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Jail Latest To Test Medication For Opioid Addiction

MAYVILLE — Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said the jail has successfully implemented the first of a multi-step re-entry program meant to help those battling opioid addiction. Part of the program — which includes a collaboration with the departments of Health and Human Services and Mental Hygiene — includes administering Vivitrol, medication designed to help prevent relapses into drug and alcohol abuse.

Gerace said Friday that Vivitrol was recently administered to an inmate at the Chautauqua County Jail. He said the medication is meant to be given prior to an inmate’s release from jail to help curb opioid cravings in addition to a treatment program that includes behavioral therapy, counseling and support programs outside confinement.

The Sheriff’s Office in a press release Friday said the inmate has been released into rehabilitation, having completed the first step of the re-entry program.

Gerace said the Chautauqua County Jail is one of many across the country that have begun using Vivitrol with inmates. He said one of the program’s goals is to prevent reoffending and opioid overdoses.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people die every day after overdosing on opioids including prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

“We want to see a reduction in the number of overdoses and demand in the supply,” Gerace told The Post-Journal. “We’re hoping through this program that we can have an impact.”

The sheriff noted that Vivitrol will not work on all inmates battling an opioid addiction; the jail staff, which includes nurses and counselors housed in facility, review each candidate as part of the re-entry program.

The county applied to be part of a pilot program to use Vivitrol.

The medication has not been without its criticism, however. The manufacturer, Alkermes, has been accused of rigorously marketing the product to jails and prisons.

According to the New York Times, Tom Price, the country’s health and human services secretary, set off a furor after praising Vivitrol last June as the “future of opioid addition treatment” after visiting the company’s plant in Ohio. Substance abuse experts criticized a comment by Price that less expensive options and competitors were simply “substitutes” for illegal drugs.

Gerace said he was aware of the medication’s critics, and noted that Vivitrol will only be used in “appropriate cases.”

“This is only one piece of the re-entry process,” he said. “It will not be utilized across the board.”

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