Roadmap for Promoting Health and Justice

A Smarter, More Effective National Drug and Alcohol Policy

Legal Action Center is the only non-profit law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas. For four decades, LAC has worked to combat the stigma and prejudice that keep these individuals out of the mainstream of society. The Legal Action Center is committed to helping people reclaim their lives, maintain their dignity, and participate fully in society as productive, responsible citizens.

This report is a product of the Legal Action Center’s Arthur Liman Policy Institute. We are deeply grateful to the Open Society Foundations, National Council of Behavioral Health and the Liman family for their support. A list of the Legal Action Center’s funders for the full range of our legal and policy advocacy can be found on our website. Visit LAC’s website at

Letter from LAC Director Paul Samuels

Greetings, Legal Action Center, the only nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for the rights of people with drug and alcohol histories, criminal records, and HIV/AIDS, is pleased to release this Roadmap for Promoting Health and Justice: A Smarter, More Effective National Drug and Alcohol Policy. The Roadmap provides a comprehensive and detailed set of recommendations for improving our national drug and alcohol policies to improve health and public safety and save lives and resources. As we move into the 2016 election season, we hope this Roadmap will guide policymakers, thought leaders and campaigns in their decision-making and discussion of these issues.

In 2008, after consultation with leading stakeholders, Legal Action Center released the Roadmap for Smarter and More Effective Alcohol and Drug Policies. A number of the 2008 Roadmap’s major recommendations have become the law of the land. Our lead recommendation – inclusion of good coverage of substance use services in health care reform – was mandated in the Affordable Care Act.  Our recommendation that government and the private sector roll back laws and practices that discriminate against people in recovery from addiction was included for the first time in the President’s 2012 National Drug Control Strategy. The federal government and many states have taken important steps to reduce discrimination in employment, housing and higher education.

As a result of these historic reforms and earlier breakthroughs like passage of the Wellstone Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, the United States is poised to prevent and treat substance use problems and promote recovery much more effectively than ever before.  We now have the best opportunity we will ever have to prevent young people from beginning unhealthy substance use, to make a major dent in the nearly 90 percent treatment gap between the 21.5 million Americans who need care and the 2.3 million who actually receive it, and to end discrimination against those who have overcome or still suffer from this terrible disease.

Strong partnerships with Presidents, Congress and states were integral to winning these victories, and continued bipartisan support will be key to further progress. It is exciting to see that in state after state, and in our nation’s capital, there is constructive, bipartisan work on these issues. The tremendous need for reform, driven especially by the devastation of the heroin/opioid epidemic and other drug and alcohol addiction, alongside huge opportunities for improvement, have brought concerned Americans from many walks of life into the conversation. Improving our nation’s drug and alcohol policies will make our communities healthier, our families stronger, and our neighborhoods safer, and lift up people who were previously marginalized. This Roadmap will advance two major goals:

  1. Provide the full range of proven prevention, treatment, and recovery services to 1 million more Americans over the next five years.
  2. Eliminate or modify the thousands of criminal record barriers that fall disproportionately on people with substance use disorders.

We look forward with great excitement to working with families, advocates, policymakers, service providers and other concerned Americans to greatly expand addiction prevention, treatment and recovery in the coming years.

Paul%20Samuels.jpeg-2Paul Samuels, President and Director of Legal Action Center

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Two Goals for the Roadmap


Provide the full range of proven prevention, treatment, and recovery services to 1 million more Americans over the next five years.


Eliminate or modify the thousands of criminal record barriers that fall disproportionately on people with substance use disorders.

Americans Support Expanding Addiction Treatment

Survey Results Show Addressing Addiction Should be a Top Priority for the Next President

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Download the 2008 Roadmap

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At a Glance

Recommendations to Strengthen the Health Responses to Addiction

  • Ensure Strong Coverage of and Access to Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health (SUD/MH) Services and Medications in Private Insurance
  • Provide Strong Coverage of and Access to SUD/MH Services and Medications in Medicaid and other Public Insurance
  • Invest in the SUD Service Infrastructure
  • Provide Strong Coverage for and Access to SUD/MH Care for Justice-Involved Individuals
  • Preserve the Safety Net for the Continuum of SUD Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Support Services
  • Strengthen Substance Use Prevention
  • Expand Research on Substance Use Disorders

Recommendations to Eliminate Discrimination Against People with Drug/Alcohol and Criminal Histories

  • Protect People in Early Recovery or Entering Treatment from Discrimination
  • Ensure People with Histories of SUD or Drug Convictions Can Access Public Benefits and Restore Voting Rights
  • Improve Access to Housing For People with Criminal Records
  • Promote Educational Opportunities for People with Criminal Records
  • Increase Employment of People with Criminal Records
  • Relieve People of Collateral Consequences
  • Improve Reentry Planning and Services
  • Expand the use of Alternatives to Incarceration
  • Pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act

Quick Facts

Million Americans Need Substance Use Treatment Services


Actually Receive Substance Use Treatment

Million Americans Who Admit Misusing Prescription Drugs

Deaths a Day from Prescription Drug Overdoses

Million Americans Have a Criminal Record

Thousand Collateral Consequences Continue to Punish Them