Wisconsin County Jail Announces New Program to Help with Opioid Addiction
In April of 2022, Wisconsin's Dane County Jail announced its Medication Assistance Treatment (MAT) program. The county’s new program is part of an effort to help incarcerated individuals addicted to opioids.

The MAT program will permit the jail's nurses to administer the prescription drug Subutex to those already being treated with the medication before entering the jail. Subutex, or buprenorphine, is a drug approved by the FDA in 2002 that was developed for opiate addiction treatment.

In a recent report, Dr. Elizabeth Salisbury-Afshar from the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that “[Subutex]has shown to be able to reduce illegal drug use and risk of death by as much as 50 percent.” However, those who discontinue treatment while incarcerated "are 800 percent more likely to die from an overdose after they are released due to their tolerance being reduced."

Dr. Salisbury-Afshar related that when someone on Subutex is incarcerated, and the medication is stopped, research shows that this places people at risk for multiple things. She stated that the cessation “reduces the chance that they re-enter treatment when they leave. It also increases their risk for resuming use and increases the risk for overdose death." Before the county instituted the MAT program, the facility could not keep inmates who were taking Subutex medicated, thereby interrupting recovery.

According to a recent report, Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett released a statement in which he acknowledged the prevalence of opioid addiction within its inmate population. He also commented that “A large number of people entering our jail system are suffering from various forms of addiction.”

Sherriff Barrett stated that “[t]he ability to offer this medication program and help maintain someone’s sobriety is a huge step in reducing recidivism and improving public safety.” He also related that the jail could expand the Medication Assistance Treatment in the future and possibly offer the buprenorphine program to inmates with addiction who haven't started the medication. The jail already provides Vivitrol injections for inmates going through withdrawal. Vivitrol is a prescription that blocks the receptors in the brain where opioids are latched.

The connection between addiction and criminal activity is undeniable. Sherriff Barnett recently commented, “While addiction itself is not an actual crime, the criminal activity involved with supporting that addiction is where the crimes typically occur.” The MAT program is being launched to help treat addiction and reduce repeat offenses. Sherriff Barnett related that the jail’s ultimate goal is to reduce recidivism. He related that "When we reduce recidivism, we reduce the jail population. By reducing the jail population, we decrease the crime rates. By reducing the crime rates, we increase public safety, and we reduce criminal justice budgets."

Dr. Salisbury-Afshar commented that “This is a really important first step, and I commend Sheriff Barrett and the Dane County Jail for committing to continued efforts to continue to expand access to care beyond continuation of care, but eventually to be able to screen everyone coming in and even be able to initiate care and link people to treatment in the community."

Dane County and other jurisdictions have begun to recognize the impact of opioid addiction on its population. It's believed that by taking a more therapeutic rather than punitive approach to opioid addiction, the jail can increase the chances of helping those in need of treatment rather than exacerbating the problem.
If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation, contact us or call (509) 991-7058.

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Starting as far back as 2016, the St. Paul Police Department decided to try a different approach to mental health calls. In 2018, they partnered with the nonprofit community based mental health provider People Incorporated to embed social workers in their department as a way to avoid unnecessary arrests and hospitalizations and get people the help they need.
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Dr Felicity Gerry QC, at Libertas Chambers discuss the importance of considering autism spectrum disorders in criminal proceedings. Watch her recent webinar delving into the topic of Autism & the law.

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Often these issues arise in relation to persons who are undiagnosed until they have the benefit of legal representation.

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