Collier County has taken a step forward in helping people with opioid addiction by accepting a grant that will fund the treatment of inmates at the Naples Jail Center.
“It’s a game changer,” said Nancy Dauphinais, chief operating officer of the David Lawrence Center. “It is an important step forward in providing access to life-saving and life-changing treatments for individuals with opioid use disorders.”
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The grant is one piece of the funding puzzle that ensures inmates in prison have access to their drug-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders, Dauphinais said.
Drug-assisted treatment is the use of Food and Drug Administration-approved medications to treat opioid use disorders.
When combined with counseling and recovery support, drug therapy is the gold standard for treating opioid use disorders, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The three-year grant is worth $1.2 million and comes from the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The county, Collier County Sheriff’s Office and David Lawrence Center teamed up to apply for the grant and fund the $1.2 million match commitment. The county commissioners approved the grant’s acceptance at their June 22 meeting.
The grant and match will raise $2.4 million to purchase the medication and hire health care providers to treat in prison.
It will ensure that persons who were already undergoing drug treatment at the time of their arrest can continue treatment in detention.
Individuals treated in prison will be connected to the David Lawrence Center upon their release.
“Our piece should be the bridge for when a prisoner is released so that they can continue with treatment services and there is no interruption of care,” Dauphinais said.
Community partners were initially denied a grant in 2019 to kick-start efforts to provide drug treatment to detainees for opioid use disorders.
The county, the sheriff’s office, the David Lawrence Center and Armor Correctional Health Services have applied for the $15,730 grant from the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and Arnold Ventures.
After reading a story from the Naples Daily News over the refusal of the grant, a Naples father whose son died of an opioid overdose donated the money to the David Lawrence Center in lieu of the grant.
That enabled the community partners to send representatives to travel to Washington, DC, to learn from experts and other communities about drug abuse-supported treatment models.
Last year, the county was approved for an $84,750 grant through the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, which would allow community partners to develop a plan for treating opioid use disorders.
The David Lawrence Center has developed a drug treatment team tasked with linking incarcerated individuals to ongoing treatment and recovery support. The team was also tasked with public education about drug treatment.
“This was the first grant to fund the cost of drugs and healthcare providers in prison,” Dauphinais said. “Because we didn’t have those pieces, we were in a bit of a planning phase, so this was a big step forward.”
Drug-assisted treatment uses methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat people struggling with addiction and may help support recovery, according to the David Lawrence Center.
“The prescription drugs work to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings and normalize bodily functions without the negative effects of the illegal drug,” according to the David Lawrence Center. “The goal is to reduce painful withdrawal symptoms, improve functioning and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.”
If funding allows in the future, community partners would expand the program to offer drug treatment, or MAT, to inmates who were untreated at the time of their arrest, Dauphinais said.
“Priority one is to ensure that people who are already taking MAT at the time of their intake can continue to do so,” Dauphinais said. “It would eventually be ideal to be able to start that in prison for anyone interested, regardless of their current status when they are arrested.”
Medication-assisted treatment for inmates prevents them from having to detox while incarcerated and could save lives, Dauphinais said.
“When a person is detoxified, their tolerance drops. When they are released, they are at much greater risk of overdose if they go back on drugs,” Dauphinais said.
Making sure people with substance abuse problems get the right treatment benefits the entire community by lowering the death rate from drug overdose and reducing the strain on the health care system, she said.
Proper treatment of drug addictions reduces drug-related crime and children’s referrals to the child welfare system, Dauphinais said.
Once individuals are properly treated for their addiction, they can keep a job, contribute to society and support the local economy, Dauphinais said.
“It affects all functions of the community, from crime to health to the economy and industry,” Dauphinais said. “Drug-assisted treatment has certainly been proven effective across the country, and this is certainly supported by evidence.”
Pointing to rising overdose rates across the country, Dauphinais said funding the treatment of opioid use disorders is as important as ever.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a “significant increase” in overdose deaths across the country in December 2020, recorded before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most recent available preliminary data indicates that there were approximately 81,230 drug overdose deaths across the country from June 2019 to May 2020, according to the CDC.
“This represents an exacerbation of the drug overdose epidemic in the United States and is the largest 12-month drug overdose rate on record,” the CDC report said.
According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths across the country increased 18.2% from June 2019 to May 2020 compared to July 2018 to June 2019.
According to the CDC, the increases were primarily driven by a rapid rise in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.
Opioid-induced deaths are up 51% statewide in the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019, according to the latest data from the United States. Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
According to the FDLE, a total of 3,034 opioid deaths were reported in Florida in the first half of 2020.
In 2019, Collier County saw a 58% increase in opioid overdose deaths compared to the previous year, according to the Florida Department of Health.
According to the FDOH, the number of opioid deaths in the province has risen from 48 in 2018 to 76 in 2019.
District-level data for drug overdose deaths in 2020 is not yet available in the state of Florida.
The county provided approximately $11,000 for the grant match obligation. The David Lawrence Center and the Sheriff’s Office each provided about $260,000 and $929,000 to match the state grant.
Katina Bouza, director of the corrections support division at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, said the bulk of the grant’s funding will be used to hire staff to work in the prison and provide treatment.
Historically, very few inmates in Collier County jails have received drug treatment for opioid use disorders, Bouza said.
“We are not providing MAT to any inmate unless it is a pregnant woman who was on MAT at the time of her arrest,” Bouza said. “Then we’ll move on to her methadone treatment.”
Inmates who take Vivitrol through the drug court also get their medication while incarcerated, Bouza said.
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Expanding access to drug treatment for inmates benefits the entire community and could reduce re-incarceration, Bouza said.
“If you have an opioid use disorder and you try to quit through other forms of treatment and you can’t, your brain isn’t working properly,” Bouza said.
Bouza was a member of the group that completed the Bureau of Justice Assistance training in early 2020 to learn more about drug treatment.
“We really learned the science behind it,” Bouza said. “A lot of people think that one drug replaces another, but when you learn more about the science of it, it really changes your perspective.”
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