February 7, 2024

Cassidy, Cornyn, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Address Substance Abuse in Prisons, Reduce Recidivism

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the Supporting Treatment and Recovery Over Narcotics for Growth, Empowerment, and Rehabilitation (STRONGER) Act, which would help reduce recidivism and break the cycle of addiction by updating and reauthorizing the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners (RSAT) program that provides treatment and recovery resources to incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders.

“We should encourage our prisons to create a path for inmates to rebuild their lives free of addiction,” said Dr. Cassidy. “By starting the road to recovery while incarcerated and continuing it afterward, we are giving these Americans a second chance for a new life.”

“Treatment programs can help incarcerated individuals struggling with substance abuse build better lives while in prison and continue their recovery after they are released,” said Senator Cornyn. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure the RSAT program can continue to improve lives and reduce recidivism rates across the country.”


Established under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the RSAT program provides grants to every state and U.S. territory, and through them, to state prisons and local jails to provide substance use disorder treatment programs to individuals under their supervision. These grants also provide community-based aftercare and post-release treatment that can include medication-assisted treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy and employment, transitional housing, and mental health services.

The STRONGER Act would reauthorize RSAT funding for Fiscal Years 2025-2029 and provide critical updates to the program, including:

  • Allowing grantees to use RSAT funds to offer treatment to individuals pretrial;
  • Strengthening the requirements that all treatment services adhere to established clinical standards;
  • Ensuring programs are affiliated with providers who can ensure continuity of care and access to medications after release to reduce the risk of relapse and overdose deaths;
  • Requiring program staff to be trained on the science of addiction, strategies for continuity of care during and after incarceration, and evidence-based behavioral therapies used to treat substance use disorder;
  • Building capacity, where available and appropriate, including assisting prisons and jails to meet contemporary standards of medical care for substance use disorders; and
  • Allowing grantees to use funds to obtain training in best practices for treating substance use disorders. The bill does not include any unfunded mandates for training or otherwise.

The legislation is supported by Addiction Policy Forum, All Rise, American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, American Correctional Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Jail Association, American Probation and Parole Association, American Psychological Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, Behavioral Health Foundation, Civil Citation Deflection and Diversion Network, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Community Oriented Correctional Health Services, Correctional Leaders Association, Council of State Governments Justice Center, International Community Justice Association, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Mental Health America, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Association of Counties, National Association of Police Organizations, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, National Criminal Justice Association, National District Attorneys Association, National League of Cities, National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, National Sheriffs’ Association, Police, Treatment, and Community Collaborative, Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC), Inc., Treatment Communities of America, and the United States Conference of Mayors.