May 26, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Jasmine Budnella, email@example.com
Mariah McGough, firstname.lastname@example.org
HISTORIC VICTORY: ASSEMBLY JOINS THE SENATE IN PASSING LIFE-SAVING LEGISLATION TO ENSURE ACCESS TO MEDICATION ASSISTED TREATMENT IN JAILS IN PRISONS
ALBANY, N.Y. — Today, VOCAL-NY applauds the New York Assembly for passing S1795/A533, the legislation to mandate medication-assisted treatment (MAT) — the gold standard of treatment for opioid use disorder — in all New York State jails and prisons. In 2019, this lifesaving bill passed the Senate, yet was laid aside in the final hours of the session in the Assembly. Since then, overdoses have surged reaching historic record breaking levels.
“We are excited this momentous bill has passed—it’s been a long time coming, and it will save countless lives,” said Hiawatha Collins, board member and leader with VOCAL-NY’s Users Union. “With this bill, the legislature is putting an end to the practice of forcing people into inhumane withdrawal. This legislation ensures that they will have access to medication assisted treatment for their substance use disorders during their incarceration, their autonomy honored by offering all three forms of medication, and that there is a warm hand off with their care after their incarceration. Ultimately, however, we hope that this is a step towards ending the punitive approach towards drug use and moving towards a world without a drug war, where people who use drugs are treated with respect and given the care and support they deserve.”
VOCAL-NY reiterates that there remains unfinished business in both houses. While the passage of MAT in prisons and jails is a victory that’s been years in the making, it is antithetical to continue to incarcerate people for a public health tool in our efforts to end overdose. The legislature must immediately pass the lifesaving bill to remove criminal penalties and expand access to sterile syringes in pharmacies (S2523/A868) that has been pending in the legislature since 2015.
Under the current law, people who are incarcerated in New York State are being forced into inhumane withdrawals, including from their medication-assisted treatment, which leads to increased risks of overdose — people are 40 times more likely to die of an overdose the first two weeks of release. Across the nation, jails and prisons have been sued for denying people access to MAT—including recent litigation filed by New York Civil Liberties Union against Jefferson County jail.
Establishing medication-assisted treatment in all New York State jails and prisons offers people who are incarcerated access to this lifesaving treatment at any point of their incarceration, the entirety of their incarceration, and through a collaborative reentry strategy to ensure continuation of their treatment in the community.