State Launches New Opiate Treatment Program

Dec 1, 2015

Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday announced a program to treat opiate addiction in newly released inmates.

The pilot program offers recovering addicts being released from the Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland the option of being treated with the drug naltrexone, which blocks the euphoric effects of heroin and other opiates. Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen said people coming out of jail often need the most help recovering from addiction.

"This pilot program identifies a very at-risk population — that's those individuals who are in corrections. Oftentimes they are in corrections because of aspects of their addiction that have gotten them into corrections," he said. "But coming out of corrections, they often don't link up with treatment options."

The pilot program is a joint project of the Agency of Human Services and the West Ridge Addiction Treatment Center in Rutland. West Ridge medical director Dr. Gordon Frankle said the medication offers great potential for helping addicts stay clean.

"It lasts 30 days. It's an opiate receptor blocker. It's not divertible, unlike buprenorphine or suboxone, as it's called, or methadone. It can't be diverted," Frankle said. "You don't get high on it. It's not an opioid alternative. It's an opiate blocker."

The drug is administered by injection once a month. Officials say people under supervision of the Department of Corrections are at a higher risk for opioid addiction and Rutland is one of the areas in the state with the highest need for medication assisted treatment and recovery services.