UPDATED: Franklin County House of Correction to receive $100K to treat opioid crisis

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/7/2017 2:26:35 PM

GREENFIELD — Franklin County House of Correction’s innovative approach to dealing with the opioid epidemic has others in the state joining in.

The state will distribute $500,000 to five jails across the state in an effort to aid inmates struggling with addiction, allowing for the jails to administer buprenorphine, or Suboxone, for particular inmates.

Along with correctional facilities in Bristol, Hampden, Middlesex and Worcester, the Greenfield jail will receive a $100,000 grant for opioid treatment and recovery services — services that Franklin County House of Corrections has pioneered in the state thus far.

The money will primarily fuel the jail’s current pretrial program that provides inmates with medication-assisted treatment (MAT), specifically for buprenorphine, more commonly known as Suboxone, if they meet certain qualifications. It will also now help to create a similar program for those in the re-entry program that inmates go through in their final weeks in jail.

And the money will allow the jail to bring in additional trained clinicians.

Current programming

The jail runs a service that Sheriff Christopher Donelan said is likely one of three across the entire country: providing MAT treatment, like with Suboxone, to its patients in pretrial status. Now, four other jails across Massachusetts will participate in a similar program.

“We’re on the front line for this,” Donelan said. “We have recognized for several years how challenging this opioid epidemic is. This is a realization that (the state) gets it. They understand that those of us on the front line have a real tough job to do and giving us these tools and resources is really valuable.”

The way the MAT program currently works with the Franklin County House of Correction is by giving treatment to those who come in with a prescription for buprenorphine.

If people on pretrial housed at the jail come in with a buprenorphine prescription, then the jail will continue allowing them to use this treatment to curb their addiction. The jail pays for all medications, and Donelan says something like Suboxone should be no different.

In the past, Donelan said the jail would not continue the person’s opioid-based treatment, instead cutting them off.

“During that time, if they were on Suboxone, we would take them off and totally destabilize them,” Donelan said. “So to try to deal with that reality, we put together this program.”

Continuing on his thoughts about how the jail handles addiction, Donelan said, “We’re going to treat Suboxone like any other medication so that when they’re released from here, they’re stable.”

Since February 2016, the jail has run an MAT program, serving 67 men and 11 women, the jail’s Director of Clinical and Reentry Services Levin Schwartz said. The House of Corrections pays $10.95 a day, per client.

Curbing illicit use

Jails have been hesitant to prescribe Buprenorphine for inmates because of concerns that the prescriptions would be used illegally by others, Schwartz said.

Dr. Ruth Potee, a local opioid expert who advises the jail on addiction, has the Franklin County House of Correction use Bunavail, another form of buprenorphine. This drug, though, is administered using a product similar to breath strips, ones that sit on the tongue and quickly dissolve — instead of a patch or pill that other forms of buprenorphine may come in.

Schwartz said using Bunavail has helped the jail to limit and control potential illicit use of the drug, bringing it down to a negligible amount of improper use at this point.

Now the jail will be able to administer Bunavail not only to people who are on pretrial with an existing prescription, but also to those in the last 60 days of their sentence in a re-entry program. But right now, there are a lot of questions of how to best do this and for which inmate.

“We’re going to be having lots of conversations of how to best implement this program,” Schwartz said. “I think everyone would agree though that this is a resource.”

Jail officials addressed whether it’s the jail’s place to start the inmate on a medication-assisted treatment program before they are released from jail.

“It’s really easy to stay sober in jail, but when you get released and have to walk past a package store on your way home ... ” Donelan said. “Every person’s addiction is different so every person’s treatment needs to be individualized.”


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