In 2011, federal courts ruled that California prisons were overcrowded -- populations had to be reduced. As a result, Assembly Bill 109 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The state’s prison system was “realigned,” meaning the responsibility to incarcerate, monitor and track lower-level offenders would now rest with the counties, not the state.
80 percent of incarcerated felons have Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), and in the San Diego region alone, 1 in 3 arrestees in 2018 tested positive for more than one drug. But county jails weren’t funded or equipped to hold felons serving long sentences, and they lacked programs necessary to treat/counsel incarcerated individuals in jails and those under supervised release from prison.
Last year, I introduced AB 653 establishing a grant for counties to provide drug counseling and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for inmates under county supervision. MAT is an innovative treatment that uses medications combined with counseling that has proven effective at reducing drug overdoses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, providing criminal offenders with substance use treatment cuts drug abuse and can reduce opioid overdose deaths by more than half.
AB 653 passed in 2021, but funding for counties to implement the programs was contingent upon future revenues. I’m happy to report that during this budget cycle I was able to acquire $10 million for counties to fund MAT programs throughout California.
The costs associated with drug abuse are incalculable. Crime, homelessness, broken families, suicides, are all part of the massive societal cost of substance use disorder in our state. We can help drug-addicted criminal offenders re-enter society as productive citizens by removing them from the cycle of addiction and dependency. MAT programs save lives. They also reduce crime, recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars. That $10 million will go a long way.