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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 24, 2017 02:32 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Criminal Justice and Addiction Treatment Act
I will be re-introducing Senate Bill 870 from last session, which enacts the Criminal Justice and Addiction Treatment Act.

Seventy percent of our inmate population has substance abuse problems. If we can address substance abuse in society generally, we can lower the prison population and attending costs. My legislation is based on two reports issued by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University – Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population (February, 2010) and Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap between Science and Practice (June, 2012).

Behind Bars II found that drugs and alcohol were a major factor in all crime. Illegal drugs played a part in three quarters of incarcerations while alcohol was connected in the imprisonment of more than half of all inmates in the United States. The report indicates that “In order to meet the health needs of substance-involved offenders and reduce crime and its cost to society, the criminal justice system must address risky substance use as a preventable health problem and addictive disorders as medical problems.” It further states “Addressing the substance use issues of the criminal justice population can save billions in government dollars each year:… If less than 11 percent of those who receive such services remain substance and crime free and employed – a conservative success rate – the investment would more than pay for itself one year post release.”

The second report, Addiction Medicine, found that most providers of addiction treatment are not medical professionals and lack the skill and expertise to deliver evidence-based treatment and services. The report concluded that “the vast majority of people in need of addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.” The report also stated, “Only a small fraction of individuals receive interventions or treatment consistent with scientific knowledge about what works.”

My bill contains a number of the recommendations outlined in these reports including providing for a comprehensive pre-release plan for inmates with substance use disorders to assure transition to a wide range of integrated reentry services; educating and training government-funded professionals (i.e., law enforcement, criminal justice personnel) who come into contact with individuals engaged in risky substance use, and health care professionals in addressing risky substance use and addiction; requiring treatment programs and providers to utilize evidence-based prevention and treatment approaches; and requiring insurers to provide coverage for screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment − an effective method to intervene in alcohol and drug misuse.

The measure also provides that a defendant, at the time of arraignment, shall undergo screening for substance abuse and addiction. At the time of setting bail, the court may include drug and alcohol treatment as a condition of bail. In addition, the bill establishes continuing education requirements to train licensees (i.e., physicians, psychiatrists) on the best practices of prescribing controlled substances.

The effective delivery of drug and alcohol services and treatment will help to reduce correctional and health care costs. Behind Bars II states “An overwhelming body of evidence exists documenting that substance use disorders are preventable and treatable health conditions, and that cost effective screening, intervention and treatment options are available that can be administered effectively through the criminal justice system. Implementing these options can save taxpayers millions of dollars and reduce crime.” Addiction Medicine reveals that “addiction and risky use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs constitute the largest preventable and most costly health problems facing the U.S. today.” Substance abuse is such a driving force in the criminal culture that all of these provisions could play a part in reducing the number of addicts and, ultimately, the prison population.

Introduced as SB860