Virginia and seven other states have been selected by the National Governor's Association to study improved access to treatment for opioid-addicted arrestees and prisoners. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 65 percent of the U.S. prison population in 2010 met the medical criteria for drug or alcohol addiction, but fewer than 11 percent received treatment. The Virginia Department of Corrections reports that nine inmates have died from heroin or fentanyl overdoses since 2015. Drugs can get into the prisons via mail, visitors and staff. Eleven staff members have been charged since 2015 and new controls placed on inmate visits and mail went into effect last month. "Opioid addiction among offenders in our facilities and in community corrections is a very real and challenging problem," said Harold Clarke, director of the Virginia Department of Corrections Monday. He said, "Our participation ... will provide the opportunity to share ideas, learn from other states and develop new strategies." The NGA said more prisons are using medication-assisted treatments and that many states have pilot programs using extended-release naltrexone, a monthly injection that blocks effects of opioids while reducing cravings, and exploring other treatment and rehabilitation practices. The Virginia Supreme Court said last August that funds were included in the state budget for this year to support substance abuse treatment pilot programs at the Norfolk Adult Drug Court and the Henrico County Adult Drug Court using naltrexone. No update was available from the Virginia Supreme Court on Monday. The NGA said that officials from Virginia and the other states, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey and Washington, will learn from Massachusetts, which has "innovative models" of treatment for "justice-involved populations" via drug courts and the correctional system. Participants will learn about residential treatment programs and naltrexone injection correctional programs and how they work with providers in communities. Participating states are to develop and execute six-month "action plans" for expanding access to opioid treatment. The NGA said its Center for Best Practices will coordinate meetings, conference calls, webinars and provide technical assistance to the governor's staff and state officials that highlights best practices around opioid abuse treatment.
By Frank Green via the Richmond Times-Dispatch
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