Grant Will Assist Inmates Approaching Release and Combat Drug Contraband in Prisons
MILFORD, MA (STL.News) The Massachusetts Department of Correction will use more than $1 million in federal funds to treat opioid use disorder among inmates effectively and humanely while reducing drug contraband behind prison walls, Commissioner Carol A. Mici said today.
Earlier this year, in light of the national opioid epidemic’s impact on Massachusetts residents, including the state’s incarcerated population, DOC sought funding to support its Managing Opioids in Prisons: Treatment & Prevention initiative. The goals of the project are to reduce crime and violence, associated costs, and recidivism rates by improving prison safety and promoting the health of inmates with opioid use disorders prior to their release. Last month, DOC was awarded $1,238,195 over three years to support the project. The funds were part of a Justice Reinvestment Initiative grant from US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
“Of about 8300 inmates in Massachusetts state prison facilities, an estimated 1500 have a diagnosed Opioid Use Disorder,” said Commissioner Mici. “We are committed to fighting opioid use disorder and this money will help strengthen the continuum of substance use treatment we currently provide.”
While DOC has offered naltrexone-based Medication-Assisted Treatment at all facilities since 2014 and expanded its use to include buprenorphine earlier this year, the Managing Opioids in Prison: Prevention & Treatment project will deliver enhanced MAT services to criminally sentenced men and women nearing their release dates. The number of Naltrexone injections administered to eligible participants will be increased prior to their return to the community, supporting their success and recovery upon re-entry: in addition to reducing cravings for opioids, Naltrexone is not a pharmaceutical that can be diverted for illicit purposes.
The program will be geared toward individuals with an identified Opioid Use Disorder, within 12 months of release, who have been enrolled in or graduated from the Department’s Correctional Recovery Academy or another substance use disorder treatment program. An estimated 300 to 400 inmates are expected to be eligible.
“I’d like to commend Commissioner Mici and her team for identifying this funding source and using it to address a critical issue for the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Thomas Turco. “This initiative reflects an affirmative step by DOC to promote successful re-entry, supporting men and women as they return to the community and benefitting the community itself.”
Recognizing that successful Medication-Assisted Treatment requires participation in a variety of support systems to succeed, the project will also increase the number of DOC’s Recovery Support Navigators. Recovery Support Navigators provide one-on-one case management assistance for up to 12 months after release, coordinating medical, mental health, and behavioral counseling appointments; helping to find appropriate housing and employment; and connecting clients to public resources and services. Project funds will allow more candidates access to Medication-Assisted Treatment earlier in their incarceration, promoting a more successful reentry to the community and increasing engagement in comprehensive, multi-faceted treatment after release.
The initiative will also fund strategies to reduce the introduction of drug contraband into DOC facilities. Because illicit substances – and especially opioid substances – can put staff and inmates’ lives, health, and physical safety in danger through overdose and drug-related violence, DOC is constantly striving to prevent its entry into facilities while allowing inmates access to family support systems.
The grant will support those efforts, building on an existing network among the Department of Correction, county sheriffs, and law enforcement agencies. This in turn will protect inmates and staff alike by reducing the negative behaviors related to drug smuggling and potentially lethal usage.