By Eden Laikin
Use of a new medication program to treat Heroin and Opiate addiction continues to gain momentum on Long Island, and across the Country – showing dramatic success in reducing relapse and recidivism, primarily in the criminal justice population.
Approximately 200 Opiate-dependent Long Islanders are now on a monthly regiment of the non-addictive, non-opiate based medicine – Vivitrol, up from 154 in February; Also, at least 22 local substance abuse treatment agencies are now offering Vivitrol as a treatment track – in conjunction with counseling.
The Barnstable County Correctional Facility (BCCF) in Massachusetts just released findings on the effectiveness of the first two years of its voluntary VIVITROL Pre-Release Pilot Program, for Opiate-dependent inmates – reducing the recidivism rate there, to less than 15%.
County Executive Ed Mangano launched its innovative pilot “Vivitrol and Counseling” program – called A Shot at Life – here in Nassau in February. This made Nassau the first in NYS to implement such a comprehensive approach to Opiate Treatment and Recovery – offering Vivitrol at its County-run Opiate Treatment facility, as well as at the rehab in Nassau University Medical Center and at 7 of the County’s community-based substance abuse treatment providers.
Currently, 3 of the first 4 treated at the County’s OTP remain Opiate/alcohol free, and, in compliance with the treatment program.
Between April 2012 and July 2014, the Barnstable Sheriff’s Office treated 154 inmates – with an average age of 31 – with Vivitrol. 70% of those treated reported a drop in cravings to use alcohol/opiates on pre-and post-treatment surveys. 78% have willingly shown up for their first post-release treatment appointment in the community. Approximately 40-45% remain in treatment in the community, or have completed treatment and remain sober, some for almost 3 years. And over 85% of those treated with Vivitrol at BCCF have NOT been re-incarcerated. National statistics show that relapse rates for opioid addiction are over 85%.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of adults involved in the criminal justice system soared from 1.8 million in 1980 to 7.2 million in 2009. The connection between drug abuse and crime is well known. One-half to two-thirds of inmates in jails and State and Federal prisons meet standard diagnostic criteria for alcohol/drug dependence or abuse. Opioid addiction puts individuals at risk for engaging in criminal behavior resulting in incarceration. Combining prison-based treatment with community-based treatment upon release reduces an offender’s risk of recidivism, decreases substance abuse, improves prospects for employment, and increases pro-social behavior.
“Vivitrol Treatment, with individual and group Counseling, is our best weapon to combat the deadly Heroin epidemic,” County Executive Mangano said. “For those who are willing to stop using drugs, and commit to the required treatment, can and will continue to, find help in Nassau County.”
Unlike other long-used medication-assisted treatment, Vivitrol is given in a once-a-month injection, by a doctor, so can’t be abused. Vivitrol works by capping the Opiate receptors in the brain, blocking the drug’s euphoric effects thereby preventing relapse.
Mangano said Vivitrol has the potential not only to save lives, but also dollars, by decreasing recidivism, incarceration and costly emergency room visits.
To be eligible for Vivitrol, individuals should be detoxified and Opioid-free for 7-10 days. Vivitrol is covered by most major insurance companies and Medicaid; and, Vivitrol manufacturer Alkermes, Inc, offers up to $500 a month to cover any co-pay or private pay.
Statistics indicate that 53 people died of heroin overdoses in 2014 and another 137 people died of prescription drug overdoses. There were 15 Opioid overdose deaths just in January, of 2015, according to the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s Office.