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Shelley Starkey

Tonko, Turner Reintroduce Bipartisan Addiction Treatment Bill

March 8, 2019 | Justice | Medicaid | Comments
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A bipartisan bill that would allow states to restart Medicaid coverage for eligible incarcerated individuals up to 30 days before their release from jail or prison was introduced this week by Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Michael Turner (R-OH). The Medicaid Reentry Act (H.R. 1329) is an important step toward improving access to much-needed mental health and substance use services for one of the most vulnerable populations in the country.

Research suggests that individuals who are released back into the community following incarceration are particularly vulnerable during this reentry period. The first two weeks after leaving prison have been shown to be the most dangerous, with released individuals being roughly 129 times more likely to die of a drug overdose during this time compared to the general population. With the opioid crisis continuing to claim lives across America, ensuring timely and high-quality coverage for substance use disorder treatment is critical.

This bill would expand upon a previous measure signed into law last year as part of a sweeping package of legislation aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic. A provision of the SUPPORT Act directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue guidance highlighting best practices for transitions of care for incarcerated individuals. H.R. 1329 would give states the authority to act upon these recommendations.

“Solving America’s growing opioid crisis requires that we take bold steps to treat addiction where we find it,” said Rep. Tonko upon introduction of the bill. “Empowering states to deliver needed addiction treatment to individuals as they transition out of the criminal justice system not only helps combat the spread of this painful disease, it also makes our communities safer, saves money over the long term, and delivers vital services to a truly vulnerable group of people and families, many of whom have lost dearly at the hands of this disease.”

The National Council applauds Reps. Tonko and Turner for their leadership on this important issue.