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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

New Legislation Introduced to Increase MAT Access in Correctional Facilities

July 25, 2019 | Addictions | Justice | Comments
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More than 50 percent of incarcerated individuals in the U.S. meet criteria for substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD). Last month, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to increase treatment for OUD among incarcerated individuals and address the issue that inmates are 40 times more likely to die from a fatal opioid overdose in the first two weeks following release. The Community Re-Entry through Addiction Treatment to Enhance (CREATE) Opportunities Act (S. 1983) would establish a grant program to provide more medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options while incarcerated and continued access to care upon release.


Individuals with SUD and OUD are more likely to come in contact with the criminal justice system. The opioid overdose crisis remains a challenge for states and often times jails and prisons become de facto treatment centers for individuals with opioid addiction. MAT in conjunction with behavioral therapy is considered the gold standard of treating opioid addiction, and the criminal justice system needs more resources to ensure proper access to these evidence-based approaches. Research has shown that treating justice-involved individuals for addiction decreases recidivism and improves health outcomes, while failing to treat addiction contributes to higher rates of overdose and related deaths.


This new legislation introduced in the Senate, with a House companion bill (H.R. 3496) introduced by Representative Ann Kuster (D-NH), would:

  • Create a $50 million grant program through the Department of Justice for each year from FY2020 through FY2023. This would allow states and local governments to develop, implement, or expand programs to provide MAT in prisons and jails.
  • Make more medications available, as programs would be required to offer two or more drugs that have been approved for the treatment of OUD.
  • Require that staff with proper training related to addiction are available to provide services such as education, medication prescription and administration, screening, counseling, recovery support, and withdrawal management.
  • Address the increased risk of overdose for newly released individuals by connecting them to continued MAT treatment upon their release.

The National Council, along with 20 other organizations in the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose, supports the increased access to MAT among this vulnerable population to provide a better chance at a healthy, productive life. Read the press release here.