State Leaders Convene for Strategies on Drug Treatment and Recovery for Justice-Involved Populations

National Governors Association Workshops in Ohio and Louisiana Spotlight Medication Assisted Treatment in Criminal Justice System

The National Governors Association (NGA) brought together nine states in Cleveland, Ohio, and New Orleans, Louisiana, this week for regional workshops to share best practices for improving medication assisted treatment (MAT) inside correctional settings and upon reentry back into communities.

MAT refers to the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, which has been shown to be effective in treatment and sustaining recovery from opioid use disorders. According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 75 percent of people who were in prison or jail with an opioid use disorder experience a relapse to opioid use within three months.

These multi-state workshops, cohosted by the American Correctional Association (ACA) and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), brought together corrections, public health, Medicaid and reentry leaders from executive branches and key state partners to discuss how to improve access to MAT services, foster care coordination and reentry processes, and identify potential models for implementation.

Representatives from Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia participated in the workshops. Additionally, state officials from Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington served as faculty experts.

“NGA’s opioid program continues to support states in their efforts to address vulnerable populations, such as justice-involved individuals,” said Jeff McLeod, director of NGA Homeland Security and Public Safety. “We are honored to work with these nine states and their governor’s offices in seeking to strengthen MAT options, improve health outcomes, and maintain public safety in communities.”

“States are leading on expanding NGA Health access to MAT and ensuring a continuity of care in communities for returning residents,” said Hemi Tewarson, director of NGA Health. “We are so pleased to support governors and their teams to identify and implement innovative policies to reduce opioid-related overdoses and improve lives, through Medicaid and other programs.”

“Corrections agencies across the country are mobilizing to address substance use disorder issues for incarcerated populations,” said Dr. Elizabeth Gondles, director of the Office of Correctional Health at ACA. “At these workshops, correctional leaders from these states built on existing partnerships with health and other state agencies and identified actionable next steps to take home to their states.”