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
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.
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.
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:
- Provided technical assistance to states seeking to implement statewide policies related to access to medications for OUD in corrections;
- Launched the Advancing the Evidence listserv to provide a forum to exchange ideas, request advice and recommendations, and share best practices, legislative updates, research, and policies on SUD treatment in corrections;
- Met with congressional and committee staff to discuss research, policy trends, and best practices for evidence-based treatment for SUD;
- Tracked proposed bills and legislative activity on the state and federal level related to SUD treatment in corrections, treatment courts and child welfare;
- Presented findings from the Applying the Evidence Report at conferences and events, including the American Bar Association;
- Convened a series of meetings to drive reform on access to evidence-treatment in corrections, courts and child welfare, including with experts from within Georgetown University, American University, Boston University Medical Center, Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Legal Action Center, the Bazelon Center, Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Civil Liberties Union, Young People in Recovery, Faces and Voices of Recovery, the National Health Law Project, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD), the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International, the Harm Reduction Coalition, the Katal Center for Health, Equity & Justice, the Center for Court Innovation, the National Governors Association, the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National Sheriffs Association, and others;
- Joined conferences and convenings organized by Facebook, Politico, Partnership for a Drug Free America, Center on Addiction, the Cato Institute, Health Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Association for State and Tribal Health Officials (ASTHO), the National Judicial Opioid Task Force, Legal Services Corporation, the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and others to discuss access to evidence-based treatment;
- Facilitated a roundtable discussion on developing a cohesive set of metrics to measure outcomes in NIDA-funded projects studying the impact of medications for OUD in criminal justice system at the Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN);
- Disseminated findings on strategies to advance evidence-based treatment through op-eds and blogs, including:
- LaBelle, Regina, and Jeffrey S Crowley. “Building Bridges for Action: Ending the HIV and Opioid Epidemic.” The Hill, February 24, 2019.
- LaBelle, Regina. “Criminalizing Addiction Isn’t Working. Prevention and Treatment Deserve a Chance.” Cato Unbound, August 23, 2019.
- LaBelle, Regina. “Areas of Consensus on Opioid Treatment.” Cato Unbound, September 2, 2019.
- Weizman, Shelly. “September Is National Recovery Month,” O’Neill Institute, September 6, 2019.
- Weizman, Shelly, and Udai Tambar. “Use Opioid Settlement Money to Strengthen The Social Safety Net.” Modern Healthcare, September 14, 2019.
- Weizman, Shelly. “Addiction and Public Policy: Creating Reform through the Lens of Lived Experience.” O’Neill Institute, October 24, 2019.
- LaBelle, Regina. “The Nation’s Response to Addiction: Moving from Rescue to Recovery.” The Hill, November 1, 2019.
- Canzater, Sonia. “Legislators Should Think Outside the Box to Fight The Opioid Epidemic – Support Of Safe Injection Sites Is An Opportunity To Prevent Diseases And Overdose Deaths.” O’Neill Institute, November 15, 2019.
- Provided expert input to media outlets on trends in OUD policy, including:“Data Key to Pennsylvania’s Drop in Opioid-Related Fatalities.” Government Technology, December 6, 2019
- “US Life Expectancy Has Dropped — Again.” Buzzfeed, Nov. 29, 2019
- “Feds May Pursue Criminal Charges Against Opioid-Makers.” NPR, November 27, 2019
- “Why China’s Conviction of 9 Fentanyl Traffickers Is Unlikely to Stop Exports to the U.S.” Time, November 11, 2019
- “Mexican Drug Cartels Are Making Mass Amounts of Phony Prescription Painkillers, DEA Warns.” Newsweek, November 4, 2019
- “The Bankruptcy Money From the Makers of Oxycontin Might Actually Save Lives.” Vice, October 24, 2019
- “Individual Victims of Opioid Epidemic Won’t See Any Money From the $260 Million Settlement in Ohio.” Newsweek, October 21, 2019
- “How the Drug War Blob Took Over The Washington Post.” The New Republic, October 10, 2019
- CNN International, September 2019
- MSNBC, September 2019
- BBC America, August 2019
- “Will Landmark Oklahoma ruling in Opioid Case Have an Impact on Kentucky?” Spectrum News, August 27, 2019
- BBC World News America, July 2019
- MSNBC, July 2019
- “As Trump Claims Credit For Decline In Opioid Deaths, Others See Signs Of Danger Ahead.” Stat News, July 12, 2019
- “Response to opioid crisis has only just begun, state officials say” Statehouse Report, June 28, 2019
- “Trump Campaigned on Defeating the Opioid Crisis. It’s Hard to Tell if He’s Winning.” Politico, June 16, 2019.
- ITV, May 2019.
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.