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New drug fights addiction

Tom Jackson • Aug 12, 2014 at 10:00 PM


Ottawa County will launch a Vivitrol program soon, Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters said.

A new tool in the efforts to keep convicted criminals off drugs,  Vivitrol is a recovery drug.

Ottawa County's program will launch soon.

"I expect we will see our first patient within a week or so, depending upon Medicaid approval," Winters said.

He said county officials are working with the jail, the local hospital, the health department and other interested parties. 

The Erie County Adult Probation Department also recently launched the program funded through a grant. The department has begun giving Vivitrol, also known as naltrexone, to select people on probation the department supervises.

Vivitrol, which can only be given to people who have gone through withdrawal from an opioid drug, reduces cravings for the drug and blocks people from the euphoric effects of getting high if they relapse into abuse. It is given as a monthly injection.

Adult Probation launched the new Vivitrol program on Saturday, giving it to a person who has been trying to recover from a  heroin addiction, said Karen Volz, chief probation officer for the department.

"We've got two more who are very close to being ready to participate," she said. "We're moving forward."

Huron County also plans to launch a Vivitrol program this fall for inmates being released from the county jail, said Elaine Barman, health educator for Huron County Public Health.

The Erie County program was launched with the help of Bayshore Counseling Services, the Erie County Health Department and Erie County Job and Family Services, Volz said. 

Funding for the Vivitrol program is provided by a Smart Ohio Plan grant, funding made available to counties from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections for prison diversion programs.

Erie County received its first $85,000 from the grant this year, and it was followed by another quarterly grant of about $96,000, Volz said.

"Every quarter we send in our statistics, and we're awarded money based on our statistics," Volz said. "We could potentially be awarded half a million (dollars) by the end of the grant, which is March of 2015."

Each Vivitrol injection costs about $1,000 and is given every 28 days. The grant money also paid for a counselor from Bayshore who comes to the office three days a week to provide individual and group drug and alcohol counseling, Volz said.

Volz, a probation officer for 34 years, said heroin was a big problem when she started. The drug has made a comeback lately, she said.

"A lot of the people we see get started with opiates, pain medication," she said. 

When they can't get it, or when it stops working, they go on to heroin, which is cheaper than using pills, Volz said.

As a result, people are dying of drug overdoses in Erie County.

"We've had a few of our probationers who have died," she said.

Huron County's Vivitrol program is being put together with the help of Sheriff Dane Howard, who is trying to deal with the significant number of jail inmates who are addicted to opiates. The program is supposed to launch in December, Barman said.

(Reported Alex Green contributed to this story). 

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