For persons with an opioid use disorder who are in the criminal justice system, the process of transitioning from jail or prison back to the community can be overwhelming. Within three months of release from custody, 75 percent of people who were in prison or jail with an opioid use disorder experience a relapse to opioid use. It is also alarming that incarcerated persons who are released to the community are between 10 and 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the general American population—especially within a few weeks after reentering society.
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In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to grantees of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) late last year, Elinore McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D., the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, put a spotlight on HIV and viral hepatitis – the often hidden consequences of the substance use disorder epidemic – and called on the public health and substance abuse disorders communities to strengthen coordinated efforts to address them.