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Bill to help prevent opioid addiction set to be signed into law

The legislation will allocate $10 million to help treat and prevent opioid addiction.

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On Thursday, the Senate gave final passage to HB465, a bill that will allocate $10 million to help treat and prevent opioid addiction. The legislation awaits Gov. Kay Ivey’s approval and signature.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville. The funds will come from the Opioid Treatment and Abatement fund and will be appropriated during the fiscal year of Sept. 30, 2023. 

The bill outlines that the funds will be sent to both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health. The funds and programs that each department will implement are listed below: 

  • To the Department of Corrections for opioid and co-occurring substance abuse treatment, including Residential Substance Abuse treatment, FDA-approved medication, and pre and post-release services to justice-involved individuals, $1,500,000.
  • To the Department of Mental Health to establish a competitive grant program for community providers that provide opioid prevention, treatment, medication, and services to individuals and families that have a proven positive outcome on individuals and families suffering from opioid addiction, $8,500,000.

Chris Retan, head of the Alabama Fentanyl Abuse Treatment and Prevention Coalition, told APR that this legislation could be some of the most important he has seen in over 40 years doing work around substance abuse and recovery specifically. 

“This legislation could be some of the most important legislation in 44 years,” Retan said. “Because it’s going to allow us to rapidly expand treatment and prevention for a drug that’s killing people. I’ve been around during the crack epidemic, and methamphetamine epidemic and they were very serious. But they didn’t cause the type of fatalities that we are having now.”

Retan said that in Alabama almost every treatment center has a waiting list for people seeking substance abuse treatment often because of a lack of beds. Due to people not being able to get immediate treatment, this leads to continual use, incarceration, or an individual dying from drug usage. Retan believes the funds will help address this problem and allow more victims to access drug treatment immediately. 

Retan mentioned that the Department of Corrections will provide a drug called Vivitrol, an injectable naltrexone, to individuals with prior opioid addiction once they are released from prison to block their craving for that drug to reduce their odds of using opioids again. He also said that no one benefits when someone addicted to drugs goes to prison and believes drug treatment is the appropriate answer not criminalization. 

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“We believe that drug treatment is a very effective way to help reduce crime, if people are committing crime in order to support their drug habits,” Retan said. “We’ll be looking at some very creative ways to use those funds that will prevent people from using opioids in the first place.”

Once Ivey signs the bill into law it will become effective immediately.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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