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Grant to help expand opioid addiction treatment in county jail 

The war on opioid addiction has many fronts. That includes the SLO County jail, where officials are looking to expand one program for inmates struggling with addiction thanks to a state-sponsored grant.

SLO County's Behavioral Health Agency received a $25,000 grant in June to participate in a collaborative learning program to help it expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in the county jail. MAT is the use of FDA approved medications, such as methadone, in combination with behavioral therapy to treat substance abuse disorders. The grant was provided by the California Department of Health Care Services.

click to enlarge ADDICTION A $25,000 grant from the state will help SLO County officials expand access to medication-assisted treatment for inmates in the SLO County Jail struggling with substance abuse. - FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • File Photo By Steve E. Miller
  • ADDICTION A $25,000 grant from the state will help SLO County officials expand access to medication-assisted treatment for inmates in the SLO County Jail struggling with substance abuse.

The grant will allow county staff to participate in collaboration program with other counties looking to expand MAT in their jails. The program will provide technical assistance, best practices, and other resources to help develop county-specific measures to broaden access to MAT in jail settings.

"We will be able to learn about the best way to implement and expand MAT," SLO County Jail Chief Medical officer Christy Mulkerin told New Times.

Currently, the jail is able to continue treatment for inmates who enter the jail already on a MAT medication. The jail also provides the treatment to any pregnant inmates who enter the jail on an opiate drug. Mulkerin said the jail wants to extend the availability of MAT to inmates who have been using intermittently or daily on the streets once they've completed the jail's withdrawal protocol, and help them continue the MAT as they transition out of custody.

"We want to offer this treatment of high-risk inmates before they leave jail so they can continue it out in the community," Mulkerin said.

The need to expand MAT in the jail is part of a larger campaign by public health officials, health care workers, and community advocates to combat use and abuse of heroin and opioid medication in SLO County. Last year, 22 individuals died as the result of opioid overdoes, according to data from the SLO County Opioid Safety Coalition. The SLO County Jail recorded a single opiate-related death in 2014 when 29-year-old inmate Timothy Richard Janowicz was unresponsive in his cell due to a heroin overdose. In May 2018, a 65-year-old inmate was hospitalized after being found unresponsive in his jail bed. According to a press release from the SLO Sheriff's Office, jail staff suspected the incident was caused by an illegal narcotic, and administered the anti-opiate drug Narcan to the inmate. Δ

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