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Trainees, Faculty Advocated for New Law that Provides More Treatment for Opioid Addiction in Prisons

July 08, 2019

Legislation pushed by Yale Department of Psychiatry trainees and faculty that provides more treatment for opioid addicted jail and prison inmates in Connecticut has been signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont.

The bill provides up to $8 million in new funding over two years for medication-assisted treatment for up to 1,200 new patients, including $2 million in the 2020 fiscal year and $6 million in fiscal year 2021.

Medication-assisted treatment combines the use of medications to reduce cravings for illegal opioids with specialized counseling and other supports. Half of all overdose deaths in Connecticut are among formerly-incarcerated people, but today many inmates have no access to treatment.

A group of Yale Psychiatry trainees and faculty worked with a team from Yale Law School to push the legislation forward through oral and written testimony before lawmakers. Among those who contributed to the effort were faculty members Katherine “Kiki” Kennedy, MD, and Bachaar Arnaout, MD. They were assisted by trainees Falisha Gilman, MD; Will Rutland, MD, JD, MPH; Jessica Chaffkin, MD; Emma Lo, MD; and Sarah Baker, MD, MA.

Advocates say the program will save lives. In Rhode Island, a similar program reduced overdoses following release by 60 percent.

Treatment also reduces recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars, they say. Patients who receive treatment are less likely to relapse, more likely to hold a job, and less likely to commit a crime. One recent study estimated that every dollar spent on treatment saves $1.80 by reducing crime and avoiding costs in other parts of the health care system.

Last year the American Correctional Association and American Society of Addiction Medicine released a joint statement endorsing the use of medication-assisted treatment.

Connecticut will become the third state to create a broad-based program, following Rhode Island and Vermont. Other states, including Maryland and New York, have recently passed or are currently considering legislation to expand access to treatment.

Read Rutland’s op-ed about the new program in The Hartford Courant.

Submitted by Christopher Gardner on July 08, 2019