7 Mass. sheriffs sign on for methadone treatments in jails

7 MA sheriffs sign on for methadone treatments in jails

BOSTON — Massachusetts is four days into a pilot program that treats drug-addicted inmates with medication, with the ultimate goal of reducing the risk they'll re-offend.

Seven county sheriffs came to Beacon Hill Thursday to put this bold project on the national map.

As one speaker put it, it's counter-intuitive, this idea of treating drug addiction with drugs.

Content Continues Below

But the Middlesex County Sheriff says in the past five years, with a trial involving one drug, they've shown that it works.

The state is kicking in $10 million to the pilot program and Sheriff Peter Koutoujian has no doubt they will burn through that amount.

They really don't know what it will cost. It's a pilot program, after all.

"We're looking to rewrite the books on corrections," Koutoujian said. "It doesn't matter if you're from Boston or Greenfield, drug use is driving crime and it is driving death."

The program to treats drug-addicted inmates with medication during their incarceration instead of just forcing detox. The goal of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is to reduce the number of repeat offenders by keeping released inmates off drugs and thereby reducing crime.

MAT relies on three pharmaceuticals that satisfy opioid cravings but don't induce euphoria: naltrexone, methadone and suboxone.

For nearly five years now, the Middlesex County Jail has been using injectable naltrexone as part of a limited MAT program.

"Data from 2015 to 2018 show that of the 220 program participants listed released in Middlesex, only 11.8 percent had been convicted of a new crime within that year," Koutoujian said.

That's about one-third the overall state recidivism rate.