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Medication for opioid addiction to be expanded in state prisons

Delaware’s Department of Correction (DOC) is expanding the use of medication assisted treatment in state prisons to care for inmates with substance abuse disorder.

Officials say buprenorphine, vivitrol and methadone were made available to inmates identified as having an opioid addiction at Sussex Correctional Institution starting last week, and the state plans to expand the use of these medicines in all four of its level five state prisons as soon as possible.

The DOC started using medication to assist with inmate withdrawal in 2017 and last year began offering ongoing medication assisted treatment for substance abuse disorder in its level four facilities.

Delaware’s Bureau of Correctional Healthcare Chief Dr. Marc Richman says expanding the MAT program along with group therapy to level five facilities will save lives.

“You talk to any correctional system, you talk to any law enforcement system, these are the people that are dying when they get released, and certainly our own data from the overdose commission report sadly says the same,” said Richman.

The Delaware Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission Report was released last month. It reviewed a sample of Delaware’s record 400 overdose deaths in 2018 and found 30% had previously been detained in prison.  Half of that population suffered a fatal overdose within three months of release, according to the report.

Richman says under the new program the DOC can continue existing prescriptions or prescribe in house. He adds reentry workers with DOC’s medical provider Connections will help to connect inmates with medical providers to continue medication assisted treatment when they are released from prison.

“Eventually for folks who are going to be released from prison, who we know had an opioid use disorder in the past, we now have the ability to offer to start them on MAT about a month or so before they leave prison and most importantly link them to the community so they continue to get their medication and treatment in the community,” he said.

Rhode Island spent about $2 million on a similar MAT prison program in 2016 and successfully reduced the number of opioid overdose deaths statewide.

Richman says Delaware’s DOC will pay for its program using money from its budget and grants through other state agencies.

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