Treatment, support and transition programs for substance abuse disorder could be designated as essential medical services in New York's prisons under a measure approved unanimously Wednesday in the state Senate.

The measure is meant to address what lawmakers said are gaps in treatment programs currently available in correctional facilities.

“Fighting the opioid overdose crisis in New York must include making medication-assisted treatment for incarcerated individuals in correctional facilities part of the essential healthcare course, along with other recovery programs and services,” said state Sen. Peter Harckham. “We know how effective these modes for substance use disorder are, and our top priority needs to be the healthfulness of our residents, no matter where they are.”

Treatment programs like medication-assisted treatment using methadone and buprenorphine can aid in treating substance abuse disorder, but when a person enters prison, they can experience painful withdrawal symptoms.

At the same time, the measure is meant to provide transition services at state prisons including peer specialists and community treatment centers. Peer-led recovery support can also help reduce recidivism, supporters of the legislation said.

“The passage of this bill further expands the reach of recovery services and assists individuals in building recovery capital no matter where they are in their recovery journal or wherever physical location they are,” said Dr. Angelia Smith Wilson, the executive director of Friends of Recovery NY.

New York has seen a rise in opioid overdose deaths in the last several years coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.