BOSTON — Massachusetts prisons and jails will be required to offer a range of drug treatments to inmates struggling with opioid addiction.
That’s according to Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who recently announced her office conducted a review to ensure state and county jails and correctional facilities are able to offer the three approved drugs. federally used for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
“Drugs are a vitally important weapon in the fight against the opioid crisis, and our prison facilities are on the front lines in this raging battle,” Rollins said in a statement.
Rollins said jails and jails will be required to offer the FDA-approved addiction drugs — methadone, buprenorphine and the long-acting drug known as Vivitrol — to help inmates serving their time. get clean.
Worcester, Plymouth and Dukes county sheriff’s offices are implementing plans to deliver the drugs before the end of the year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Until then, inmates in these facilities requiring treatment will be transferred to other facilities with the necessary medications.
Other sheriff’s offices – including Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex counties – have already implemented similar opioid medication-assisted treatment programs.
Rollins said the review is part of an ongoing effort to break down “discriminatory barriers” to substance use treatment among the state’s prison population.
Federal court decisions have determined that opioid use disorder is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that jails and prisons are required by state and federal law to provide access to treatment.
Rollins credited the county sheriffs offices and the state Department of Corrections for their work and cooperation with his office’s program review.
“Their work, combined with our review and settlement, distinguishes Massachusetts as one of the few states in the nation in which every state, local, and federal correctional facility maintains or will soon maintain all forms of MOUD for the inmates. ,” she said. “This work saves lives.
A pilot program created as part of a 2018 opioid bill signed by Governor Charlie Baker authorized sheriffs to offer drug treatment to inmates serving time or awaiting trial at seven county jails, including Essex and Middlesex.
The Middleton House of Corrections Medication Assisted Treatment Center, which opened as a pilot program in September 2019, was built in a former prison print shop and distributes suboxone, methadone and vivitrol to inmates with opioid addiction.
The sheriff’s office contracts with two providers, Wellpath and Acadia Health, to administer the program. At least 1,293 inmates have completed the program since its inception, according to the sheriff’s office.
Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger said he was initially concerned about allowing the use of methadone and buprenorphine – known by the brand name Suboxone – behind bars.
Both drugs are commonly diverted by inmates and sold for use in prisons and correctional facilities.
“It was a total culture change,” Coppinger said. “We’ve spent all that money over the years trying to keep things on the outside, now we’re bringing them in.”
Coppinger said the program helps inmates struggling with opioid addiction continue to take their medications and attend drug treatment programs while serving their sentence, but also helps maintain order in the prison, which is one of the largest reformatories in the state.
“On the one hand, it reduces overdoses from people smuggling drugs into prison,” he said. “But if an inmate is stable and taking their meds, they’re also less likely to act out.”
Besides Massachusetts, only a few states — including New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington — provide methadone and buprenorphine to inmates.
To date, only Massachusetts and Rhode Island provide the three FDA-approved drugs to inmates.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]