Frederick County will begin administering a heroin treatment drug to some inmates as they’re released from jail in an attempt to avoid relapse and save lives.
The Frederick County Adult Detention Center and county health department received a grant Tuesday from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention to give injections of Vivitrol, a non-narcotic and non-addictive substance that blocks the euphoric effects of heroin and other substances, to certain inmates before their release.
Frederick is one of eight counties to receive funding through the state’s new Medication Assisted Treatment program.
The jail will receive $50,536, which officials believe can support the program for its first year.
David Brooks, clinical treatment supervisor for the jail’s Project 103 treatment program, said the shots will be administered to inmates who are enrolled in or have completed Project 103 and applied for health insurance during their sentence.
“With the Vivitrol shot lasting about a month, this gives them the opportunity to go out, start the paperwork they need, look for a job and start getting their life back on track,” Brooks said.
Anyone who receives the drug before release will also receive continued medical care through the county health department and community-based support services for housing, mental health treatment, education and employment, Brooks said.
Gov. Larry Hogan said the MAT program will allow former inmates to establish stable lives while reducing costs of drug-related crime and recidivism in the state.
“Addressing Maryland’s heroin crisis and helping to break the cycle of crime and re-incarceration associated with addiction requires us to offer those reentering society with the tools to live sober, healthy, and productive lives,” Hogan said in a statement.
Overdose risks are highest in the first few weeks after a person is released from jail, according to research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The MAT re-entry programs are modeled after a nationally recognized effort at the Washington County Detention Center, which combines drug treatment with counseling.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said he signed off on the grant application after speaking with Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore.
“He felt it was a very successful program in his jail and that it was very beneficial to people who were addicts in his jail,” Jenkins said. “I decided it’s a good program, we’re going in that direction. Right now, it’s a one-year grant. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Jenkins said the Vivitrol program will complement other efforts to curb heroin abuse and drug-related deaths in Frederick County.
Law enforcement agencies in the county have trained nearly all deputies and officers to administer a different drug, the anti-overdose medication naloxone.
A total of $500,000 in grants was announced Tuesday. Other counties receiving the funding are Anne Arundel, Carroll, Calvert, Cecil, Howard, Montgomery and Washington. The office is also working with officials in Baltimore city to start a program there.
Use of heroin and related drugs has reached an all-time high in the state, with heroin becoming the first substance to surpass alcohol as the primary reason for substance abuse treatment since reporting began in the 1970s, according to the Department of Legislative Services.
In 2014, 26 people died from heroin-related overdoses in Frederick County, according to the most recent data provided by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.