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Are States Ready to Implement Medication-Assisted Treatment in Correctional Settings?

Recently, State Director Earl Warren and Regional Program Director Nicole Rendon from Spectrum’s Correctional Division conducted a workshop on medication-assisted treatment to administrators and behavioral health practitioners attending the American Correctional Association’s 148th Congress of Corrections in Minneapolis. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is being considered by many criminal justice authorities to help address the rising number of individuals addicted to opioids in the justice system.

MAT is widely considered the gold standard for treating opioid addiction. Currently, there are three federally-approved medications used to treat opioid use disorders including methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone) and extended release injectable naltrexone (Vivitrol). Medications are used in conjunction with behavioral therapies to engage individuals in the treatment process, modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use, and teach them coping skills to prevent future relapse.

The benefits of MAT include:

  • Removes cravings and improves treatment focus
  • Eliminates opioid use
  • Reduces recidivism and costs associated with reincarceration
  • Improves health and reduces mortality

The workshop, entitled “Are We Ready to Implement Medication-Assisted Treatment in Corrections,” covered a range of implementation-related topics including feasibility, culture, education, and policy review. Participants were presented with key questions to help gauge their agency’s readiness for implementing medication-assisted treatment programs behind-the-walls and to identify the cultural shifts necessary for implementing new standards of care.

“We spent a good deal of time getting folks to think about what defines the type of program that fits with their mission,” said Warren. “The ACA has not adopted a set of standards yet, but it’s the next step in the process. Implementing new standards of care needs to be thoughtfully planned to ensure successful treatment outcomes.”

The presenters based much of the workshop on Spectrum’s vast experience with medication-assisted treatment as well as the organization’s history of providing a range of addiction treatment and recidivism reduction services in correctional settings. Since September 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Correction has operated a medication-assisted treatment reentry initiative in partnership with Spectrum Health Systems, where eligible offenders receive treatment with an injection of naltrexone prior to release.

Following release, participating offenders are referred to community-based providers, so they can continue receiving medication-assisted treatment close to home. As of August 2018, 484 offenders have received an injection of naltrexone prior to release from custody. Of those, 80% have continued with treatment in the community, with 70% receiving 3 to 5 injections of naltrexone post-release.

For agencies interested in learning more, Spectrum’s Education, Training and Consulting group is available to help criminal justice authorities plan and implement MAT programs. Services include:

  • Needs Assessment & Feasibility Planning
  • Program Development
  • Staff Training
  • Policy Development
  • Preparation for ACA and/or CARF Accreditation
  • Program Implementation
  • Monitoring and Evaluation

For more information on Spectrum’s Education, Training and Consulting services, please contact Romas Buivydas, Ph.D. at (774) 670-4600 or Romas.Buivydas@spectrumhealthsystems.org.

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