SB 846 — Public Health – Correctional Services – Opioid Use Disorder Examinations and Treatment

Committee: Senate Finance

Position: SUPPORT

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 846 ensures a variety of options should be made available for use in correctional facilities other than only methadone detoxification for inmates diagnosed with opioid use disorder, including “medication-assisted treatment (MAT) when appropriate”.

It is vital that inmates and detainees have access to the care that they need to recover or manage substance use issues. This bill provides for this and also ensures a level of nuance when it comes to prescribing the most appropriate remedy. Senate Bill 846 ensures that those diagnosed with opioid use disorder be offered treatment within 24 hours after proper assessment. The 24-hour rule also extends to those being released as treatment must be resumed within that time period. By doing so, it is ensured that those facing opioid use disorder throughout and after their time in incarceration are not disadvantaged in their treatment by their sentence coming to an end, meaning that the treatment is more likely to be successful overall. Inmates released from prison without MAT have more than 10 times higher risk of dying from overdose in the first 2 weeks following their release than the general population (Binswanger et al., 2007; Merrall et al., 2010). MAT significantly reduces post release overdose deaths (Bird et al., 2015; Gisev et al., 2015).

The past 20 years have seen significant increases in the numbers of individuals incarcerated or under other forms of criminal justice supervision in the United States. These numbers are staggering—approximately 7.1 million adults in the United States are under some form of criminal justice supervision. An estimated one-half of all prisoners meet the criteria for diagnosis of drug abuse or dependence (Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics; 2005.) This thorough treatment will benefit a very large number of returning citizens.

The Conference supports this effort to improve the criminal justice system’s response to the epidemic of opioid use disorder and to ensure immediate assessment and access to treatment with the patient’s consent. For these reasons, we respectfully requests a favorable report on Senate Bill 846.