This week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Gina Raimondo’s took a tour of the facilities for inmates and people involved in the post-incarceration program. Gov. Raimondo then participated in a roundtable discussion about the state’s medication-assisted treatment program. Introduced in 2017, the program offers inmates in the prison system, also called AC) (Adult Correctional Institutions) medication-assisted treatment.

While medication-assisted treatment is treated as controversial by some state-run addiction treatment providers, for many others it is a “gold” standard that saves lives and gives the addicted some breathing space as they learn to make better choices, especially post-incarceration.

“As far as I know the medically assisted treatment program that we have in this prison system is one of its kind in the country,” Raimondo said. “It was a little bit controversial when we started it, but the results have been fantastic.”

Raimondo attributes medication-assisted treatment with saving lives at Rhode Island’s ACI. Started last year, since implementing the program, they have witnessed post-incarceration overdose deaths drop by 60%. ACI is a cluster of prison buildings that ultimately houses 3,854 inmates, many which enter prison with an untreated substance use disorder.

Raimondo said there is a new program dedicated to job training for those struggling with addiction that will start this year. Rhode Island uses, in part, federal grants for the programs. Inmates also have the opportunity to receive one-on-one counseling while incarcerated. All of these programs can help give an inmate practical tools for staying clean and returning to the outside world. For many, it also offers hope for a drug-free life. Inmates usually continue their medication-assisted treatment once they leave the facility and continue to probation or parole.

Many state prisons offer no medication or treatment outside of 12-step meetings to inmates suffering from addiction. Gov. Raimondo hopes Rhode Island serves as a model for other states to tackle opioid addiction.

According to the American Public Health Association, out of 2.3 million U.S. inmates nationwide, 1.5 million suffer from a substance use disorder and an addiction 458,000 inmates either had histories of substance use (including excessive alcohol.)