One of the bills included in the omnibus healthcare legislation Governor Sununu signed into law on Wednesday requires that superintendents at county correctional facilities offer medication assisted treatment to inmates, when medically appropriate.
Medication assisted treatment provides anti-opioid medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to help people dealing with substance use disorders.
Senator Tom Sherman was the main sponsor of the original bill. He says at the moment, substance use disorders are not treated uniformly across county corrections facilities in the state.
“That’s what this bill attempted to do...this is a medical illness. It should be treated like a medical illness, and it should be a part of what you’re required to do when someone is incarcerated,” he said.
As part of the intake process, inmates would be screened for the treatment.
“We do screening for other medical problems,” Sherman said. “The idea for including screening for addiction and substance use disorder is sort of a bottom line basic process that does happen at the state level and doesn’t happen uniformly at the county level.”
The New Hampshire Association of Counties indicated that the estimated cost of MAT, counseling and doctor follow-up would be about $500 per inmate per month.
According to a 2019 report from the state’s Opioid Task Force and the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drugs, of the eight county jails that provided data, five had some form of medication assisted treatment. Three of those focused primarily on pregnant patients.
The bill also formalizes a drug overdose fatality commission.
The commission, which was first established by executive order under Governor Maggie Hassan, will review trends and patterns of overdose related deaths in the state and recommend policies and services that would reduce those fatalities.
The new law also establishes an opioid abatement trust fund. That money would come from settlements or judgments against opioid manufactures or distributors, and would be used to support programs associated with the prevention, treatment and recovery of substance use disorders.
This medication assisted treatment requirement will go into effect in about 90 days.