Orange County, FL - Inmates released from the Orange County Jail struggling with heroin addiction now have a greater chance at staying clean through immediate access to the prescribed drug Vivitrol. The treatment, which comes in the form of a once-a-month injection, is reported to reduce cravings by blocking the body’s opioid receptors. The new program launched June 11.
“Tragically but not surprisingly, the Orange County jail routinely cares for heroin addicts, including expectant mothers. We routinely screen all inmates – not just those arrested for heroin-specific offenses – to identify anyone addicted or dependent on heroin. This number actually surpasses those arrested for specific heroin-related charges,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “As part of the Orange County Heroin Task Force efforts, the Corrections Workgroup recommended the development of a pilot project which uses Vivitrol - a non-addictive medication - that can help prevent a relapse of opioid use for about 28 days. Although not everyone is eligible for the Vivitrol pilot project, for those inmates selected for participation, the program can be truly life-saving. An amazing 144 of the 200 inmates selected for program consideration have indicated their interest, and agreed to further in-depth evaluation and treatment.”
According to Carol Burkett, Director of the Orange County Office for a Drug Free Community, studies reflect that more young adults, including young professionals and college students, are using the drug.
“Although prescription drug abuse is still a serious problem, heroin has become easier to obtain and has a very high-purity level,” said Burkett. “With an 84 percent increase in deaths associated with heroin abuse between 2013 and 2014 in Orange County, we want to look at every vantage point that might intersect with those abusing so that we can make our greatest impact.”
Inmates identified during the medical booking process as using heroin or addicted to heroin are contacted by staff to determine their interest in the Vivitrol program. In the first few weeks of availability, Corrections Health Services staff and providers conducted an initial screening with approximately 200 inmates on the Vivitrol program and over 140 expressed participation interest. Substance abuse providers will then conduct a lengthier assessment as well as provide those interested with additional education about the program. If the inmate is approved, Corrections Health Services will schedule their Vivitrol injection prior to their release.
“This program underscores that the correctional system is a key touch point in breaking the cycle of heroin addiction in the community,” said Chief of Corrections Cornita Riley. “The Orange County Jail is a natural partner.”
The new program is one of 37 recommendations adopted by the Orange County Heroin Task Force in the spring of 2016. The Task Force, co-chaired by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Sheriff Jerry L. Demings, with representatives from law enforcement, courts, schools, higher education, healthcare, treatment and medical examiner’s office worked collectively to provide tangible recommendations to the community and leaders within six months of their initial meeting. Several community key points were identified through the Task Force as having the greatest potential to reach those most at-risk, which includes jails, treatment centers and emergency rooms. While one dose of the injection traditionally costs approximately $1,000 (rates vary among health insurance providers and the Vivitrol co-pay savings options), Orange County worked in partnership with the eligible treatment providers affiliated with Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) to administer these services. The eligible Vivitrol providers in Orange County include Aspire Health Partners, Specialized Treatment Education & Prevention Services (STEPS), Central Florida Recovery Centers and Health Care Center for the Homeless. The jail program is similar to those found in other major metropolitan communities that have also seen significant elevations in heroin-related overdoses and deaths.
The Orange County Jail and Corrections Health Services Division began screening inmates in June during the medical booking process to survey interest in the Vivitrol program. All inmates taking part in the program receive a referral to an outpatient or residential treatment program to help them overcome their heroin addiction. FADAA will reimburse the eligible providers the cost of medication, screening and education, medical assessment, and medication support for clients served the previous month.
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About Orange County Government: Orange County Government strives to serve its citizens and guests with integrity, honesty, fairness and professionalism. Located in Central Florida, Orange County includes 13 municipalities and is home to world famous theme parks, the nation’s second largest convention center, and a thriving life science research park. Seven elected members make up the Board of County Commissioners including the Mayor who is elected countywide. For more information please visit www.OCFL.net or go to the Orange County facebook and twitter pages.