CAMBRIDGE, MA — The Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association announced Tuesday the establishment of a statewide pilot program to provide medication assisted treatment (MAT) at five county correctional facilities in the Commonwealth: Middlesex, Franklin, Norfolk, Hampden and Hampshire. The goal of this cutting edge initiative, contained in the state’s latest opioid legislation, is to foster innovation in corrections in an effort to increase public safety, improve public health, and save lives.
“This pilot program will expand upon the innovative and nationally recognized work of Massachusetts Sheriffs. We are proud and appreciative of the leadership of Senator Cindy Friedman and Representative Denise Garlick on this important step forward for corrections,” said Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association President Peter J. Koutoujian. “This approach is balanced, thoughtful and will provide data to drive best practices for us and our colleagues not just locally, but nationally.”
The pilot program will provide two points of engagement regarding MAT for individuals who have been clinically diagnosed with a substance use disorder.
First, for those with an MAT prescription that has been verified by a physician, Sheriffs’ offices will continue their treatment regimen while incarcerated, unless determined otherwise by a qualified addiction specialist.
Second, medication assisted treatment options will be made available for sentenced inmates for whom such treatment is determined to be medically appropriate by a qualified addiction specialist 30 days prior to release. In addition, participants in the pilot program will return to their communities with a coordinated post-release health plan to ensure continuity of care for each individual.
The pilot program contains a robust data collection component that will allow public agencies on the front lines of this epidemic to better understand what’s working and where we can improve with respect to this vulnerable population. It will also allow programs to establish best practices that can be emulated in the Commonwealth and across the country.
“High rates of substance use disorder have resulted in increased recidivism and more overdose deaths across our state. Expanding access to MAT in our jails and correctional facilities will help close the revolving door of people with substance use disorder going back and forth between emergency rooms, the streets, and jail. And, most importantly – it will save lives,” said Sen. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “Thankfully, we have sheriffs like Peter Koutoujian who are determined to address this crisis by offering evidence-based medication and behavioral health counseling to people in houses of correction to assist in their recovery.”
“The Massachusetts Legislature has been steadfast and unwavering in the face of the relentless disease of addiction. This disease is a reality that people face every single day, but we are pouring our best expertise and resources into this fight,” said Rep. Garlick (D-Needham), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “We are in this for the long haul and we are not backing down – we are in this battle together to save lives.”
In addition to administering medication while individuals are incarcerated, the five sheriffs’ offices will also provide treatment staff and post-release continuity of care to assist those in their recovery. In an effort to do so, key government stakeholders will work in collaboration with the Sheriffs’ offices, including the Department of Public Health, Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and MassHealth.
The pilot, which was included as part of a larger legislative package addressing the Commonwealth’s opioid crisis, will take effect in September 2019, pending the approval of the governor.
(NOTE: The above press release is from the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association)
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