A treatment program in Middlesex, Pennsylvania received recognition for their comprehensive addiction program, one of the few in the United States to provide medication-assisted treatment in jails. The program, officially known as Medication-Assisted Treatment and Directed Opioid Recovery (MATADOR), has been recognized by the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care as one of five national “best practices.”

The program has been in place for three years and has been an important and exciting tool to help inmates re-enter society once their jail term is complete. Medication-assisted treatment is not yet widely understood, and many jails don’t provide it because they don’t know how, or why it works. Sheriff Peter Koutoujian’s program has helped to create more understanding and less stigma when it comes to treating opioid addiction. After all, many inmates end up experiencing severe detox symptoms when they enter a jail facility, and there are typically few resources to help them through that process. Once they have finished their jail term, without any treatment for their opioid use disorder, they usually resume the addictive behavior and end up back in jail. Many former inmates overdose from opioids once they re-enter society.

Sheriff Peter Koutoujian says of the program, “We knew that it’s not only important to save lives and save families and communities for those participating, but if we could create something that would work and it was something that could be replicated outside Middlesex County, that could save that many more lives and families,” Koutoujian said Thursday. “I’m so pleased with the fact that our program and four others across this nation will be seen by more and hopefully be replicated by many more.”

Launched in 2015, the MATADOR program helps inmates by providing medication-assisted treatment managed by healthcare professionals as they go through the initial stages of withdrawal. Inmates learn more about how and why the medication helps them get – and stay – clean and sober. Once stable and clean, they participate in treatment and casework services managed by officers and program staff. 12-step programs are also usually available to incarcerated people.

Inmates who are in the program are also provided with essential services before release to prevent relapse. One service provided to inmates is an injection of Vivitrol (the brand name for naltrexone) which helps prevent relapse and decreases the desire to use drugs.

They are also connected to navigator or recovery coach who helps provide them with aftercare support which also includes medication-assisted treatment. The program has had some success, although there are no current numbers on how much. Koutoujian says the recovery support provided once an inmate has returned to society is a key part of the program’s success.

Other parts of Pennsylvania plan on implementing the same program in the next few years. The treatment is not just to keep people from