Contact: Justin Unga
Phone: 202-225-2836

Melrose, MA -- Congresswoman Katherine Clark is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to combat opiate addiction by adopting an innovative Massachusetts pilot program. Clark is leading a letter from the entire Massachusetts House delegation calling on Holder to utilize the Massachusetts approach as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the growing epidemic of opiate abuse.

The Massachusetts program gives correction officials the added tool of anti-addiction medications that can be utilized in conjunction with counseling and/or faith based approaches to recovery.

“Families and communities in Massachusetts are suffering,” said Clark. “We need a comprehensive approach that breaks the cycle of addiction and reincarceration. It’s clear that warehousing inmates does not work, and this program is offering real help to addicts while improving public safety and reducing recidivism.”

Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian brought the program to Congresswoman Clark’s attention during a meeting recently between Massachusetts sheriffs and the Commonwealth’s congressional delegation. Koutoujian has been a leader in the Massachusetts pilot program to treat inmates who suffer from addiction to opiates. Clark and Koutoujian agree that Holder’s attention to medical and behavioral treatment of addiction is critical to confronting the national epidemic that is overwhelming our prison systems.

“I applaud Sheriff Koutoujian’s leadership in implementing a comprehensive program to address opiate addiction,” said Clark. “We’re urging Attorney General Holder to build upon the innovative work here in Massachusetts, and authorize a multi-state program to address this problem.”

“At the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, we have a window of opportunity when individuals are in our custody to address the factors that led to their incarceration, including addiction,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “We are taking a cutting edge, innovative approach to addiction by combining medicated-assisted treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy. In Middlesex County, we are in the forefront on this issue and would welcome the opportunity to work with the Department of Justice to combat heroin and other opiate-related deaths in Massachusetts and across the country.”

Throughout the Commonwealth, sheriffs have implemented programs that include the use of abstinence-based medication and counseling for opioid addicted inmates prior to their release back into the community. Governor Deval Patrick recently unveiled “a package of sustainable, cost-effective criminal justice reforms,” in his FY2015 Budget Request, which includes the use of abstinence-based treatment. Specifically, the proposed program requires an addicted inmate’s post-release care to connect to a community-based clinic to receive follow up treatment and behavioral health management in order to promote long term recovery.

The Massachusetts delegation urges the Department of Justice to mirror the work being done in Massachusetts, and authorize a multi-state program utilizing abstinence-based addiction medications to support successful re-entry of opioid and alcohol addicted offenders in our jails (Bureau of Justice Assistance), federal prisons and reentry centers (Bureau of Prisons), as well as those on supervised parole/release (Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts). Such an evidence-based approach could be an effective tool for confronting and reducing the opioid epidemic in our communities and helping to prevent future crimes and costly re-incarceration, which is rapidly consuming the Department of Justice’s budget.

Full text of the MA delegation’s letter to Holder can be found here.