What Passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) Means for HIV and Hepatitis Programs

By Magalie Lerman August 15, 2016

Last month, The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016 was signed into law by President Obama. The legislation, which was co-sponsored and championed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), seeks to address barriers to providing comprehensive and accessible healthcare to people that use drugs. 

CARA proposes to:

  • Increase health department, nonprofit, and first responder access to the lifesaving medication, naloxone. The ultimate goal of public health is to keep people alive
  • Invest in treatment alternatives to incarceration. Imprisoning people because of what they put in their bodies has shown very little success. In fact, high risk sexual behavior and drug use within jails and prisons has been proven to increase HIV and hepatitis infections while drug use following release from incarceration is associated with high rates of overdose death
  • Provide medication assisted treatment (MAT) such as Buprenorphine and Vivitrol to prisoners – MAT reduces craving and withdrawal symptoms, allowing people to focus on other basic needs and achieve stability. MAT in prisons will reduce the relapse and recidivism rate therefore lowering the cost of incarceration, preventing new infections, and reuniting families
  • Provide substance use recovery support to students within high schools and colleges. Recovery support prevents relapse
  • Permits nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine for the first time

Like many stakeholder organizations, NASTAD supports CARA. As outlined in Statement of Urgency: Addressing the Opioid Epidemic in the United States and Maximizing Health, Minimizing Harm: The Role of Drug User Health in Public Health, NASTAD and our members, are deeply concerned about the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs. HIV and hepatitis prevention, care, and treatment are important aspects of a range of programs and services that address the healthcare needs of people who use drugs.

NASTAD will continue to provide updates on CARA’s implementation.

Mike Weir also contributed to this post.