Health officials: Prison program helps lower overdose deaths - InfoNews

Current Conditions

Cloudy
13.3°C

Health officials: Prison program helps lower overdose deaths

April 09, 2018 - 9:25 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - An expanded program to treat prisoners for opioid addiction helped lower the number of accidental drug overdose deaths in Rhode Island in 2017 after years of steady increases, state health officials said.

The roughly 4 per cent decrease in accidental overdose deaths represents a "small bit of momentum" that's energizing, said Health Department Director Nicole Alexander-Scott. There were 323 last year in the state, down from 336 in 2016, according to figures released Monday.

Andrew Klein, a senior criminal justice research analyst, uses Rhode Island as a model when advising other states about residential substance abuse treatment.

"They're showing that you can introduce these addictive medications in a prison environment without all hell breaking loose," said Klein, of Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

Rhode Island began screening all prisoners for opioid addiction in 2016. The state provides the three federally approved medications for opioid addiction to those prisoners who want and could benefit from the treatment.

Prison systems with treatment programs typically provide only one medication to some prisoners. Prior to 2016, Rhode Island provided only methadone.

About 8 per cent of the prison population in Rhode Island is participating. When they are released from prison, they have the option of transferring to a community-based treatment program and are also given a supply of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

The treatment program was expanded to give people a better chance at recovery, said Lauranne Howard, co-ordinator of substance use disorder services at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.

The Department of Corrections uses a quick-dissolving film form of one of the medications, instead of a pill, as one way to prevent inmates from giving the drugs to others for any illicit use, Howard said.

Researchers from Brown University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the addiction treatment program was leading to a drop in post-incarceration overdose deaths. They published a study in February in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.

Though overdose deaths decreased overall last year in Rhode Island, deaths from the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl increased by about 5 per cent. There were 205 fentanyl-related deaths.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo created a task force to prevent opioid overdoses in 2015. The state has made naloxone more readily available and taken other steps to combat the problem. Alexander-Scott is currently working with municipalities on developing local overdose prevention plans.

Nearly 1,700 people died of an accidental drug overdose in Rhode Island from 2011 through 2017.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

  • Popular kelowna News
  • Comments
  • Woman found dead in car in Kamloops
    KAMLOOPS - A woman has been found dead and two men have been taken to hospital after they were found in a car playing loud music early this morning. Kamloops RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jodi Shel
  • Kamloops RCMP seek missing man
    KAMLOOPS - Police in Kamloops are asking for the public's help to find a missing man. James Harris, 53, has not been in contact with family or friends since late March and he was last se
  • Searching for a stranger: Dozens of people brought in by bus to look for Ryan Shtuka
    SUN PEAKS - It's been nearly 10 weeks since Ryan Shtuka went missing in the Sun Peaks area after leaving a house party on Burfield Drive, but volunteers are still showing up in droves hoping t
  • Kelowna RCMP investigating brutal downtown assault
    KELOWNA - A Kelowna man who witnessed a brutal assault by a group of young men on a lone male in downtown Kelowna on the weekend says he feels like he came close to seeing a murder in progress.
  • Broncos families surprised obituaries are on website selling services
    Some families of Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims are surprised to learn that error-riddled obituaries of their loved ones have been posted on a website that's selling flowers, as well as on
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile