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 February 06, 2017 - Dauphin County announces pilot program to help heroin-addicted offenders get clean and rebuild their lives

HARRISBURG, PA (February 6, 2017) – In a move designed to lower incarceration and recidivism rates, Dauphin County will begin treating heroin-or prescription opioid addicted offenders with monthly Vivitrol shots, a non-addictive medication that blocks the opioid receptors in the brain and reduces cravings for both opiates and alcohol.

“Heroin is taking too many lives and this is an opportunity to start reversing this deadly epidemic,’’ said Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III, who oversees the county’s Drug & Alcohol Services, which is administering the program. “This program gives people that have been powerless in the face of their addiction a way to rebuild their lives.’’

Four inmates at Dauphin County Prison are already being assessed for the program.  A unique aspect of the program is that Positive Recovery Solutions, one of several providers contracted to provide Vivitrol shots in Dauphin County, will offer the treatment at different areas in the county through the use of a camper-like mobile unit.

"Whether county jail or state prison the number of those coming into our institutions addicted to opioids is growing at an exponential rate," said Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. "Focusing on the individuals who are dealing with these addictions and helping them to lead drug free lives will create better outcomes in the reduction of crime and increased support to their families. We started our pilot Vivitrol program four years ago at a single prison and based on early indications of a reduction in recidivism and relapse we expanded it to 11 institutions. We believe treating addiction while individuals are still prison is an effective way to ensure they are on the right footing when they are released."

Dauphin County had at least 91 drug overdose deaths in 2016, a 23 percent increase from 2015. Many of the deaths were caused by either heroin or fentanyl, a stronger synthetic opioid.

Offenders at all points in the system are eligible, from the newly arrested who are accepted into the program instead of jail, to those released from prison or on probation. The initial program is for a year and is funded through a $183,560 state grant, expected to cover monthly shots for 50 offenders as well as associated monitoring by case managers, therapy and other treatment-related needs. Those charged with or convicted of violent crimes will not be accepted into the program.

Hartwick said that because Medical Assistance and private insurers are now covering Vivitrol, he expects the county will be able to offer treatment to more than 50. Much of the state funding will be used for those still in work release, who are still considered incarcerated and therefore not eligible for Medical Assistance, which only offers coverage upon release.

“We know that a majority of crime is caused those looking to feed their addiction,’’ said commission Chairman Jeff Haste. “Simply locking people up isn’t the answer – most will eventually be released and re-offend if we don’t help them kick their dependency on drugs.’’

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico agreed.

“My office is committed to working with our partners in the criminal justice system to ensure as many non-violent offenders as possible who qualify are enrolled in this program,’’ Marsico said. “Programs like this are not soft on crime, they are smart on crime.’’

As part of the program, Vivitrol’s manufacturer, Alkermes, will provide the first injection free of charge to those being released from Dauphin County Prison. It is anticipated most participants will receive a course of 12 injections – one every 28 days, costing $1,000 each – though treatment will vary depending on the case.

“Drug addiction and overdose deaths impact every community throughout our county, state and nation,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “Programs like the one we’re announcing today can stop heroin from destroying lives.’’

Dauphin is among 13 counties taking part in a $1.5 million state pilot program to provide Vivitrol. York County began its program in September and Cumberland Perry counties are expected to start offering the shots this year.

Any Dauphin County resident interested in learning more about Vivitrol treatment for opioid or alcohol dependence for themselves or a loved one can call Dauphin County Drug and Alcohol Services at (717) 635-2254.  

 

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About Dauphin County’s Vivitrol pilot program for offenders

Q: What is Vivitrol and how will it be used in the pilot program?

A:  Vivitrol is a non-addicting drug that curbs the craving for heroin and other opioids as well as alcohol. In the Dauphin County program, which is similar to those being run in other counties, it is expected participants will receive a Vivitrol injection every 28 days for a year, though the length of treatment may vary depending on the case. Vivitrol’s manufacturer, Alkermes, is providing the first shot free of charge (injections cost $1,000 each).

Q: Why is this program necessary?

A: Overdose deaths in Dauphin County continue to rise, from 82 in 2015 to 91 in 2016. In 2015, Dauphin was second only to York County in overdose deaths in the Central Pennsylvania region:

 

  • York:                            99
  • Dauphin :                     82
  • Lancaster:                   80
  • Cumberland:               41
  • Schuylkill:                    25
  • Lebanon:                     20
  • Northumberland:        16
  • Perry                           3

Source: DEA report released in July 2016

Vivitrol treatment programs have shown success in reducing both drug relapse and recidivism rates. Given that a majority of crimes are committed by those addicted to drugs, providing an effective treatment promises to be the best method of breaking the cycle of repeated arrests and incarcerations.

Q: How is Dauphin County paying for the program?

A:  Dauphin is among 13 counties taking part in a $1.5 million state pilot program to provide Vivitrol. York County began its program in September and Cumberland Perry counties are expected to start offering the shots this year. Dauphin received a one-year grant of $183,560, expected to cover monthly shots for 50 offenders as well as associated monitoring by case managers, therapy and other treatment-related needs.

Q: How will the program continue after the first year?

A: Medical Assistance (which will cover low-income offenders released from custody) and an increasing number of private insurers are paying for Vivitrol treatments. The grant is primarily being used for offenders in work release, who are still considered incarcerated and therefore not eligible for Medical Assistance. At the end of the grant period, it is anticipated additional money will be available from the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. 

Q: Is it possible more than 50 offenders will receive treatment in the first year and thereafter?

A: Yes. Because Vivitrol is being covered by Medical Assistance and private insurers, county officials hope to eventually treat all offenders who could benefit from the therapy.

Q: Who can qualify for the program?

A: Offenders from all points in criminal justice system will be eligible, from those just arrested to individuals in the county prison, work release center or on probation or parole. Offenders will not be eligible if they have exhibited violent behavior. Additionally, individuals will not be eligible if they are facing charges or have been found guilty of charges for crimes including: deadly weapons, personal injury, incest, open lewdness, internet child pornography, drug offenses committed with firearms, or sex offenses.

Q: How will offenders be selected for the program?

A: Participation in the program is voluntary. Staff at Dauphin County’s prison, work release or probation services will refer candidates to county Drug & Alcohol Services case managers. These managers will review candidate with the District Attorney’s office and the offender’s public defender or private attorney to determine eligibility.

Q: How will those in the program be monitored and helped in addition to receiving Vivitrol shots?

A: Participants will undergo regular urine drug screening testing and those who fail three screenings will be removed from the program. Case managers will meet with participants on a regular basis and coordinate any additional care that is needed, such as job training and placement, child care, housing and transportation. All service providers will work together as a cohesive treatment team.

Any Dauphin County resident interested in learning more about Vivitrol treatment for opioid or alcohol dependence for themselves or a loved one can call Dauphin County Drug and Alcohol Services at (717) 635-2254.  

Contact: arichards@dauphinc.org
Category: Dauphin County
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