In Letter Led by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), the Senators Request an Update on Justice Department’s Implementation of the First Step Act of 2018
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr requesting an update on what the Bureau of Prisons is doing to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for incarcerated individuals, which can play a key role both in combating the opioid epidemic and reducing crime.
“As the substance misuse crisis continues to devastate communities across the United States, it is critical that we take a comprehensive approach to addressing this epidemic, including among individuals in the criminal justice system. Addressing crime, reducing recidivism, and combating substance misuse are all inextricably intertwined, and our response to this crisis must recognize this reality,” wrote the Senators. “Accordingly, we write to request an update on the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) efforts to ensure that incarcerated individuals battling substance use disorder have access to medication-assisted treatment.”
The Senators detailed how the Support for Patients and Communities Act of 2018 and the First Step Act of 2018 have promoted evidence-based treatment for substance misuse – in particular medication-assisted treatment – and called for expanded access to medication-assisted treatment for incarcerated individuals. Under the First Step Act, the Bureau of Prisons was required to submit a report to Congress on the availability and capacity of the Bureau of Prisons to provide medication-assisted treatment to incarcerated individuals, including a description of plans to expand access to medication-assisted treatment. However, as the Senators wrote, that report “did not address the use of methadone or buprenorphine, nor did it include a description of any plan to expand access to medication-assisted treatment, as required by the First Step Act.”
The Senators requested that the Department of Justice update Congress by January 17, 2020 on what it is doing to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for incarcerated individuals. Read the full letter here.