NGA Launches Study to Expand Opioid-addiction Treatment

WASHINGTON — The National Governors Association (NGA), a bipartisan nonprofit organization made up of the nation’s governors, announced in April that eight states would participate in a learning lab to develop and implement strategies to expand offender access to opioid-addiction treatment.

Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington will all participate in the learning lab. The state of Massachusetts, which has already implemented innovative models to provide opioid-addiction treatment to offenders via drug courts and the correctional system, will also provide guidance.

Reports from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse state that 65 percent of the U.S. prison population in 2010 met the medical criteria for drug or alcohol addiction, but fewer than 11 percent received treatment. As such, more prisons are turning to evidence-based, medication-assisted treatments to help stabilize offenders and ease their transition back into the community. Many states are piloting programs that extended-release injectable naltrexone, a monthly injection that blocks effects of opioids while reducing cravings, and exploring other treatment and rehabilitation practices, according to a statement from NGA.

All eight states participating in the learning lab will learn about Residential Substance Abuse Treatment programs and naltrexone injection correctional programs at both the state and county levels as well as how these programs operate with a network of aftercare providers and recovery support navigators within communities. Additionally, participants will hear from the state’s long-running drug court programs, which connect incarcerated individuals with medication-assisted treatment and counseling.

As part of the learning lab, all eight states will develop and execute six-month strategic action plans for expanding access to opioid-addiction treatment, according to a statement from the NGA. The plans will include steps for creating policy and program alignment across relevant agencies and reflect how new strategies fit within states’ larger efforts to respond to opioid misuse and overdose. The NGA Center for Best Practices will coordinate meetings, conference calls, webinars and provide technical assistant to the governors’ staff and state officials that highlights best practices around opioid-use disorder treatment for this population.