Five U.S. senators announced a bill to strengthen grant programming that supports addiction treatment in state prisons.
The Supporting Treatment and Recovery Over Narcotics for Growth, Empowerment, and Rehabilitation (STRONGER) Act reauthorizes and improves the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners (RSAT) program. It adds more funding for training the state officials who oversee these programs and beefs up clinical quality requirements.
“We should encourage our prisons to create a path for inmates to rebuild their lives free of addiction,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said in a news release. “By starting the road to recovery while incarcerated and continuing it afterward, we are giving these Americans a second chance for a new life.”
If passed, the STRONGER Act would reauthorize the RSAT program for five federal fiscal years ending in 2029.
The other senators backing the bill include U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
The RSAT program, created by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, provides states with funding and guidance to provide addiction treatment to incarcerated people while serving their time. The funding also backs community-based aftercare and post-release treatment.
These services may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), other mental health services, as well as employment and transitional housing.
The grant funding and relevant regulations would be expanded to allow pre-trial treatment, according to a release. The STRONGER Act has not yet been published on Congress’s legislation website.
The bill would also require the state prison’s addiction treatment programs to adhere more closely to clinical standards, have greater familiarity with addiction science, ensure partner providers can offer a spectrum of services to mitigate relapse and require potential infrastructure changes to ensure quality care. The bill would provide funding for additional training and other improvements.
Several member organizations have blessed the bill, according to the release. These include the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD), Mental Health America (MHA), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
The prison system is getting more attention from policymakers as it is seen as a vital intersection and often a stumbling block for many facing addiction. About 85% of the prison population has a SUD. About a year ago, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rolled out a new demonstration program allowing states to provide Medicaid to people while incarcerated.
County-level programs that provide care to the incarcerated may also benefit from the various opioid settlement agreements underway in the federal courts.