Research shows treatment can reduce overdose death risk by 85-percent after release

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  To help facilitate universal access to medication treatment and reduce opioid overdose deaths, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced the release of Performance Measures for Medication-assisted Treatment in Correctional Settings. The report, authored by the Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association (LAPPA) and Rulo Strategies, provides professionals at correctional settings with a performance management framework to monitor medication treatment for opioid use disorder in correctional settings and recommends twelve performance measures to track key activities associated with corrections-based medication treatment programs and their impacts. Expanding access to evidence-based treatment, including for incarcerated people, is a key priority of President Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy, and ensuring that formerly incarcerated people receive the supportive services they need to get back on their feet is a key pillar of President Biden’s public safety strategy, set out in his Safer America Plan

“Few correctional facilities offer this gold standard treatment, yet their residents suffer from substance use disorders at higher rates than the general population,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of ONDCP, who toured Maine State Prison, which has expanded its Medications for Substance Use Disorder program to include universal access for any resident of the prison who needs treatment and provides naloxone to people upon leaving the facility.“As part of President Biden’s Strategy to beat the overdose epidemic, this Administration is working to remove barriers to evidence-based medication treatment for opioid use disorder, including for people who are incarcerated. This framework for assessing treatment outcomes in correctional settings will help prisons and jails expand access to quality treatment that has been shown to reduce risk of overdose death by 85 percent for people recently released.”

As detailed in the report, individuals in custody who have opioid use disorder may continue using opioids upon their release back to the community and are at high risk of unintentionally overdosing during the period of reentry, particularly if they return to using substances at the same rate as before their incarceration. Research indicates that when individuals are prescribed medications to treat substance use disorders while incarcerated, rates of drug use and overdoses decrease after release from prison or jail and during reentry. A growing number of correctional facilities are implementing programs that offer medications for opioid use disorder. As outlined in the report, performance measures can be used to assess whether these programs within the criminal justice system are achieving their desired outcomes.

The report outlines twelve performance measures for assessing corrections-based medication treatment for opioid use disorder, including process and outcomes measures to record program activities and track their impact. Suggested measures include rates of opioid use disorder, referrals to medication treatment, rearrests, and fatal overdoses, among others.

The research and drafting of the report were funded through ONDCP’s Model Acts Program and authored by its cooperative agreement award recipient, LAPPA. In collaboration with LAPPA, ONDCP also recently announced the release of the Model Expanded Access to Emergency Opioid Antagonists Act, a state model law that would help make access to naloxone consistent across the country; the Model Opioid Litigation Proceeds Act, a state model law that would help ensure opioid litigation settlement funds are directed to addressing addiction and the overdose epidemic in impacted communities and with public accountability; and the Model Syringe Services Program Act. Previously through this initiative, states have introduced the Model Overdose Fatality Reviews Teams Act, a LAPPA model law that would establish county-level multidisciplinary overdose fatality review that can be used to identify and respond to overdose deaths; and the Model Overdose Mapping (ODMAP) and Response Act, a LAPPA model law that would establish a system to track overdose incident reporting and improve public health and public safety responses. ONDCP most recently released the Telehealth and Substance Use Disorder Services in the Era of Covid-19: Review and Recommendations that found telehealth services can provide increased access to vulnerable individuals with substance use disorder, decrease costs, and reduce spread of communicable diseases.

Read the Biden-Harris Administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy HERE and the fact sheet HERE.

Read President’s Biden Safer America Plan HERE.


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