson. “This common-sense legislation introduced by Senator Markey provides a solution to inmates lack of mental health care/medically assisted treatment, when they need it most. We commend Senator Markey’s efforts to create a grant program that can be widely accessed by both urban and rural sheriffs.”


“Counties experience the human toll of addiction every day in our communities. We are the nation’s first responders and deliver services to residents in our emergency rooms, public health departments and justice systems. As we pursue proven solutions in our fight against addiction, greater access to medication-assisted treatment is important,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “NACo applauds Senators Markey and Murkowski’s efforts to strengthen resources available to local officials, and we look forward to working with our congressional partners to reduce overdoses and addiction-related fatalities.”


“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.”


“Harm Reduction Coalition welcomes the bipartisan CREATE Act that recognizes that the provision of evidence-based medication treatment is critical to preventing painful withdrawal symptoms, relapse, overdose and increased risk of death that occurs with incarcerating people with opioid use disorder,” said Kimberly Sue, MD, PhD, Medical Director, Harm Reduction Coalition. “Provision of medication for opioid use disorder is both compassionate and the community standard of care; not providing medication such as buprenorphine or methadone therapy has been found by several judges across multiple states to be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. This legislation is an important first step in addressing structural harms contributing to the American opioid overdose crisis.”


“Research has shown that psychosocial interventions in combination with medications provide the greatest chance for success in treating substance use disorders,” CEO, Dr. Arthur C. Evans, American Psychological Association. “The American Psychological Association applauds this legislation, which will help inmates increase access to this effective form of treatment so that they can initiate and maintain recovery, increasing their chance of successful and safe reentry to their communities.”


“Sheriffs across the country are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.  Substance use is a major driver of crime and individuals leaving prison in Massachusetts are 120 times more likely to die of a fatal overdose compared to others suffering from substance use disorders,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “It is critically important sheriffs have the resources necessary to support initiatives like our Medication Assisted Treatment And Directed Opioid Recovery (MATADOR) program, which has shown proven results in increasing public safety, reducing recidivism and improving health outcomes since its launch nearly four years ago.  I want to thank Senator Markey for recognizing the urgent need to provide direct federal resources to address this public health and public safety crisis.”


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