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NPR’s Here & Now: UMass Medical School studying substance abuse treatment programs in prisons and jails

By Jennifer Rosinski

UMass Medical School Communications

March 31, 2017

Substance abuse treatment programs run by two Massachusetts sheriffs offer a new way of treating addiction using medication, a promising approach being studied by UMass Medical School’s Warren J. Ferguson, MD, according to a report by National Public Radio’s Here & Now.

“Abstinence alone does not cure addiction; people need treatment,” said Dr. Ferguson, vice chair and professor of family medicine & community health, director of academic programs for the Health and Criminal Justice Program, and founder and co-chair of the Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health.

Ferguson is leading a correctional health practice collaborative that is examining medication-assisted treatment programs at four New England correctional systems. The goal is to develop best practices that can be shared nationwide.

Here & Now featured the programs developed by two partners, both sheriffs in Massachusetts, who have seen a drop in recidivism since implementation. The collaborative also includes departments of corrections in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The Barnstable County Correctional Facility in Buzzards Bay offers a residential substance abuse treatment program that includes behavioral therapy, drug education and a dose of Vivitrol, (extended-release naltrexone), a monthly injection that has been proven to reduce cravings for alcohol and drugs.

“The other thing [Vivitrol] does is prevent anybody who uses narcotics to actually get high, or significantly reduces the high,” Ferguson said. “Most importantly, it will prevent overdose and death.”

Inmates released from prison are 129 times more likely to die from an overdose the first two weeks following release, according to a 2007 study of Washington state that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Listen to the full Here & Now story:
For Opioid-Addicted Inmates, More Jails Rely On Vivitrol

Related story on UMassMedNow:
UMMS partnering with New England states to improve addiction treatment in prisons