Senators Markey, Murkowski and Representative Kuster Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Expand Access to Opioid Treatment in Correctional Facilities

U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced the reintroduction of the Community Re-Entry through Addiction Treatment to Enhance (CREATE) Opportunities Act, bipartisan legislation to create a new federal grant program to support opioid-use disorder (OUD) treatment at state and local correctional facilities. Representative Ann Kuster (NH-2) will introduce identical legislation in the House of Representatives.

The CREATE Opportunities Act establishes the Medication-Assisted Treatment Corrections and Community Reentry Program at the Department of Justice. This program would allow state and local governments to apply directly to the federal government for additional funding to support life-saving treatment for individuals dealing with OUD in correctional facilities. Grant recipients would have to offer at least two federally-approved drugs for the treatment of opioid-use disorder and employ a certified recovery coach to help support individuals in recovery. The legislation has also been included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 3.0, bipartisan and bicameral legislation introduced earlier this year by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Representatives Kuster, David Trone (MD-06), and David McKinley (WV-01).

“Ensuring individuals in jails and prisons can access effective treatment for opioid-use disorder is critical to bringing an end to suffering from the opioid epidemic. Our bill provides federal funding to help expand evidence-based treatment that will save lives, keep people with opioid-use disorder in treatment, and reduce recidivism,” said Senator Markey. “By taking a public health approach to opioid-use disorder in prisons and jails, we can begin to break the cycle of addiction that upends so many lives. I am pleased to partner with Senator Murkowski and Rep. Kuster on this important bipartisan legislation.”

“Over the past few years, the opioid epidemic has hit states across the nation incredibly hard—including Alaska. We’ve worked aggressively to provide resources and support to help those struggling with opioid abuse to fully recover, but there is always more work that can be done,” said Senator Murkowski. “For many individuals who are in the criminal justice system and also struggling with opioid abuse or a mental health condition, the transition from incarceration back into their community can be challenging. By ensuring access to medically assisted treatments not only within prisons, but throughout an inmate’s reentry process, we are far more likely to see fewer relapses, overdoses, and recidivism. I’m glad to be working to build out greater access to these resources to give individuals in the criminal justice system an opportunity for a future free from substance abuse.”

“Far too many justice-involved individuals in our jails suffer from untreated mental health and substance use disorder, and most lack access to the treatment they need,” said Representative Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health 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. The CREATE Opportunities Act is commonsense legislation to provide an evidence-based solution to put an end to the cycle between addiction and the criminal justice system, and I am proud to help reintroduce it.”

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

Over 69,000 Americans died from a drug overdose involving opioids in 2020, an all-time record. As the opioid crisis continues to ravage the United States, connecting individuals in correctional facilities with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help save lives and ensure more individuals with substance-use disorder sustain recovery. According to one study, recently released individuals are 129 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose in the first two weeks of release. Data shows that providing MAT in prisons and jails dramatically reduces the risk of death from drug overdose upon re-entry.

The CREATE Opportunities Act is endorsed by the Major County Sheriffs Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, AIDS United, the American Psychological Association, and the National Sheriffs Association.

“The Major County Sheriffs of America applauds Senators Markey and Murkowski for their continued commitment to ensuring that individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder have access to treatment in correctional facilities.  The CREATE Opportunities Act will provide critical resources to expand opioid treatment, support our efforts to confront the opioid crisis and improve outcomes for those suffering with substance use disorders,” said Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, President, MCSA.

“ASAM commends Senators Markey and Murkowski for their efforts to provide evidence-based addiction treatment to people with addiction who have been incarcerated,” said William F. Haning, III, MD, DLFAPA, DFASAM, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). “The CREATE Opportunities Act would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice for state and local governments to cover and provide evidence-based opioid use disorder treatments, including medications, in their correctional facilities and connect these individuals with continued treatment upon release into the community.  This legislation will save lives.”