The Legal Action Center is praising action in New York state that will require the state's drug courts to allow participants to take medication treatment for opioid addiction, in keeping with a newly enacted federal policy that ties courts' eligibility for new federal funding to the allowance of medication-assisted treatment.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill that cleared both houses of the state legislature unanimously. Legal Action Center director Paul Samuels said of many drug courts' practice of requiring participating defendants to stop taking medications such as methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone, “These practices, which are at odds with decades of scientific research, put individuals with opioid addiction in a Catch-22: stop taking effective medication and risk relapse or continue medication and face incarceration. The consequences of these practices include relapse, overdose, and death.”
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced earlier this year that drug courts applying for new federal funding could no longer block participants' access to medication treatment as a condition of their participation in the alternative-to-incarceration programs.
The Legal Action Center has a self-help tool to assist individuals who are being ordered off a medication regimen. The law and policy organization also will be releasing a report it has co-produced on recommended practices for medication-assisted treatment in New York drug courts.