The federal government plans to open Medicaid assistance to fund drug treatment in U.S. prisons. The policy change, announced by the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta, aims to ease the risk of death to people who are incarcerated.

Dr. Gupta announced the expansion of Medicaid assistance while touring New Jersey’s Camden County Jail.

“Treating substance abuse disorder in prison and jails is smart,” Gupta said.

He also announced that all federal prisons would offer medications for substance use disorders. “It’s a smart move for our economic prosperity, for our safety and health of our nation.”

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The expansion of Medicaid funds will cover life-saving drugs, such as Sublocade. Sublocade is an FDA-approved once-monthly injectable product that has successfully treated adult patients with moderate-to-severe opioid use disorder.

The funds would be allocated to states that request funding through Medicaid. States that receive funding will be required to provide inmates with mental health and drug treatment.

The first Medicaid plans, announced in 1965, excluded the use of funding for incarcerated people.

Today, studies have shown that most people in U.S. prisons have substance use disorders. Studies also show that former inmates are more likely to die in their first week of release from prison than the average citizen. The leading cause of death for newly released inmates is drug overdose.

Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 45.

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