Pa. prison receives grant to fund re-entry program for addicts

Officials say that targeting people while they are in prison increases the chances they continue treatment when they are released

By Mark Gilger Jr.
Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — A new program at the Schuylkill County Prison is underway to help inmates addicted to drugs and alcohol control their cravings as they prepare to re-enter the community.

The state Department of Corrections awarded Schuylkill County a $108,512 grant to start a pilot program aimed at reducing relapse, recidivism and overdoses through counseling and providing Vivitrol, an injectable medication that reduces drug and alcohol cravings for about 30 days.

"It is a non-narcodic-assisted treatment pilot program," Melissa Kalyan, administrator of the county Drug & Alcohol program, said Wednesday. "It is already being done on the state level, and it is being expanded to the counties."

Gov. Tom Wolf announced in December that 13 counties would receive $1.5 million in state funding for the program. The counties included Allegheny, Bradford, Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Schuylkill.

The funding targeted counties, particularly in rural areas, with high overdose rates and offenders with substance abuse disorder, according to the state DOC press release. About 68 percent of inmates have substance abuse problems, the press release said.

"When we look at people going into prison with opioid addiction, there is a greater chance of them overdosing when they get out because they haven't used in so long," Kalyan said. "More than likely, they are going to go back to using and this way, they are already engaged in treatment when they leave. The craving is really strong with opioids and Vivitrol really eliminates that."

She said that targeting people while they are in prison increases the chances they continue treatment when they are released.

"It is really going to open them up to assistance they may need in other areas," she said.

The program will feature about 30 people, she said. Candidates are still being screened for the program.

Clinical Outcomes Group Inc., Pottsville, will be providing the treatment and medication for the voluntary program. The nonprofit organization will also be working with PrimeCare Medical, the county's medical insurance provider at the prison.

"Our plan for the prison is to provide counseling for them and our hope is to go in a month or two prior to release to give them a foundation of treatment and coping skills," Alicia Fleischut, executive director of Clinical Outcomes Group Inc., said Thursday.

Fleischut said many opioid overdoses occur as people leave prison without any support.

"I think the program is going to help reduce the number of overdoses and the case managers will also help," she said. "Vivitrol is going to help with the physical part of addiction while the counseling and case management, we hope, is what will help with the psychiatric and emotional aspect of addiction. I do believe it will work. In the long run, I think it is going to be very beneficial to the county."

Fleischut said patients will receive their first injection of Vivitrol about a week before being released from prison and then have follow up shots as the program continues at Clinical Outcomes Group Inc. Vivitrol is an injectable form of naltrexone that blocks certain receptors to prevent a "high" and removes the cravings for drugs or alcohol, according to the state DOC.

"Vivitrol is just the extra help to reduce cravings and reduce the chances of a relapse," Fleischut said. "Case managers will work with inmates to help transition them into the community."

Frank Komykoski, vice president of operations for PrimeCare, said Wednesday that they are in the process of identifying about 30 people for the program. He said the company is involved with Vivitrol program at about 10 other facilities. Treatment can last up to two years, he said.

"The biggest thing about addiction is that they have to want to help themselves and we view this treatment as a piece of that," Komykoski said. "The injection is just a small part of the program. The counseling to manage their addiction is the main part. It is a pretty exciting program."
(c)2017 the Republican & Herald (Pottsville, Pa.)

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