Senate Passes Opioid Legislation

Housing Pilot Program to Assist People Recovering from Substance-Abuse Disorders as New Jersey Faces Opioid Addiction Epidemic

On October 3, 2018, the U.S. Senate passed a package of opioid legislation the Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) that includes a new pilot program to provide housing assistance to individuals recovering from substance-abuse disorders.

  • The bill authorizes Congress to provide funding for the pilot through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
  • The House approved the bill by a vote of 393-8. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 98-1. It now goes to President Trump for his signature.

Both of New Jersey’s Senators Cory Booker (D)and Robert Menendez (D) voted for the legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill at the end of September. The bill will now go to President Trump for his signature.

  • The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would distribute the funds based on a formula that prioritizes states with high rates of overdose deaths and, to a lesser extent, high rates of unemployment and low rates of work participation.
  • Program participants would receive housing assistance for up to two years or until permanent housing assistance is available. Program funding can be used for different types of housing assistance to provide options to help people meet their housing needs.

The bill does not include the “Transitional Housing for Recovery in Viable Environments Demonstration Program (THRIVE) Act” (HR 5735). The THRIVE Act, introduced by Representative Andy Barr (R-KY), would divert 10,000 vouchers, or $83 million, away from the Housing Choice Voucher program to pay for transitional recovery housing for people with substance-use disorders.

On June 12, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) sent lawmakers a letter signed by 29 national housing, homelessness, behavioral health services, and recovery housing organizations opposing the THRIVE Act because it would lengthen affordable housing waiting lists for low income families, seniors, people experiencing homelessness, and people leaving substance-use treatment or recovery housing.

The New Jersey Reentry Corporation reported recently that New Jersey faces a modern plague of opioid addiction. The New Jersey opioid addiction epidemic is now projected to tragically claim 3,000 lives this year. Since 2014,10,000 fellow state residents will have died due to the heroin/fentanyl crisis.

The high correlation between addiction and incarceration, upwards of 80 percent of the NJ Reentry Corporation’s clients are clinically addicted, has significantly increased the challenge of reentry for its clients. Hopefully, increased investment in housing assistance will help those facing addiction achieve and maintain recovery with the stability of affordable housing.

Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act

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