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Addiction and Public Policy Initiative: 2019 Year in Review

A Message from Regina LaBelle, Program Director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative

The Addiction and Public Policy Initiative works at the intersection of law and public health to promote policies that improve the well-being of individuals impacted by substance use disorder.

We kicked off our inaugural year with a series of collaborations and publications that advance this mission. Our work is guided by these principles:

  • The voices of people with lived experience must be included in all policy discussions;
  • Our work will be informed and animated by science, evidence and data;
  • The policy development process is enhanced when people with multiple perspectives are engaged; and
  • “Cura personalis” – caring for the whole person – must be reflected in policymaking

2019 Projects

Applying the Evidence: Legal and Policy Approaches to Address Opioid Use Disorder in the Criminal Justice and Child Welfare Settings

People involved in the criminal justice and child welfare systems are among those at highest risk for opioid overdose and death. In October 2019, we published Applying the Evidence, which outlines legal and policy strategies to increase access to evidence-based treatment to people in these systems. The report was drafted following a series of site visits and interviews with people working in these systems and those impacted by current policy, including sheriffs, police chiefs, addiction medicine doctors, harm reduction practitioners, drug court judges and coordinators, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons with OUD, experts in child welfare and people with OUD impacted by the child welfare system, and state and local policymakers. The report was drafted with the generous support of Arnold Ventures.


Applying the Evidence Convening

On October 30, 2019, we partnered with Business for Impact at the McDonough School of Business to discuss successful models for increasing access to medications and evidence-based practices for the treatment of opioid use disorder in the criminal justice and child welfare systems. We convened experts from a variety of fields such as law and policy, addiction treatment, health care, law enforcement, and criminal justice, many of whom have lived experience with addiction. The full-day event included expert panels and roundtable discussions on trends in litigation and legislative reforms as well as best practices to develop, fund and implement best practices to improve outcomes for people with opioid use disorders.

Launch of the Advancing the Evidence Project

In 2019, we launched Advancing the Evidence, a clearinghouse on law and policy related to access to medications for OUD and an incubator for the development of strategies to advance evidence-based treatment in correctional settings.

As part of this project, the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative:

Strategies to Address the Rise of Infectious Disease Related to Injection Drug Use

In partnership with the National Governors Association, we published two issue briefs that address the infectious disease consequences of the opioid epidemic. The briefs were drafted following interviews with key stakeholders from participating states, including health care leaders, legislators, and community members. 

  • Lessons Learned from Kentucky: The first brief highlighted best and innovative practices from the state of Kentucky, which led the way as the first southern state to expand harm reduction services and syringe exchange programs to reduce health risks associated with injection drug use.
  • Insights from an NGA Learning Lab: The second brief summarizes lessons learned from Kentucky by 7 states – as they work to develop their own strategic plans to expand harm reduction initiatives.

National Hepatitis Corrections Network Roundtable

We co-facilitated a roundtable discussion on the legal landscape of past and current litigation against correctional facilities to improve access to medical care generally and Hepatitis C treatment specifically at the National Hepatitis Corrections Network’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, NV on March 20, 2019.

Convening on Strategies to Achieve Elimination of Hepatitis C in Urban and Minority Communities

We joined a convening hosted by the O’Neill Institute’s Hepatitis Policy Project focused on promoting dialogue among key thought leaders in health care and policy to address the longstanding and often unaddressed crisis of hepatitis and related challenges in urban communities and among various minority populations. The high rate of new hepatitis C infections has several causes, but a primary factor is the crisis of addiction and unaddressed substance use disorders that are being exacerbated by the opioid crisis.