The First Step Act

A bipartisan solution to the opioid epidemic

When a parent sees their child take their first steps, it is milestone that fills them with pride and joy. Those first steps lead to many other firsts throughout the child’s life. But infants are not the only ones who take momentous first steps. In a continuing effort to tackle the opioid crisis, the United States is taking its first steps toward new approaches to address this deadly epidemic and acknowledge that addiction is a disease that cannot be cured by locking a person up. 

The First Step Act is new federal legislation designed to help people who are involved in the justice system to obtain treatment for their addiction rather than simply imprisoning them. Signed into law by President Trump in December 2018, the First Step Act is a truly bipartisan piece of legislation with widespread support. It passed the Senate with a vote of 87-12 and the House approved the Senate’s version of the bill with a 358-36 vote. It provides incentives and programs so federal inmates receive treatment and tools to address their addiction. Addiction deserves the care, treatment and attention provided to other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Addiction is deadly. Ohio alone loses an average of 38 people daily to opioid overdoses.

But why should someone who has never been involved with the criminal justice system or opioids be concerned with these kinds of first steps? The long and short of it is that this could be closer to home than you think. Of the 321 million people living in the U.S. in 2015, an estimated two million  – one in every 160 people – were addicted to opioids. The possibility that you personally know someone in the throes of addiction is high. It could be your neighbor, coworker, friend or even a family member. Watching your child take their first steps into toddlerhood can be stressful as a parent. Similarly, if you personally know someone who has battled addiction and justice involvement, then you understand its devastating toll.

Beyond personal connections and its potential to save lives, the First Step Act is also expected to reduce the risk that someone in the justice system due to addiction will return to prison. That will result in significant savings to taxpayers who will no longer have to bear the $33,274 average cost per inmate per year. This adds up to millions of dollars in savings each year.

Decades of experience have shown that our nation cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic. Today, the federal government is taking critical first steps to ensuring that the individuals in our justice system who need treatment for addiction are able to receive it. In doing so, they look to the positive experiences from programs like Alvis’ Recovery Choices. When combined with accountability and programs to address justice involvement, such as Alvis’ Reentry Programs, there is a proven track record of reducing the likelihood that a person will relapse into addiction and return to the justice system.

Everyone has a story. Some people just need to be given the opportunity and tools to take their first steps to change their story and begin their journey to full and productive lives. For more stories about lives changed by Alvis, please click here.

This blog post was primarily written by Douglas Lamont, Alvis Communications Intern, January 2019.

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