12.02.14

Senators Host Bipartisan Forum on “Collateral Consequences” of Addiction

Washington, DC – Today a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators co-hosted a forum in the U.S. Capitol entitled “Addiction: Understanding the Science and Addressing Collateral Consequences.”  U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) convened the forum, which featured panel discussions on the science of addiction and the ways in which current laws can create “collateral consequences” for individuals in recovery by establishing barriers to education and employment.

“Individuals who have been convicted of drug crimes, have served their sentences, and have completed the path to recovery too often face additional penalties long after their release.  From barriers to affordable housing and education, to limitations on employment options, these ‘collateral consequences’ can linger years after an individual has committed an offense,” Whitehouse said.  “As a whole, the collateral consequences of drug convictions impose costs not only on those directly affected, but on society as a whole.  If education and employment are the best predictors of successful re-entry into society, we all pay the price of limiting their accessibility.”

“As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating consequences of drug addiction,” Klobuchar said. “From undermining education and employment to tearing apart families, addiction has far-reaching impacts that hurt communities across the country. We need to do everything we can to fight this growing epidemic, and I’ll continue pushing efforts to expand the use of proven tools in the fight against addiction.”

“Just last week, I met with a New Hampshire family who tragically lost their 20-year-old daughter to a heroin overdose.  Too many families in New Hampshire and across the country are finding themselves in the same place as this family,” said Senator Ayotte.  “Today’s bipartisan forum was an important opportunity to share insights and expertise as we look for the most effective ways to help our communities fight addiction and help individuals in recovery. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem – we need to take a multi-faceted approach that includes law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and education.”

In September the Senators introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, along with Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  The bill would encourage states to adopt comprehensive responses to the nation’s opioid abuse crisis, including steps designed to mitigate collateral consequences for drug offenders.

In addition to the Senators, speakers at the forum also included Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

The day’s first panel discussion, “Understanding the Science of Addiction,” was moderated by Peter Palanca, COO of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) Illinois and featured Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Dr. A. Thomas McLellan, Chair of the Board and Co-Founder of the Treatment Research Institute.

The day’s second panel discussion, “Addressing Collateral Consequences of Addiction,” was moderated by Carol McDaid from Faces and Voices of Recovery.  Participants included Amy Solomon, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs; Gary C. Mohr, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections; Bill Williams and Margot Head, New York residents whose son died from heroin use; Danielle Tarino, Public Health Advisor at the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration; and Linda Hurley, Director of Clinical Services and Chief Operating Officer at CODAC Behavioral Healthcare in Rhode Island.

Today’s event was the third in a series of bipartisan briefings looking at ways to better support addiction treatment and recovery.  Earlier this summer, a briefing hosted by the Senators focused on Women and Addiction.

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