State pilot program partners with counseling services, law enforcement to treat addiction

TML Communications Specialist

The state of Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (MHSAS) is exploring a new tool in the fight against opioid abuse and addiction.
The department recently partnered with local sheriff’s offices and medical and recovery treatment centers on a three-year pilot program aimed at helping inmates who have struggled with both drug and alcohol addiction to re-enter society. The pilot program is funded through a $300,000 grant from former Gov. Bill Haslam’s TN Together initiative.
Matthew Parriott, director of communications with MHSAS, said the program is working with the Cheatham County and Clay County sheriffs’ offices.
“With the funding available in the pilot program, we were able to partner with two sheriffs who were interested in providing this service in their jails,” he said. “The funding for the services is issued from TDMHSAS to local substance abuse treatment providers. In Cheatham County, our provider is Buffalo Valley, Inc. For inmates who are released from the Cheatham County Jail, the treatment continues through Buffalo Valley with support from the Cheatham County Anti-Drug coalition who’s sharing space near the jail to support this program. In Clay County, the setup is similar with local treatment provider First Step Recovery Center partnering with the sheriff.”
Parriott said the program works with those who have already begun making some progress in their recovery.
“The design is to start with inmates who meet Opioid Use Disorder criteria and who have a relatively short time left in jail – two to three months,” he said. “That way they can begin the Vivitrol shots and participate in wrap-around treatment supports while in jail.
The intention is for the inmate to continue the Vivitrol shots and wrap-around treatment supports after released from jail. This program is completely voluntary, so inmates who participate do so of their own choice.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration describes the drug as a prescribed, monthly injectable designed to help patients prevent relapse. Injections must be administered by a healthcare provider monthly.
Naltrexone serves as an opioid antagonist, meaning that it can help block cravings for opioids and is considered by some medical professionals to be less risky than methadone and buprenorphine. Naltrexone also decreases dependence on and cravings for alcohol.
The program uses a mutli-pronged approach including counseling sessions, treatment in substance abuse recovery centers, and medications like naltrexone, also known by the brand name Viritol, which specifically targets opioid and alcohol dependence after detox.
“The providers work with jail administrators and jail medical staff to administer the Vivitrol injections,” Parriott said. “It’s important to emphasize that this isn’t just a medication program. In conjunction with the Vivitrol injections, the treatment provider also administers wrap-around treatment to support the inmate’s recovery journey.”
While this program is only in its pilot stage, Parriott said there are also other recovery programs MHSAS is helping to pilot.
“While this program is designed for county jails, we have a separate Vivitrol/Naltrexone program for our recovery courts, many of which have a municipal connection,” he said. “This program started in July 2017 and has served more than 300 individuals.”
Gov. Bill Lee’s FY20 budget proposal includes $4.7 million to increase access to recovery courts, supplement recovery court programming with medication assisted teatment, and create a new residential recovery court for women.
Following his announcement regarding mental health investments, Gov. Lee is proposing the expansion of the recovery court system, a specialized diversion program focused on comprehensive supervision, treatment services and immediate sanctions and incentives for substance abuse offenders.
With $1.7 million in additional funding, recovery courts will expand capacity by 20 percent and serve an additional 500 Tennesseans each year. Individuals who are successfully diverted through this programming are estimated to save the state an average of more than $20,000 per individual in recovered correction costs each year.
Studies of outcomes in Tennessee’s recovery courts show the community benefits. Of the individuals who successfully complete a recovery court program, 86 percent improve their employment situation, gaining either full- or part -time employment from the time they were admitted to the time they were discharged.
Nearly all successful graduates (96 percent) improve or maintain their independent living situation or gain housing if they were experiencing homelessness or were incarcerated.