– An opiate-specific therapeutic community at the State
Correctional Institution (SCI) at Laurel Highlands served as a backdrop today
as Department of Corrections (DOC) officials announced plans to expand its Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program.
The announcement was part of Stop Overdoses in Pa.: Get Help Now Week.
The DOC is
expanding MAT to include methadone and buprenorphine as standards of care where
determined to be appropriate. The long-term goal is for the DOC to provide all
FDA-approved medications to treat and manage addiction within its facilities.
Expansion of MAT includes:
- Medication-Assisted Opiate Detoxification: For new commitments, parole violators and diversion cases.
- Maintenance: For those individuals who are committed to the DOC and who are already receiving MAT.
- Initial Prescriptions: For those individuals who are committed to the DOC and who are not in need of detoxification, but who could benefit from MAT from the time of DOC commitment.
“We are treating substance use disorder as the chronic disease
it is rather than as an acute illness,” said Steve Seitchik, DOC’s MAT program
coordinator. “Research results suggest that long-term care strategies of
medication management and continued monitoring produce lasting benefits. The
use of MAT for those suffering from substance use disorder should be insured,
treated and evaluated like other chronic illnesses.”
Since 2014, the DOC has worked to better equip
individuals as they return to their communities after incarceration. The MAT
program plays a huge role in their successes.
“If we can treat inmates with substance use
disorder while incarcerated, we can help that person focus on reentry-specific
challenges rather than having them fall back into a substance-use lifestyle,”
Reports show that there are high rates of
fatal overdose and non-fatal overdose among individuals leaving prison; that
MAT is more effective than no MAT; and that MAT more than doubles the rates of
opioid-abstinence outcomes in randomized, controlled trials comparing
psychosocial treatment of opioid use disorder with medication versus no
“We are on the right course for setting our
reentrants on the path to a successful return home after incarceration,” Seitchik
said. “Expanding our program will help individuals while they are in prison, as
they prepare and plan for their release, and upon release through a continuity
The continuity of care part of this initiative
was an issue previously, because reentrants did not have their Medical Assistance
(MA) benefits restored in time for their release. Now, through a cooperative
effort with the PA Department of Human Services, benefits are in place at the
date of an individual’s release from prison, ensuring the MAT continuity of
The DOC also received a $3.2 million through
the commonwealth’s most recent SAMHSA grant that will allow the agency to provide
multiple Vivitrol injections prior to release from prison.
“That is expected to have a positive effect on
retention in treatment upon release from prison and even better outcomes than
we’ve seen so far,” said Tracy Smith, who serves as the DOC’s Director of
Funds also will be used to pilot the use of
Sublocade, which is injectable buprenorphine. According to Smith, “The DOC is
partnering with other state agencies and community-based stakeholders to ensure
effective and expedited continuity of care for individuals who receive
Also at today’s event, officials provided
access to specialty staff who administer the program and to inmates who
participate by receiving medication.
More information is available on the Pennsylvania Department of
Timeline of MAT Highlights:
2014 – the DOC began providing Vivitrol (Naltrexone for extended
release injectable suspension) for female reentrants at SCI Muncy.
March 2016 – the DOC hired an MAT statewide coordinator
responsible for providing training and technical assistance to site
coordinators and serving as a liaison with DOC, Parole Board officials, single
county authorities and community-based treatment providers.
2016 – a total of 78 injections were administered.
January 2017 – As guided by program evaluation results, DOC
officials changed the general population Therapeutic Community Curriculum and
the Co-Occurring Disorders Therapeutic Community Curriculum to continue
providing the most effective, evidence-based treatment to the individuals who
2017 – a total of 494 Vivitrol injections were administered.
March 2018 – the DOC converted six therapeutic communities (TCs)
to Opiate Specific Therapeutic Communities at SCIs: Albion, Cambridge Springs,
Camp Hill, Chester and Laurel Highlands and the Quehanna Boot Camp. Shortly
thereafter, oral naltrexone maintenance was initiated at these facilities as an
option for individuals who could benefit most by being maintained on this MAT
for the duration of their incarceration. While these are the first institutions
to implement this program, the goal will be to continue to expand the program
based on successes and need.
April 2018 – the DOC expanded Vivitrol’s availability to all
2018 (as of August 30) – 439 injections were administered.