Bill that would expand MAT services to incarcerated Utahns passed chamber of origin


Maddie McCarthy


A bill that would allow the Utah Department of Corrections and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to work with prisons in order to continue medication assisted treatment (MAT) for incarcerated individuals who had been receiving MAT prior to incarceration passed its third reading in the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 212 is sponsored by Sen. Jen. Plumb (D – Salt Lake County) and has crossed over to the House.

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MAT combines the use of prescriptions such as buprenorphine or methadone with therapy to help people struggling with opioid use disorders (OUDs). The medications in OUD treatment help their users because they can lessen opioid cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms.

At a Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting last week, Plumb said that over the last decade or so, she has heard from individuals on MAT treatment plans about how OUD treatment medications can be life-saving, and how they can empower people to move their lives in a positive direction.

Sometimes, however, these individuals end up being incarcerated without access to their OUD treatment medications.

“[Hearing that] someone has a little slip up, like a parole violation, and they have to go back out to the prison for a period of time, and being taken off of their medication assisted treatment to be back in that incarcerated space [is] pretty gut-wrenching to me because I am a true believer that [MAT] is the data-driven way that we save lives.”

— Plumb 

Plumb’s bill expands on House Bill 111, sponsored by Rep. Christine F. Watkins (R – Carbon County), which passed in 2023. That bill required municipal and county jails to continue MAT for inmates who had already been using the treatment before their incarceration.

Plumb said the bill opens up the possibility for both private practitioners and DHHS to go into prisons and continue to provide OUD medications to these individuals.

SB 212 would also require DHHS to submit a report to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee each year detailing the number of individuals in state custody who had their MAT plan either continued or discontinued after their incarceration. 

It is currently unknown just how many people go into a prison and are discontinued from their MAT plans, so the reporting would allow the state to keep track of the data.

She also said this bill could help work “towards the long-term goal that anyone with opioid use disorder could receive the [same] treatment inside of incarcerated spaces that they would receive outside the incarcerated space.”

Sen. Michael S. Kennedy (R-Utah County), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, asked Plumb about the cost of the bill.

“Funds, as we always know, are an issue,” Plumb said. “So one of the things that we did build into this bill was, ‘as funds allow.’ I don’t want this to be an accidental mandate that is unfunded.”

Plumb suggested there may be different potential funding sources, like opioid settlement funds, federal funds, or grant funds.

The bill also encourages the use of oral medications like methadone and buprenorphine, as they are the most cost-effective medications in MAT. 

Injectable OUD medications are allowed in the bill if a physician thinks it necessary. However, Plumb noted that these medications are significantly more expensive.

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