The Issue

Many people in the criminal justice system have complex, untreated health needs.   Meeting these health needs helps people establish stable, productive, and crime-free lives.  Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has been scientifically proven to help people with opioid use disorders to become and remain well. Still, it is often very difficult to access MAT in the criminal justice system.  Reforms are needed to ensure that people in the criminal justice system can receive the clinically appropriate care, medications, and supports they need. Decisions about the appropriate treatment for a person’s substance use disorder should be made by health care professionals and based on science.

Current Initiatives

  • Co-chairing and coordinating the Coalition for Whole Health to ensure the Affordable Care Act is well implemented for people with mental health and substance use disorder service needs.

Policy Recommendations

  • Coverage for all three medications: Policymakers should ensure access to all three FDA-approved substance use disorder medications – methadone, buprenorphine/naloxone, and injectable naltrexone – through all private and public insurance, including Medicaid.
  • More MAT in the justice system: Federal and state courts, prisons, jails, community corrections settings, and diversion programs should offer MAT as a treatment option whenever a physician has determined that MAT is the appropriate treatment for a person’s substance use.
  • Educated justice practitioners: Law enforcement, corrections, and court personnel should not interfere with a clinician’s judgment about what is right for a patient’s health. They should receive education and training on the nature, application, and implementation of MAT services.
  • Agencies that implement best practices: Criminal justice agencies should identify and implement best practices for providing justice-involved individuals with addiction treatment, including MAT.
  • Expanded service infrastructure and improved linkages: Successful MAT programs should be replicated and brought to scale. As jails and prisons are among the largest providers of mental health and addiction services in the country, it is critical that they fully integrate MAT as an essential treatment tool, and link people to community-based treatment when released.

Learn More

To learn more about this issue, visit our Medication-Assisted Treatment Resources.

To learn more about LAC’s impact, see our Accomplishments.

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