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05/15/2019

PA DOC Medication-Assisted Treatment Program Takes Center Stage at National Health Conference

Harrisburg, PA –Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program coordinator Steve Seitchik today presented "PA's Efforts to Expand Access to MAT for People Who Are Incarcerated" as the keynote speaker at the 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials' (ASTHO) yearly meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Steve was hired in 2016 as the agency's first full-time MAT coordinator and has worked in chronic disease and substance use for more than two decades," said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. "He is uniquely positioned to share with others what Pennsylvania's Corrections' system has implemented, detailing the necessary partners and resources for expansion of MAT."

The CDC currently funds 43 state health agencies to implement opioid overdose prevention strategies and activities through the Prevention for States and Data-Driven Prevention Initiatives program. Each year, public health representatives from all 43 awardee states, national organizations and federal partners convene to discuss the current state of the opioid epidemic and successful and promising state initiatives to address and prevent overdose.

As part of its ongoing mission to better equip reentrants as they return to their communities, the DOC began providing Vivitrol for female reentrants at SCI Muncy in 2014. Vivitrol is a non-narcotic medication indicated for the treatment of alcohol use disorder as well as opioid use disorder.

"Much as the opioid crisis has hit Pennsylvania and the nation, the number of individuals entering state prisons with substance use disorder has doubled in the last decade from 6 to 12 percent," said Wetzel. "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."

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

"We are treating substance use disorder as the chronic disease it is rather than as an acute illness," said Seitchik. "Research results suggest that long-term care strategies of medication management and continued monitoring produce lasting benefits and the use of MAT for those suffering from substance use disorder should be insured, treated and evaluated like other chronic illnesses."

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.

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 is 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 babies from withdrawal.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Maria A. Finn, 717-728-3533

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