The ongoing opioid epidemic is once again seeing more combative stances from local politicians. New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, a previous member of the New York State Heroin and Opioid Task Force (NYSHOTF), recently announced the disbursement of $5 million in funding as part of a new bill requiring that Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) services be offered in county jails across New York state.
"This bill is an important tool as we fight substance abuse and the opioid crisis," Hochul stated of the funding. "By providing substance use disorder services to incarcerated individuals in both state and local correctional settings, individuals will have the opportunity to treat their addiction and return to healthy and productive lives."
The new legislation necessitates the creation of MAT programs for those incarcerated in correctional facilities. The programs will allow those incarcerated to receive therapies and medications aimed at treating their individual addictions, with a long-term goal of reducing the probability they will return to drugs or overdose upon release back into society.
"No person battling a substance use disorder should be left without access to lifesaving treatment, incarcerated or not,” New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal noted of the funding. “By signing my legislation into law mandating medication assisted treatment in all state and local correctional facilities, New York State has signaled that addiction should be treated as a public health issue, not a moral one. This additional funding that has been allocated by the Governor to our local jails will help to implement robust treatment programs quickly that will save countless lives."
In addition to MAT treatment, the funding will also establish other services within the state prison system, including screening, assessment, clinical services, peer services, case management, and other services as appropriate.
"I was pleased to co-sponsor this bill that would allow incarcerated individuals with certain substance use disorders the opportunity to participate in a medication assisted treatment program; a better avenue for the men and women facing addiction,” Chair of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Assemblymember Phil Steck said of the funding. “Thank you to the sponsors and to Governor Hochul for recognizing the importance of these services."
This new round of funding brings the total supplied by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) to local jails to $8.81 million. Funding amounts will vary by county and are generally expected to be based on the jail population size and individual counties will also have more flexibility when it comes to funding use.
"In order to truly turn the tide on the opioid crisis, we must treat it like the public health emergency it is and do everything in our power to ensure help reaches those in greatest need,” remarked New York State Senator Jamaal Bailey. “For far too long, New York's criminal justice system has been painfully overlooked in efforts to combat the opioid crisis that has ravaged communities in the Bronx and across the state. We are taking a historic step to establish a comprehensive care model and expand access to lifesaving treatment for incarcerated New Yorkers struggling with substance use. This funding will save countless lives, close the equity gap in health care access for incarcerated individuals, reduce recidivism, and help individuals return to their communities whole. I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing this piece of legislation and the Office of Addiction Services and Support for providing additional funding to address this crisis."
The funding continues to support New York State’s aggressive stance towards the opioid epidemic, expanding on the goals of increasing access to full prevention, treatment, and recovery services, as well as more traditional services, including crisis services, inpatient, outpatient, MAT, mobile treatment services, transportation services, and residential treatment programs.
"Fighting the overdose crisis in New York must include making medication-assisted treatment available for incarcerated individuals in correctional facilities statewide and providing them with recovery programs and services,” commented Chair of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Senator Pete Harckham. “I applaud Governor Hochul and bill sponsors Senator Bailey and Assemblymember Rosenthal for expanding this effective mode of treatment for opioid addiction, knowing that the health of incarcerated residents is the state's responsibility."