VA Dept. Corrections offering buprenorphine for opioid treatment

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Virginia Dept. of Corrections is now allowing male and female inmates to continue taking buprenorphine for opioid treatment once in the state’s custody if those individuals have verified prescriptions.

The medication will be offered in oral and injectable formats.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), at low and moderate doses, buprenorphine produces effects, such as euphoria or respiratory depression. But those effects are weaker than drugs like methadone and heroin.

And buprenorphine can diminish the effects of physical dependency to opioids, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings, SAMHSA.

Buprenorphine will be offered to inmates as part of the Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) program at six facilities, including Nottoway Correctional Center, Keen Mountain Correctional Center, Green Rock Correctional Center, Indian Creek Correctional Center, Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, and Virginia Correctional Center for Women.

SAMHSA states buprenorphine should be prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and other services to provide patients with a whole-person approach.

In line with that guidance, VADOC said the buprenorphine provided to inmates will be coupled with ongoing counseling, case management, peer support, and substance use disorder programming.

In a statement on the decision, Ashlyn Hartsook, Statewide MAT Coordinator, described the move as “an important step toward fostering hope, reducing the risk of relapse, increasing treatment retention, and normalizing brain chemistry for justice-impacted individuals with opioid use disorder.”

“The data illustrates that the number of Americans dying from opioid use is increasing dramatically,” VADOC Director Harold W. Clarke, added in the statement. “As an agency committed to providing second chances for those entrusted to our care, it is imperative that we continue to grow programs that have proven to work. MAT is one such program. We are committed to assisting those entrusted to our care in having a substance use-free life following their incarceration or treatment in the community.”

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