What is the best course of action in treating opioid addicted inmates?
Many correctional facilities and medical professionals in western Pennsylvania have been tossing around this very question, and find themselves divided.
We mentioned in a previous article that overdose death rates rose 23% in the state between 2014 and 2015. While every county in Pennsylvania has experienced devastation from heroin addiction, counties such as Alleghany, Armstrong and Washington have been hit especially hard.
Alleghany county has the second highest overdose death rate in Pennsylvania, behind Philadelphia.
What’s the one thing each of these counties has in common? None of their jails offer medication assisted treatment to opioid addicted inmates, even though an estimated 4 out of 5 suffer through withdrawal.
In some reports, wardens referred to maintenance treatments as a security risk and an expense their jails could not afford. Others simply were against the idea of giving an inmate another narcotic.
Nevertheless, Armstrong and Indiana counties have both designed programs where inmates would receive a Vivitrol shot before their release, if they agree to seek drug treatment.
Some think this will simply be a waste of time. Officials who have made the effort to connect inmates to treatment programs after release say that most usually wind up back in jail or dead.
Other experts believe that punishing someone with a cold turkey detox is not the way to go either. While this is a very uncomfortable experience for any opioid addicted person, most times that does not deter them from using again.
Now of course, you’ll have the back and forth debate that always occurs when speaking about MAT.
Some argue it saves lives, decreasing the likelihood of relapse and overdose, and others believe it is simply a crutch delaying the inevitable.
Maintenance Programs or Treatment?
While officials in each county debate which course is the best, we sit here still confused.
Do they expect to have inmates on maintenance programs for an extended period of time? Is Vivitrol their only means to addressing addiction issues within their jails?
There is another option we would like you to consider.
What if medications, such as buprenorphine, were used solely on a detox basis?
In addition, once an inmate completes a detox protocol, they were offered consistent in-house therapy sessions, 12-step support groups and a home plan that is conducive to recovery, i.e. a halfway house or sober living facility. Furthermore, some method of outreach and tracking would be beneficial in this fight.
While parole officers are already responsible for “keeping tabs” on these individuals, usually that is not enough. Having outreach specialists available, who are educated in addiction and relapse prevention, would be most valuable.
Giving an addict medication is not enough and neither is asking them to contact a local treatment provider upon release, especially when most of them have no idea where to begin looking.
Furthermore, without the proper treatment and education in the beginning stages of sobriety, understanding the necessity of recovery-based support groups down the road becomes more difficult.
Most addicts will tell themselves, “I just went 4 months without using, I’m okay now. I don’t need those meetings”
Before you know it, they are back behind bars or lying in a grave.
Contact Clearbrook Today
For over 40 years, Clearbrook has been effectively treating drug addiction and alcoholism.
If you have found yourself suffering from opioid addiction and are not sure what to do, give us a call today.
We can show you that there is a better way to live.