In September, Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014, bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The bill would provide incentives and resources to state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations for substance use treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts.
According to Sen. Portman, the bill would:
- broaden prevention and educational efforts to curb the use of opioids and heroin;
- increase the availability of naloxone— a medication that reverses the effect of opioid overdose—to law enforcement agencies and other first responders;
- strengthen resources to identify and treat people who are incarcerated and have substance use disorders;
- launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program to inform best practices around the country;
- expand disposal sites for prescription medications; and
- improve prescription drug monitoring programs in states.
The legislation was informed by forums that Sens. Portman and Whitehouse hosted in April and July to examine the issues, challenges, and best practices for addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery in the United States. The Women and Addiction Forum in July focused on women, addiction, and motherhood; effective treatments for addiction; and the role of trauma as a contributing factor to addiction, relapse, and recidivism. National experts, community-based service providers, and women in recovery discussed focusing on gender-responsive, trauma-specific services for women with substance use disorders. Several panelists indicated that screening for criminogenic risks and needs should be a part of the screening and assessment process for women involved with the justice system.
Sens. Ayotte and Klobuchar joined Sens. Portman and Whitehouse in hosting the July forum. The four senators and Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, opened the forum by speaking about the importance of focusing on gender-responsive and family-centered services for women and their families, and the effects of the opioid epidemic on communities.
The Addiction and Criminal Justice Forum, held in April, brought together community leaders, treatment professionals, and experts in criminal justice to discuss the link between substance use disorders and recidivism. There is a high rate of individuals with substance use issues in the criminal justice system, with approximately half of individuals in jails and prison having a diagnosable substance use disorder.
The speakers at the forum included Sens. Portman and Whitehouse and Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont. Gov. Shumlin detailed the toll the opioid epidemic has taken on his state, and highlighted incarceration as having a greater economic burden on taxpayers than providing necessary substance use disorder treatment.
In December, Sens. Portman and Whitehouse will host a third forum focusing on the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. The goal of this series of forums is to help identify a strategy to elevate and advance addiction treatment and recovery in criminal justice settings. The key findings and recommendations will be summarized in a report following the series.
 Compton et al., “The Effect of Inmate Populations on Estimates of DSM-IV Alcohol and Drug Use Disorders in the United States,” American Journal of Psychiatry 167.4 (2010): 473-474.