On Tuesday, Natasha Mehu testified on the sponsor panel of HB 116 Public Health – Correctional Services – Opioid Use Disorder Examinations and Treatment.
As Maryland continues to be plagued with an opioid epidemic, this bill would help to ensure that those who are receiving medication-assisted treatment for their opioid use disorder continue to receive said treatment once incarcerated.
From the MACo Testimony:
HB 116 would require that all jails and prisons in the state provide inmates with access to FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of opioid use disorders. This includes at least one full opioid agonist (e.g. methadone), one partial agonist (e.g. buprenorphine), and one long-acting antagonist (e.g. naltrexone). It creates a framework for evidence-based screening and assessments and provides comprehensive holistic support by coupling MAT with behavioral health counseling and therapies. The bill also requires plans to assist inmates in connecting with treatment upon reentry into the community and requires annual collection and reporting of data on the program.
Importantly, this bill appropriately commits the State to funding the opioid use disorder screening, evaluation, and treatment for inmates in state and local facilities. As with many aspects of the criminal justice system, state and local partnership are necessary for successful and effective programs. Currently, there is a patchwork of treatment options on the local level — where jails provide treatment it is usually through a targeted grant or in limited partnership with their local health department. No local jail currently offers the full scope of services HB 116 envisions. A program on this scale cannot work equitably with piecemeal fiscal support, varying by jurisdiction. State funding ensures that resources are spread to each jurisdiction to support a consistent and strong system across the state.
For more on 2019 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.