Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. that is designed to help reduce drug-related recidivism amongst former inmates was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-4789) would require certain inmates to be offered an injection of naltrexone and a one-dose supply of naloxone prior to release from incarceration.
Naltrexone is a medication used to treat opioid use disorders through a once-per-month, injection that blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of drugs such as heroin, morphine, and codeine, as well as the euphoric effects and feeling of alcohol intoxication. Naloxone, also known as narcan, is a medication that is used to reverse an opioid overdose from drugs such as heroin and prescription pain medications.
“Opioid dependence disproportionately affects the U.S. criminal justice system population and relapse and overdose deaths occur at high rates after release from incarceration,” said Conaway (D-Burlington), a practicing physician. “Naltrexone has proven highly effective in blocking the brain’s opiate receptors and preventing triggers, so much so that it is now used in over 100 programs across 30 states. If we want to truly break the cycle of dependency and recidivism, we should be employing this as a state corrections policy.”
According to a study done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, those recovering from substance use disorder who received a Naltrexone injection once per month for six months were opiate free 90 percent of the time. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the National Re-Entry Resource Center and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, all recommend increasing the availability of medication-assisted therapy for opioid dependence in the country’s jails and prisons.
Nationally, 77 percent of released offenders find themselves re-incarcerated within five years. However, the recidivism rate among Naltrexone users is only nine percent. Extended-release naltrexone is associated with significantly lower rates of opioid relapse among men in the United States following release from jail when compared with a no medication treatment-as-usual condition.
Currently, state prisons in Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia now dispense the medication. Additionally, at least 30 jails in Alaska, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming are also offering it to departing inmates.
Conaway’s bill would require the Commissioner of Corrections to offer each inmate, on the day of their released from a state correctional facility, an injection of naltrexone and a one-dose supply of naloxone if it is determined that the injection or medication is appropriate for that inmate.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, chaired by Conaway.