Westmoreland prison drug treatment program bid at $400K | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Westmoreland prison drug treatment program bid at $400K

Stephen Huba
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Westmoreland County Prison

The Westmoreland County Prison wants to offer medication-assisted treatment to inmates dealing with opioid addiction but needs a way to pay for the program.

Warden John Walton told the county jail board on Monday that a quote from BayMark Health Services of Lewisville, Texas, was about double what the county was prepared to spend for such a program.

The quote, which included labor costs for a doctor, two nurses and a counselor, came in at $407,000 a year, he said.

Medication-assisted treatment would allow inmates who are on a Suboxone or methadone maintenance program to continue their prescription treatment in jail, Walton said. A similar program was started in Pennsylvania state prisons in June.

The state prison system and county jails already provide methadone maintenance to pregnant women to protect their babies from withdrawal.

In January 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf declared the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania a disaster and directed that medication-assisted treatment be provided within the Department of Corrections. Medication-assisted treatment includes methadone, naltrexone (Vivitrol and Revia) and buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex and Sublocade).

“We were trying to get out in front of it” by asking BayMark for a quote, Walton said. “If the state department can do that, why shouldn’t the county be able to do that?”

Suboxone and methadone are drugs that suppress or eliminate withdrawal systems. The county jail already offers Vivitrol injections to inmates who qualify for the treatment.

Vivitrol, the brand name of naltrexone, is a non-narcotic injection that blocks a drug user from getting high and suppresses cravings for drugs such as heroin and alcohol. Injections are required to continue every month. Inmates have to attend eight weeks of counseling and education sessions before they receive the first treatment.

The Vivitrol program is paid for by the Westmoreland County Drug and Alcohol Commission through funds provided by state and federal sources.

“I don’t believe they have the funds to pull off this other program. We’re basically trying to find money to do this,” Walton said.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is soliciting grant applications for county jail-based medication-assisted treatment programs, but the grant amount – $150,000 – would not cover the costs of the Westmoreland County program, Walton said.

Deadline for the PCCD grant is Oct. 4.

Walton said he hopes to look for other funding sources at the state and federal level because the problem of opioid-addicted inmates is not going away.

In August, the county jail set a record — 91.2% — for the number of new inmates who needed detoxification services for drug or alcohol addiction, he said. The previous record, set in May, was 85%.

In August, 239 out of 260 new inmates were deemed addicted to drugs and in need of detox services, Walton told the jail board. Of those, 17 had a methadone prescription and 34 had a Suboxone prescription.

One of the reasons the number was so high in August was the fact that a lot of inmates were brought back to Westmoreland County from state institutions and county facilities, Walton said.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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