Sen. Manchin Introduces Bills To Help Addicts in Recovery

By Paul Gaita 03/07/17

The bills focus on addiction treatment funding and giving addicts in recovery with non-violent criminals charges a clean start.

Senator Joe Manchin
Senator Joe Manchin Photo via YouTube

On March 3, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was a key figure in bringing two bills to the Senate that will provide recovering addicts with medical and legal help in reforming their lives.

The first of these, the Clean Start Act, will allow recovering addicts who have been charged with a non-violent felony or misdemeanor to petition a federal court to seal their criminal record.

Petitioners must meet two criteria to be considered: they must successfully complete a one-year substance abuse treatment program that is licensed or certified by a State or national accreditation board, and provide six months of service as either a drug addiction recovery mentor or six months of volunteer service if mentorship opportunities are not available.

The reviewing court will take into consideration all information relevant to the case, including submissions from the individual prosecutor.

"This legislation will give people who wish to reform their lives a clean start and a chance to rejoin their communities," said Manchin in a press statement issued on March 3. "Since many employers are unlikely to even consider a job applicant with a criminal record, the impact of a past conviction weighs upon these former addicts long after they have served their time. This all-too-common barrier to employment contributes to the continuing cycle of addiction and incarceration that has been so hard to break."

Manchin also joined several fellow Democratic and Independent senators, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Angus King of Maine, in re-introducing the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act—also known as the LifeBOAT Act—which will provide a permanent source of funds from the sale of prescription opioids that would enhance and expand access to substance abuse treatment.

The LifeBOAT Act, which was previously introduced by Manchin and several other senators in May of 2016, seeks to establish a one-cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain medication in order to fund efforts for expanded substance abuse treatment, including the establishment of new treatment facilities, increasing reimbursement for certified mental health providers, and establishing or operating substance treatment programs in conjunction with Adult and Family Treatment Drug Courts.

The bill also includes a rebate program for cancer-related pain and hospice care, and exempts drugs used exclusively for opioid addiction treatment. 

The Clean Slate Act is the latest in a series of "expungement" or "records restriction" processes by which individuals may have their criminal records removed from the public record.

In January 2016, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law Bill A206 that allowed for the expungement of drug and/or disorderly charges on the basis of criteria similar to the Clean Slate Act, including the completion of a substance abuse treatment program.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.