Innovative Program in RI Cuts Prisoner Overdose Deaths
As the opioid crisis continues to unfold, growing percentages of inmates enter prison addicted, and often overdose upon release. Now a new program in Rhode Island offers hope for addicted prisoners.
As reported by Rhode Island Public Radio, researchers from Brown University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that fatal overdoses among former inmates dropped more than 60 percent after the Rhode Island Department of Corrections began offering medications such as methadone and buprenorphine, known by its brand name Suboxone, to treat opioid addiction.
In 2016, Governor Raimondo included $2 million in the state budget to expand a pilot program launched by Dr. Josiah “Jody” Rich, an epidemiologist at The Miriam Hospital, to make medication-assisted treatment available to all inmates at the ACI with a history of opioid addiction.
Rich, the study’s co-author and director of The Miriam Hospital’s Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, said the program required a lot of coordination both in and outside of the prison.
“So for this to work we not only needed to start the medications,’’ Rich said, “we need to have them walk out the door with medical insurance, make it to a program, continue to take the medicines — and by and large that has happened. So this is very exciting news.”
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To learn more about Rhode Island’s innovative prison program for preventing opioid overdoses, please visit RIPR.org.