HRSA's Office of Regional Operations Tracks Opioid Crisis into Jail

"Adopting evidence-based treatments into the criminal justice system promotes abstinence, helps identify and mitigate related diseases like HIV, and, very importantly, fosters successful reintegration back into the community." 

CAPT Chris Bersani, HRSA Deputy Regional Administrator

In the eye of an epidemic: CAPT Chris Bersani (with attorney Andrew Abdella and nurse Anjuli Kinell of the Worcester County, Mass. jail) told visiting law students on March 9 that "substance use disorder treatment that does not include follow-up care is ineffective. Without aftercare programs, ex-offenders face a higher risk of relapse and recidivism."
In the eye of an epidemic: CAPT Chris Bersani (with attorney Andrew Abdella and nurse Anjuli Kinell of the Worcester County, Mass. jail) told visiting law students on March 9 that "substance use disorder treatment that does not include follow-up care is ineffective. Without aftercare programs, ex-offenders face a higher risk of relapse and recidivism."

 

HRSA health centers, he said, “are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic and have become an important source of treatment for those struggling," including former inmates and prisoners -- 65 percent of whom nationwide meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Substance misuse is the common denominator for almost ninety percent of our inmate population," said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, adding, "we believe addiction is often the reason" for their incarceration. "Sadly, today's opioid epidemic has taken more American lives, just in the past year alone, than during the entire Vietnam War.  It is the battle of our time."

A study in Washington State found that the risk of death from drug overdose was 129 times higher in the first two weeks after prisoners are released, compared to the general population -- and methadone or buprenorphine treatment decreases the risk by up to 75 percent, the DOJ has reported

Evangelidis said that a Substance Treatment Opportunity Program (STOP) inside the Worcester County Jail and House of Corrections has cut the local recidivism rate by nearly half. The six-month, volunteer rehab program places up to 36 inmates at a time into segregated housing for behavioral health therapy and training, and is the longest correctional treatment and recovery program in Massachusetts.

For more on HRSA opioid programs, grants and technical assistance.

More about STOP in Worcester County HRSA Exit Disclaimer.

After 16 years of steady increases in opioid deaths, Massachusetts has recently experienced its first marked declines.

Date Last Reviewed:  May 2019