County Jail Wants to Start Program to Help Addicts

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From The Observer-Dispatch:

Inmates who qualify for the program would receive a shot of the drugVivitrol – which blocks highs from heroin, other opioids and alcohol – two days before release.

The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office wants to start a program to help inmates beat opioid addiction before they leave county jail.

Inmates who choose to go into and qualify for the program would receive a shot of the drug Vivitrol two days before release. Vivitrol reduces cravings for and blocks highs from heroin, other opioids and alcohol. Recently released prisoners who haven’t taken drugs for weeks, months or years are particularly vulnerable to overdoses.

“The most important thing here is to save human life; that trumps everything,” said Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol. “… But at the same time, if they’re not using the drugs, in many cases, they won’t need to steal to fund their drug habit, which, in turn, keeps them out of jail. So we would definitely see a much lower recidivism rate if we get the Vivitrol up and running.”

There is a hitch, though. The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services has applied for a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration capacity expansion grant to fund Vivitrol programs in four county jails, including Oneida, a state spokeswoman confirmed. But the agency hasn’t picked which 11 states will receive grants yet.
If the money doesn’t come through, Maciol said the county will look for other ways to fund the program.

In 2014, 188 people who admitted using heroin came into the county jail. By 2015, that number rose to 660, Maciol said.

“Everyone recognizes the huge problem that we have with the heroin addiction. We know that. We’re willing to do whatever we can,” he said.

Medical personnel in the jail would do the bloodwork to screen Vivitrol candidates and administer the initial shots, Maciol said. The manufacturer would provide the first dose for free and inmates’ health plans would cover subsequent shots.

Then CNY Milestones in Utica would take over, meeting with inmates while they’re still in prison, helping them sign up for Medicaid if necessary, providing outpatient rehab and administering subsequent Vivitrol shots every 30 days, said clinical director of outpatient services Nicole Siriano.

The grant money would fund two new positions at the agency – a health care professional and a peer support specialist who would help the person navigate through treatment, she said.
“There’s no disconnect from jail to treatment. It’s a smooth transition, something that’s been missing because the people that are coming out of jail, sometimes they don’t have the support that they need. So this program is going to be designed to have a seamless transition,” Siriano said.

A handful of county jails in New York already offer Vivitrol to departing inmates.

“I think it’s an excellent idea, said Jack Beck, director of the prison visiting project at the Correctional Association of New York. “It is an expensive medication, but it’s very important that they’ve started before they leave rather than waiting for them to enroll in a program once they’re in the community, which takes time and they’re going to be at much greater risk of relapsing after release,” he said.

Vivitrol gets around a bias against other forms of medication-assisted therapy, which use narcotics, Beck said. “This is one that cannot be abused because you can’t get high on it. So it bypasses that objection. I think the real objection is about money because it’s expensive,” he said.

Milestones already is treating 16 patients with Vivitrol. “They’ve been very, very successful and they like it,” Siriano said. “Everyone’s wanting to get on this medication.”

By Amy Neff Roth aroth@uticaod.com