Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2021-09-22 07:00:28 –
Individuals recently released from the criminal justice system, one of the most endangered groups, as Milwaukee County is moving at a pace that could outpace last year’s record high of 545 drug overdose deaths. A new approach to save lives is underway. ..
Chantel Jewel, director of the Milwaukee County House of Corrections, said: “We would like to consider here different ways to address the needs of our population. Sometimes it involves some risk and we do something we have never done before.”
Jewel refers to a pilot program in the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division called MAT: Behind the Walls. MAT stands for Medication Assisted Treatment, a proven but sometimes controversial approach to treating opioid addiction. Treatment includes injections of vivitrol, a drug used to block the effects of opioids. The program’s case manager, Liz Schwartz, said it was given four months before the person was released. She added that participants could receive up to three injections.
The program’s plans, backed by a grant from the US Department of Justice’s Judiciary Assistance Department, began in 2019, albeit slightly delayed by the pandemic. The MAT approach has been adopted by judicial institutions nationwide, including Madison’s Dane County Prison.
Along with the drug, prisoners meet weekly with counselors and fellow professionals who have experienced addiction. The treatment, including vivitrol injections, will continue after the release, and participants will also be able to meet with the same professionals they have built a relationship of trust with while in prison, she said.
“The combination of dosing and support is an important factor in the success of the program,” Schwartz said.
To date, 47 prisoners in the House of Corrections have completed the program and 15 are current participants. She said it was also offered to individuals transferring from a safe detention facility in Milwaukee.
The program aims to save lives. Numerous research studies have shown that re-entries are at increased risk of drug overdose. In the first two weeks after release, previously imprisoned people were 40 times more likely to die from opioid overdose than the general population, according to a study in North Carolina.
“People released will return to using the same amount they had before they were imprisoned,” Schwartz said. “They were unaware that their tolerance had changed, and the dose was really high, and they would die from it.”
This is important given that 70% to 75% of the House of Corrections’ population revealed substance use disorders at the time of the ruling, according to Jewel.
Part of helping individuals avoid fatal overdose is working with fellow experts to come up with safety plans, said Amanda Rodriguez, integrated manager of community programs and community health services. Told. Its strategy involves training Narkan and identifying someone in the household who can help in an overdose situation.
“We ask who is safe in your environment, tell us what an overdose looks like, and let Narkan squirt out of your nose,” Rodriguez said, releasing to each participant. He added that sometimes Narukan kits are offered.
Community Medical Services, along with Wisconsin Community Services, are two local organizations that support treatment during imprisonment and release. Other partners include Welpas and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
These efforts arise as Milwaukee County continues to struggle to stop the flow of death from drug overdose.
The tough pace continues
Data provided by Karen Domagalski, Operations Manager at the Milwaukee County Medical Inspector’s Office, confirmed 321 deaths from drug overdose between January 1st and September 15th this year, 106. Was pending. Tragically, deaths increased monthly during the first five months of January, reaching 40 in January and 60 in May. Only three days did not die from overdose that month.
The worst day of the year was March 29, when six people, including two who died together from fentanyl and cocaine toxicity in a Northside home, and two who were homeless, overdose. Throughout the same period last year, 414 people died from drug overdose.
In addition to reducing drug overdose, MAT’s main goal is recidivism, Jewel said.
“Often people are engaged in criminal activity to support drug addiction,” she said. “If we succeed, opioid use will decrease, and criminal activity will decrease accordingly.”
Schwartz said the program gave hope to some participants.
“Many of them tell me they all felt lonely and no one cares,” she said. “They appreciate the help they have received and want to be better.”
Where you can get help
Pharmacotherapy services in the Milwaukee area are available at: