Leadership

Governors Association Launches Opioid Treatment Pilot Targeted at Prisons

By / May 16, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The National Governors Association is bringing opioid treatment strategies that have seen good results in Massachusetts correctional facilities to a number of other states.

With the opioid crisis still at epidemic proportions, the National Governors Association is hoping a change in tactics could help its members get a handle on the issue.

Last month, NGA announced a pilot program in eight states—Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington—that will expand access to addiction treatment for offenders in prisons. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 65 percent of U.S. prisoners met medical criteria for drug and alcohol addiction in 2010, but less than 11 percent received treatment.

The pilot programs will extend lessons learned in successful efforts to reduce opioid addition among “justice-involved populations”—people in prison and going through drug courts—in Massachusetts. States are also working to increase access to drugs designed to help treat addiction, such as extended-release injectable naltrexone, which reduces cravings for opioids while blocking their effects.

The pilot program, taking a “learning lab” format, will teach state employees about Massachusetts’ Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program and its use of naltrexone, and how those tactics work in tandem with community resources supporting recovery.

States chosen to take part welcomed the opportunity to learn new tactics to fight the opioid crisis. Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke said he hoped to prevent overdose-related deaths in the state’s prisons.

“Opioid addiction among offenders in our facilities and in community corrections is a very real and challenging problem to overcome,” Clarke said in a statement to NewsPlex. “Our participation in the learning lab will provide the opportunity to share ideas, learn from other states, and develop new strategies for addressing the opioid addiction epidemic that continues to affect so many families in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Massachusetts, whose governor, Charlie Baker, was tapped by President Donald Trump for a federal opioid commission, has seen success with its treatment-focused approach. The increase in overdose deaths has slowed significantly in recent years, and prescription-related overdoses have dropped, according to an Associated Press report. However, the state is struggling with the rise in use of the synthetic drug fentanyl, which is more potent than heroin.

Massachusetts’ anti-opioid policies have drawn attention nationally. Last year, Baker,  head of NGA’s Health and Human Services Committee, persuaded 44 governors to follow a standard set of opioid treatment strategies, based on his state’s experience.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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