After the Burrehophrine prosecutorial policy passed in January of 2021, the Opioid Project recognized race equity issues when methadone was not included in the policy. Both medications are used to treat OUD, however, people of color are more likely to utilize methadone compared to buprenorphine. To address these concerns, the Opioid Project submitted a letter to the prosecutor’s office and continued to help the prosecutor’s transition team through the addition of a similar policy that included methadone.
This methadone policy, which was issued on August 31, 2021, states that:
“[A]nother medication prescribed to people receiving treatment for their opioid use disorder is methadone. Though there are pharmacological differences between buprenorphine and methadone, there are also compelling reasons to extend this office’s general harm-reduction approach to methadone.
Among those reasons: Buprenorphine is a medication that is significantly more likely to be prescribed to people in treatment who are white, employed, and have some college education. Methadone, by contrast, tends to be more frequently prescribed to Black and Hispanic people, as well as people of lower socioeconomic status.
It is the mission of this Office to ensure that justice is dispensed evenhandedly—regardless of race and socioeconomic status. It would run contrary to that mission to prosecute people in recovery for unauthorized use of methadone (a medicine that is frequently used by people of color and those of lower socioeconomic status) while declining to prosecute cases arising from unauthorized use of buprenorphine (which is more frequently used by people who are white and of higher socioeconomic status).”
The WHI Opioid Project workgroup is continuing to participate on the transition team that will help the prosecutor’s office address the overlap of SUD and the criminal justice system.