By Brown University
A treatment program for opioid addiction launched by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections was associated with a significant drop in post-incarceration drug overdose deaths and contributed to an overall drop in overdose deaths statewide, a new study finds.
The program, launched in 2016 and the only one of its kind in the nation, screens all Rhode Island inmates for opioid use disorder and provides medications for addiction treatment (MAT) for those who need it. Comparing the six-month period before the program was implemented to the same period a year later, the study showed a 61 percent decrease in post-incarceration deaths. That decrease contributed to an overall 12 percent reduction in overdose deaths in the state's general population in the post-implementation period.
While the study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, was designed as a preliminary evaluation of the program, the results suggest that comprehensive MAT treatment in jails and prisons, with linkage to treatment in the community after release, is a promising strategy for rapidly addressing the opioid epidemic nationwide, the researchers say.