Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in the Criminal Justice System: Brief Guidance to the States

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of Food and Drug Administration-approved medication for the treatment of a specific substance use disorder in combination with clinically indicated behavioral or cognitive-behavioral counseling and other indicated services. Currently, medications are available to treat tobacco, alcohol, and opioid use disorders, and research is underway to identify effective medications for other substances as well.

State governments have long been recognized as critical players in fostering the use of medication to treat substance use disorders and increasing the availability of affordable, evidence-based treatments. This brief illustrates how states can continue that work by creating or expanding access to MAT in criminal justice settings. By including the criminal justice system as a path to treatment, states may see an increase in access to and retention in treatment as well as lower rates of overdoses, recidivism, and re-incarceration. In this brief, states are provided an overview of the issue, the challenges to incorporating MAT, standards/guidelines, and key considerations for establishing MAT in criminal justice settings.

Key considerations state officials should consider when implementing MAT in criminal justice settings include the following:

  • Legislation and regulations needs
  • Workforce issues
  • Partnership building with community-based providers
  • Data and information sharing
  • MAT program funding
  • Reentry support and continuity of care
  • Benefits and healthcare coverage support
  • Data-informed improvements

This brief was first shared in 2019.

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