Jackson County achieves certification for gold standard of care for opioid addiction

In September, Jackson County, Michigan became the second in the state to be certified for making medication and treatment available to individuals with opioid use disorder incarcerated inside its jail(s). The certification was awarded by the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice (CBHJ) at Wayne State University’s School of Social Work and presented to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to recognize the interdisciplinary partnerships in the county.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office piloted their program in February 2020. Through close collaboration with Victory Clinical Services, LifeWays CMH and Advanced Correctional Healthcare, the program survived the restrictions of COVID-19 and the transition to a new administration in the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Schuette, who was elected in November 2020, prioritized the program, saying, “addressing opioid addiction in our jail was a top priority for me upon being elected. I was grateful to see that work had begun in the prior administration and am excited to continue to build upon those efforts.”

The CBHJ grants certification to counties who successfully incorporate all elements of the In-Jail Medication Assisted Treatment model that includes:

• Implementation and administration of a standard screening for opioid use disorder as part of the booking process.

• Access to all three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).

• Concurrent psychosocial services for detainees receiving medications for opioid use disorder.

•  Comprehensive opioid use disorder targeted discharge planning, inclusive of Medicaid reactivation, coordination with a community-based MOUD provider and access to free Naloxone.

People with substance use disorders often encounter the criminal/legal system, and those with OUD are up to 120 times more likely to have a fatal overdose following release from incarceration compared to the general population.  Engaging people with treatment prior to release reduces their chance of fatal overdose, and although treating OUD with medication is documented in research as the gold standard of care, less than 1% of jails and prisons across the country make MOUD available to detainees.

With generous support from the Michigan Opioid Partnership, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has delivered medication for opioid use disorder and concurrent psychosocial services to nearly 100 individuals housed in its jail(s) since the induction of programming.

The Sheriff’s Office has installed a Naloxone (NARCAN) vending machine in the lobby of its Wesley Street facility.  Naloxone has been a standard medication used in emergency medicine for over 40 years. It can reverse an overdose from ANY opioid including heroin, prescription medications, and fentanyl. Kits are free to all individuals releasing from the jail as well as to individuals entering the jail for visitation. This innovative distribution method has resulted in the distribution of over 200 Naloxone kits in just two months, potentially saving the lives of countless Jackson County residents.

According to Sheriff Schuette, “the importance of this type of programming is immeasurable, and it truly aligns with the vision of the county – The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office hopes to continue to serve as an innovator in the state and the nation as it relates to this work.”

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