DELAWARE COUNTY, PA — Inmates at Delaware County’s George W. Hill Correctional Facility who are suffering from opioid use disorder can get full medication-assisted treatmentCounty officials last week announced the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program at the prison. The county is partnering with Wellpath to host the program.

The program includes three FDA-approved medications: Buprenorphine, Naltrexone, and Methadone.

Officials said the program has grown from five to more than 60 patients since it began in July 2022.

“Like the rest of our country, Delaware County continues to be plagued by the opioid epidemic and we see those who are suffering from addiction enter our facility every day,” said George W. Hill Correctional Facility Warden Laura Williams. “Our complete MAT program allows us to provide the most effective medications that minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings while at the same time raising dopamine levels. Our goal is to provide the specific medication a person needs for recovery, so we can release people safely into the community and do our part to avoid fatal overdoses.”

The expansion of medications for Opioid Use Disorder was a mission of the Delaware County Jail Oversight Board.

In February 2020, the board adopted a resolution calling for the expansion of treatment for inmates with Opioid Use Disorder.

The board cited the ongoing crisis regarding the widespread addiction to heroin, fentanyl, carfentanyl, and other opioids

“Since its inception, The Jail Oversight Board has recognized the urgent need to address the opioid crisis at the County’s jail,” said Delaware County Councilman and Chair of the Jail Oversight Board Kevin Madden. “A significant portion of the prison population is dealing with opioid addiction and releasing them back into the community without addressing and treating the addiction is a disservice to the inmates and to the community to which they return. We need to address the root of why many are incarcerated and provide the tools they need to recover.”

In April 2022, following a multi-year process of study and planning, the county took control of the prison from the private management firm GEO Group.

As part of its resumption of operations, the county has integrated the prison with its other justice agencies and County departments, which will allow investments to be made in treatment programs, mental health resources, re-entry programs, staff, and technology.

Since deprivatizing the prison, a key priority has been transforming how the prison handles detainees and prepares them to become productive members of the community when they are released, officials said.

During a recent Jail Oversight Board Meeting, Williams provided an update on the expansion of medications to treat patients at the prison with Opioid Use Disorders.

As of Feb. 14, 60 individuals were prescribed Suboxone, 3 were prescribed Sublocade, and 7 were prescribed Methadone.

Wellpath assesses candidates for enrollment in the program during an intake at the prison to determine the individual’s likelihood of success in a MAT program and get them on the path to recovery as early as possible.

Those who have already begun a MAT program before entering may continue their program while at the facility.

When patients are a part of a MAT program and not using illegal drugs, they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which considers opioid addiction a disease and not a criminal activity and recognizes that a person’s drug addiction or recovery extends into the neighboring community after incarceration.

“I have been on the front lines of addiction for many years and in my current role I want to do all I can to maximize the safety of our patients and community,” Williams said. “By providing this comprehensive MAT program, not only are we giving patients effective care, but we are setting them up for positive reintegration into the community which we believe will help reduce recidivism in the long run.”

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