RICHMOND — The National Governors Association (NGA) has selected Virginia and seven other states to participate in a learning lab designed to develop strategies to expand access to opioid addiction treatment for offenders.
In addition to Virginia, the NGA selected Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey and Washington to participate in the learning lab. The selected states will also receive guidance from the state of Massachusetts which has already implemented innovative models of providing opioid use disorder treatment to justice-involved populations via drug courts and the correctional system.
“We are pleased to have been selected by the NGA to participate in this learning lab,” said VADOC Director Harold Clarke. “Since 2015, nine inmates have died in VADOC facilities as a result of overdoses on heroin or fentanyl. We would like to see that number reduced to zero.”
Data from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse suggests that in 2010, 65 percent of the U.S. prison population met the medical criteria for drug or alcohol addiction, but fewer than 11 percent received treatment for that addiction. The learning lab offers states an opportunity to consider evidence-based options for filling treatment gaps to address addictions and create easier transitions for returning citizens who battle addiction.
“Opioid addiction among offenders in our facilities and in community corrections is a very real and challenging problem to overcome,” adds Clarke. “Our participation in the learning lab will provide the opportunity to share ideas, learn from other states and develop new strategies for addressing the opioid addiction epidemic that continues to affect so many families in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Participating states will have the opportunity to learn from the state of Massachusetts and its use of Residential Substance Abuse Treatment programs and naltrexone injection correctional programs, as well as the support systems in place at the community level. States will also hear from Massachusetts’ long-running drug court programs, which connect incarcerated individuals with medication-assisted treatment and counseling.
Each participating state will be responsible for developing and executing a six-month strategic action plan for expanding access to opioid use disorder treatment. The plans are to include steps to align policy and programs across relevant agencies to ensure that new strategies fit within the states’ larger efforts to respond to opioid abuse.
More information on the VADOC can be found at www.vadoc.virginia.gov.