RICHMOND — Doing its part to help tackle the opioid crisis, the Virginia Department of Corrections has launched a medically assisted drug treatment pilot program to help offenders and probationers with a history of substance abuse disorder, specifically those with opioid dependence.
VADOC’s Medication Assisted Treatment Reentry Initiative (MATRI) is designed to provide pre-release treatment and post-release referral, treatment and support for opioid-addicted offenders. The program is the result of Virginia’s participation in the National Governors Association (NGA) learning lab in 2017, which offered participating states an opportunity to consider evidence-based options for filling treatment gaps among offender populations.
“When offenders come into the system addicted to opioids, it is our responsibility to do all we can to help them return to society free from that addiction,” said VADOC Director Harold Clarke. “Virginia’s participation in the NGA learning lab allowed our team to learn from other state correctional agencies where medication assisted treatment has already proven to be highly successful and we are pleased to introduce this program in our institutions.”
MATRI utilizes the drug naltrexone. This FDA approved non-narcotic medication blocks receptors in the brain, preventing the euphoric effects of opioids and reducing cravings for the drugs. Naltrexone is administered immediately before release from a correctional facility and it remains effective for 28 days. To be eligible for the injected naltrexone, participants must have completed the in-custody intensive substance abuse treatment programming. They must also be transitioning to one of the three target reentry locations – Norfolk City, Richmond City and Tazewell/Buchanan County. These areas were selected based on data collected that measured opioid use among offenders in Virginia.
“We’ve seen how opioid addiction hurts our communities and we’ve witnessed its effects on many of the offenders in our care,” said VADOC Chief of Corrections Operations A. David Robinson. “The MATRI program allows our agency to address opioid addiction in offenders head-on and hopefully end their opioid dependency and get them started on the path to full recovery.”
Upon release, the participants are required to transition into an outpatient substance abuse treatment program provided by a local Community Service Board (CSB) that employs a multi-faceted approach to treatment including the use of medication, counseling and wrap-around services.
“It is critical that MATRI participants receive CSB-provided outpatient treatment for a continuum of care as they reenter the community and learn to practice healthy substance-free lifestyles,” added Scott Richeson, VADOC Deputy Director of Programs, Education and Reentry. “Support and treatment are essential during the reentry phase as participants will face challenges and temptations and must stay motivated and focused on recovery. Research shows that the highest incidence of relapse and overdose is during the first several weeks after release.”
MATRI participants will be identified and selected from Intensive Therapeutic Communities in five pilot sites. The five sites include two prisons – Indian Creek Correctional Center and Virginia Correctional Center for Women – and three Community Corrections Alternative Programs (CCAP) – Cold Springs Detention & Diversion Center, Appalachian Detention and Diversion Center, and Chesterfield Women’s Detention and Diversion Center.
The Department has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Alkermes, the manufacturer of Vivitrol, an injectable form of naltrexone. Alkermes has agreed to provide the first 100 dosages free of charge.
More information on the VADOC can be found at www.vadoc.virginia.gov.