Addiction Treatment Helps More Than Incarceration

TMA Written Testimony

Senate Committee on Criminal Justice Comments in Support of Senate Bill 1147 

April 24, 2019

Dear Chairman Whitmire and members of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice,

On behalf of the Texas Society of Addiction Medicine (TSAM) and the Texas Medical Association (TMA), we appreciate the opportunity to voice support and offer additional suggestions for Senate Bill 1147, which allows a judge to require that a defendant undergo an evaluation as to whether they would benefit from medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol dependence as a condition of their community supervision. With 88,000 people dying from alcohol related causes in 2017, we thank Senator Buckingham for proposing this legislation seeking to encourage access to treatment for those suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD).

TSAM and TMA are dedicated to increasing access to and improving the quality of addiction treatment for patients in Texas and across the country. To that end, we are committed to advocating for a state addiction treatment system that provides and expands access to all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications to treat substance use disorders. As physicians, we are wholeheartedly committed to evidence-based, compassionate care that improves the health and well-being of all patients with addiction. We applaud this legislation as it seeks to combat alcohol misuse by evaluating persons who may suffer from alcohol use disorder and determining whether they could benefit from MAT.

While we support SB 1147, we also encourage the committee to consider allowing judges to require an assessment to determine whether the defendant would benefit from MAT for opioid use disorder (OUD). OUD killed 1,458 Texans in 2017, and deaths from OUD are not expected to peak until 2022. People receiving MAT to treat their OUD are 75% less likely to die from addiction than those not receiving MAT, and are more likely to maintain gainful employment.iii Addiction is a chronic brain disease that needs medical treatment, not criminalization based on medical misinformation and stigma, as incarceration and the threat of incarceration do not reduce the incidence of drug use and can deter people who need help from seeking care. It is vital that the criminal justice system begins caring for patients with addiction by providing them access to evidence-based treatment instead of incarceration. This bill is a step in the right direction.

SB 1147 could also be improved by acknowledging the need for those with AUD and OUD to have access to mental health professionals. Defendants should not only be evaluated to assess 

whether they require MAT, but also whether they could benefit from psychosocial treatment, such as counseling or case management. TSAM and TMA urge the legislature to add language allowing a judge to require that a defendant submit to an evaluation by a licensed mental health professional to determine whether they would benefit from psychosocial treatment to complement their MAT.

TSAM and TMA share the state of Texas’ goal of equipping the criminal justice system to better combat the addiction epidemic. We offer our support for this bill and appreciate the committee's consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Carlos Tirado if TSAM and TMA can provide further assistance. We look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Carlos F. Tirado, MD
President, Texas Society of Addiction Medicine

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Last Updated On

April 23, 2019