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Addicts to get treatment

Tom Jackson • Jun 27, 2014 at 1:34 PM



When you're in jail, suffering from an addiction to an opiate such as heroin, it might be time to detox.

Huron County's health department and the Huron County Sheriff's Office plan to launch a program to help addicted county jail inmates avoid a relapse.

The plan to is to give inmates who are about to be released from jail a dose of Naltrexone, which also is known as Vivitrol, blocks the euphoric effects of getting high. It also lowers the craving for whatever opiate drug to which the person is addicted.

"It's really an issue of giving them some time to be able to get their life back together," said Elaine Barman, health educator for Huron County Public Health.

Barman said the idea for launching a Vivitrol program came from efforts to deal with Huron County's drug addicts.

"We know the community has been asking what are you going to do with the drug problem," Barman said. 

Barman said Sheriff Dane Howard has told them that significant numbers of inmates in the county jail are addicted to opiates such as heroin or opioid painkillers.

The sheriff told health officials he has seen a number of persons go through the jail and then attempt to go back on drugs after being released. Because their body has gone through withdrawal while in jail, they can't handle that level of drug anymore.

"They overdose upon release," Barman said.

Howard did not respond to three telephone calls Monday asking him for an interview.

The plan is to try to launch the program by the fall, Barman said. 

"It's a pilot program. We want to make sure we do it correctly," said the county's health commissioner, Tim Hollinger, at last week's health board meeting. 

Working with the sheriff makes sense, because Howard knows which inmates are serious about getting off drugs, Hollinger said. 

Barman said inmates will only be given Vivitrol if they consent, although the health department is working with the local court system to find out if it can be included in court orders. 

"It's going to be something they have to volunteer for," she said.

The Vivitrol is administered as shots to the muscle in large monthly doses. The first dose would be given just before an inmate is scheduled to be released from jail, with additional doses to follow every month. A minimum of six months is recommended, Barman said.

The health department will administer the drug and hopes to recover much of the estimated $500 cost per dose from Medicaid. Few of the prisoners have private insurance, she said.

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