In the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States, certain populations are more at risk for overdoses. The country’s inmate population is one such group that is vulnerable to opioid overdoses and death. To combat the epidemic plaguing the inmate population, Rhode Island established MAT for inmates. It is the first state system to offer MAT programs to its entire prison population.
MAT for inmates consists of three therapies. Methadone and suboxone are opioids that help stave off withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Vivitrol, is an “antagonist,” meaning it blocks people from getting high if they use drugs. Additionally, inmates receive counseling and therapy in addition to medication-based therapies.
For supporters of MAT programs for inmates, the benefits are twofold. First, medication-assisted therapy helps inmates break the cycle of opioid addiction. Secondly, MAT for inmates help reduce recidivism rates which benefits the criminal justice system. Ultimately, it is hoped that Rhode Island’s MAT model becomes the standard for correctional facilities nationwide.
MAT For Inmates Addresses A Critical Need
According to information from an article on the STAT website, an estimated half to two-thirds of the prison population battle substance abuse disorders. Additionally, those who leave the prison system are 130 times more likely to overdose compared to the general population. Addiction professionals state that relying on abstinence-only programs fail to address the deeper issues of addiction.
Dr. Josiah Rich of Brown University stated the following regarding the need for MAT programs for the prison population:
We cannot afford to keep getting all these people with opioid use disorders coming into these publicly funded institutions and not get treated, because it only fans the flames of this crisis as they are released.
The Mat for inmates programs in Rhode Island are working. A 2015 study showed that that prisoners who are part of MAT programs before their release are more likely to continue treatment. Also mentioned in the STAT article is the that other states have started to look to Rhode Island MAT model.
Concerns with MAT for Inmates Programs
While successful in Rhode Island, there are obstacles in implementing MAT inmate programs nationwide. First, MAT for inmates programs need widespread political support. In Rhode Island, the state government has approved $2 million in funds annually for medication-assisted therapy programs in prisons.
Secondly, MAT inmate programs can be problematic to implement in states with complex correction systems. Rhode Island has a corrections system which is compact and has no county jails. All inmates are brought to one center , and the state prisons are located on the same campus.
Despite the obstacles, the state’s program for inmates offer the option for medication treatment. In the STAT article, inmates are screened when they arrive, and have two options for MAT treatments. First, inmates can take methadone or buprenorphine for up to a year, and restart treatment before they are released. Also, inmates have the option of taking Vivitrol is given a month or two before release. Additionally, inmates are also given counseling along with MAT therapy.
MAT For Inmates: Part of a Multi-Disciplinary Approach
MAT programs for inmates are just the tip of the iceberg. In order for these programs to be effective, they must be part of a multi-disciplinary approach. In the last two decades, drug treatment programs have been created especially for the prison population. The FBI reports these programs have adapted to the advances in drug treatment across the board.
According to the FBI, prison-based drug treatment programs utilize measures that produce the following:
- reduce relapse
- decrease criminality
- reduce recidivism
- reduce inmate misconduct
- improve levels of education and employment upon return to the community
- increases the quality of general and mental health symptoms and conditions
- improve relationships
In addition to MAT programs and educational programming, prison-based drug programs feature the following programs that help inmates break the cycle of addiction:
Non-Residential Drug Abuse Treatment
These programs have cognitive-behavior therapy and last on average of 12 weeks. Done in a group setting, facilitators help newly released inmates work on the life and coping skills needed to stay sober and out of trouble. This program is best suited for offenders with shorter prison sentences, are moving to residential treatment or transitioning back into the community.
Residential Drug Treatment Program
Residential treatment programs are intensive and allow for inmates to interact with each other. These programs are housed separately from the general prison population. Unlike non-residential programs, intensive residential treatment can last up to nine months. While in residential treatment, patients participate in half-day programming and half-day work, school, or vocational activities.
Community Treatment Services (CTS)
Another part of treatment that is effective with MAT for inmates is community treatment services. CTS provides a comprehensive network of contracted community-based treatment providers in all 50 states. CTS consists of a broad network of professionals including addictions counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and other experienced personnel.
Additionally, community treatment services provide intervention and support for those in crisis, dealing with depression or suffering from other mental health issues. CTS staff works closely with re-entry staff to ensure newly released inmates receive quality care once they are back in society.
While prison-based drug treatment is comprehensive, there are significant portions of the population who participate. According to information on the American Legislative Exchange Council website:
…the overcrowding of jails and prisons was a leading factor as to why inmates with drug dependency problems were not enrolled in these programs. The overcrowding of jails leads to an increase in the length of the waiting lists to enter drug treatment programs. In addition to overcrowding, staff shortages and limited resources are part of the issue of low enrollment in drug treatment programs.
Despite the obstacles, MAT for inmates along with other prison-based drug treatment provides the inmate population with the tools needed to be successful once released back into society.
The Prison Population Deserves Drug Treatment
There are people who believe that inmates do not deserve drug treatment. They may feel that drug treatment programs are a waste of resources and that inmates need to face the consequences of their actions. While there is no doubt that inmates must deal with the consequences of their actions, failing to provide them with drug treatment can prove costly.
While some inmates may not pursue treatment, there are those who desire to break free from substance abuse. MAT programs for inmates as well as comprehensive drug treatment can help addicts get and stay sober. Once released from prison, community treatment care provides the resources and support needed for newly released inmates to stay sober and become productive members of society. This type of care reduces recidivism rates and gives those who were incarcerated real hope for their future.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, don’t lose hope. Medication-assisted therapy programs are available that can help you find lifelong recovery. Call Medically Assisted Treatment toll-free today. Our experienced team of professionals can help you find the treatment options that fit your unique needs.
Call today and experience the freedom and happiness of sobriety.