Alliance Health has forged a dynamic partnership with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and several other organizations to make medication-assisted treatment (MAT) available to detainees with opioid use disorder at the Durham County Detention Facility.
MAT is the use of medications such as such as buprenorphine and methadone along with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders. MAT is one of the most effective forms of therapy for substance use disorders, and data has shown that it can decrease opioid use, opioid-related overdose deaths, criminal activity, and infectious disease transmission.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of people in jail meet criteria for drug dependence or abuse, and many of these individuals have opioid use disorders. A study by UNC and NCDHHS researchers found that in the first two weeks after being released from prison former inmates were 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than someone in the general population.
The Durham initiative, one of the first in the state, began in September 2019 providing MAT medications to people who were receiving them prior to arrest, and has recently expanded to offer the MAT program to all inmates with opioid use disorder. The program also includes on-site and community-based peer support to assist with transition to post-release treatment. The program has served 43 people since it began.
“One of the most important goals we have is to save lives,” said Alliance Director of Provider Network Strategy and Initiatives Dr. Carlyle Johnson. “So we know that those coming out of the Durham Detention Center have 40 times higher risk of fatal overdose, unless they are in treatment. If we can engage them in treatment and get them connected to aftercare, we reduce that risk.”
“We also know that if you can engage and be retained in treatment you’re more likely to go toward a path of recovery, find better connections to your community and family, and work toward employment,” Johnson said.
The detention center already offered the STARR abstinence-based substance use disorder treatment program, which will provide support for detainees receiving MAT.
“I’m just excited that we have yet another tool to help individuals on their road to recovery,” said Major Elijah Bazemore of Durham County Sheriff’s Office Detention Division. Maj. Bazemore said that previously, people in detention with opioid use disorders were only given Tylenol and anti-nausea medications to keep them comfortable during withdrawal. “I’m just ecstatic to be a part of this because it’s person-centered, providing an individual with the medication of their choice to help them in their recovery process,” he said.