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05/06/2019

Department of Corrections to Expand Medication-Assisted Treatment Program

Harrisburg, PA -- Beginning June 1, 2019, the Department of Corrections will expand its Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program to include new inmate receptions and parole violators returning to prison who already are on a verified MAT.

"Anyone who is enrolled in a verified MAT Program, either in the community or in a county jail, will be continued on MAT upon reception to the DOC," Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said. "Suboxone and oral naltrexone will be available immediately and also will be offered to those on methadone until it can be added at a later date."

Wetzel said that inmates entering the state prison system who are on an MAT that is not available or that do not meet criteria for continuing MAT will have their individual cases reviewed by the agency's Bureau of Health Care Services to determine the best course of treatment.

In January 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf declared that the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania as a disaster emergency and directed that MAT be provided within the DOC. MAT medications include methadone, naltrexone (Vivitrol and Revia) and buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex and Sublocade).

"The opioid crisis impacts our prison system, and rather than have an individual suffer through detox upon entering our system, we are going to help them to remain sober and curb cravings for the drugs that, in most cases, are the reason they are in prison to begin with," Wetzel said.

This expansion now serves as an incentive to county prison wardens to continue MAT for those individuals they receive from the community who are on verified MAT programs. The DOC receives new commitments directly from county prisons.

"What we are doing here is ensuring the continuity of care and encouraging the continued use of MAT in county prisons as well," Wetzel said. "In order to make a dent in the opioid epidemic, we need to make sure MAT is not discontinued simply because someone is involved in the criminal justice system."

The Pennsylvania DOC began its MAT program at SCI Muncy in 2014 with a small group of inmates receiving Vivitrol (naltrexone) injections just prior to release and then monthly after release for up to one year to curb cravings and help them to focus on reentry. In March 2016, the DOC hired a full-time MAT statewide coordinator who is responsible for providing training and technical assistance to site coordinators and is the liaison with DOC and Parole Board officials as well as single county authorities and community-based treatment providers.  By 2018, the Vivitrol program expanded to all 25 state prisons; and, in March 2018 the DOC converted six therapeutic communities to opiate-specific therapeutic communities (TCs). The agency's work in this area continues by expanding the program to include oral naltrexone maintenance while inmates are in the specialized TCs (e.g., Albion, Cambridge Springs, Camp Hill, Chester, Laurel Highlands, and Quehanna Boot Camp), and then they are switched to Vivitrol prior to release from prison.

In addition, on April 1, 2019, the DOC began a pilot project program offering Sublocade (buprenorphine extended-release) injections at SCI Muncy. Sublocade is the first and only once-monthly injectable buprenorphine formulation for the treatment of moderate to severe opioid use disorder. At Muncy, select parolees who are diverted to an SCI for a 14-day detox only placement are prescribed Suboxone induction and then a long-acting Sublocade injection prior to being continued on parole in an outpatient or inpatient treatment setting. Eventually, the DOC plans to gradually roll out this part of the MAT program to other state prisons.

The DOC also provides methadone maintenance to pregnant inmates to protect their fetuses from withdrawal.

Learn more about the DOC's Medication Assisted Treatment Program at www.cor.pa.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Susan McNaughton, 717-728-4025

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