Madden bill to expand jail access to opioid addiction treatment medication passed by House

HARRISBURG, July 7 – A successful but limited grant program proven to save lives moved one step closer to expansion with Friday’s passage of a bill from state Rep. Maureen Madden.

The Monroe County Democrat authored H.B. 1515, which would expand the Non-Narcotic Medication Assisted Substance Abuse Treatment Grant Program to include all FDA-approved medications for the treatment of substance use disorder, commonly known as medication-assisted treatment or MAT.

Currently, the program, which was founded via Act 80 in 2015, allows county jails to access only naltrexone, otherwise known as Vivitrol, to incarcerated individuals experiencing a substance use disorder. The legislation would allow Pennsylvania’s county jails to access all forms of FDA-approved medications that may be even more effective in successfully treating SUD.

Newer medications, like the long-acting injectable buprenorphine, also known as Sublocade, have proven to be highly effective in treating those suffering from addiction, Madden said.

“My bill opens the grant program so that county jails, if they choose to do so, have greater flexibility in terms of medication options for individuals who are overcoming addiction while incarcerated and before release,” she said. “There are also more provably successful medications soon expected to become available that can be even more effective.”

As of 2020, an average of 14 Pennsylvanians die every day from an overdose. In the U.S. prison population, roughly 65% of individuals have an active SUD, Madden said, adding that the leading cause of death for individuals released from prison or jail is fatal drug overdose. Yet research shows, she said, that inmates who receive FDA-approved medication are 75% less likely to die from an overdose.

Madden noted that both the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which administers the grant funding, support the expansion of the Act 80 program.

According to PCCD, Act 80 funding currently has a $6.1 million surplus, which exists in large part because COVID-19 lowered jail populations, and increased availability of buprenorphine has led to a decline in demand for Vivitrol, which Madden notes remains an effective medication.

“Advancements in science have predictably led to other medications that work to effectively and humanely allow individuals to detox and begin recovery without going through the painful withdrawal that is often associated with other opioid medications like methadone,” Madden said. “This type of medication not only saves lives, but it better prepares individuals for release into society, where their continued treatment would likely be covered by Medicaid, and it helps reduce recidivism rates.”

Madden’s bill passed 199-4 and moves to the state Senate for consideration.