In California, opioid and heroin use is a major threat to public health, and is the leading cause of death for those under 50. It’s a major cause of crime, and contributes directly to high recidivism rates in our prison system.
That’s why I’ve introduced Assembly Bill 1304 (AB 1304), co-authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D – Santa Ana), which will provide Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for eligible parolees who volunteer to participate. MAT is an innovative treatment program that uses medications combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. Findings reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse clearly show that providing criminal offenders with substance use treatment reduces drug abuse, crime and reincarceration. In addition, by following the prescribed MAT regimen, death rates from opioid overdoses can be cut by more than half.
Under AB 1304, incentives to participate in the program will include reductions in length of parole. Parolees will be screened, and only those deemed eligible will be allowed into the program after they’ve served their prison sentences. A similar program was started In Kentucky in 2016, with proven results that include an overall drop in recidivism, along with reduced illegal drug and alcohol use. California’s costs will be minimal, since the program will be supported through a State Opioid Response Grant, provided by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
The costs associated with drug abuse are incalculable. Crime, homelessness, lost job productivity, broken families, suicides, are all part of the massive societal cost of drug abuse in our state and nation. We can help drug-addicted criminal offenders re-enter society as productive citizens by removing them from the cycle of addiction and dependency. In this time of huge budget deficits, we can also reduce the costly burden of recidivism on the state’s corrections system.