California inmate overdoses plummet under drug program

Sacramento, Calif. (AP) — The number of overdose deaths and hospitalizations has dropped dramatically among California prison inmates prescribed more drug treatment than any such program in the country. uses drugs, officials said Tuesday. ,

The rate of overdose deaths has dropped by 58% since the program began in 2020. Those receiving anti-craving drugs were 48% less likely to be hospitalized than those who waited to start treatment. Promising results show the program was effective even after accounting for restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, according to doctors and researchers with the state correctional system and the federal official who oversees medical care in California’s prisons.

The report said the results at large are “moving in a positive direction” and officials are “cautiously optimistic”.

The conclusion came after Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration sought $126.6 million in the next fiscal year and $162.5 million annually thereafter to expand the treatment. Report says detail of state’s latest costly effort to reduce prisons widespread drug problem Given prisoner’s health, community safety on the release of prisoners, and the impact of drug trafficking and violence on prisons is “at the highest priority level”.

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State’s view The once-controversial step of using drugs including buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone to reduce addiction and euphoria and relieve withdrawal symptoms while weaning off the opioid. It took years to be urged by lawmakers and treatment professionals for prison officials to try the program, although the approach is now widely used and receives general support from California prosecutors and probation officers.

Early critics objected that the treatment substituted one drug for another, and that there might be a black market for some substitute drugs. In California, prisoners are given drugs in a sheet that dissolves under the tongue or by injection and are tested to make sure they are taking their medications.

More than 22,600 inmates have obtained drugs and officials expect to eventually contain 25,000 inmates annually, more than a quarter of the prison’s population. California prison officials said the program exceeds the amount of treatment in any other US correctional setting.

In 2019, California’s prison system had a record-high 51 overdose deaths per 100,000 inmates, more than double the overall death rate for other state prison systems. The death rate in California had been rising steadily since 2012.

This fell to a rate of 21 deaths per 100,000 prisoners. in 2020 And with a preliminary estimate of 20 deaths per 100,000 prisoners in 2021, a final report on last year’s deaths is not expected until later this year.

Overdose was the third leading cause of death for California prisoners before the program, but dropped to eighth in 2020, the lowest ranking in nine years.

“I’m not surprised at the results, as it’s proven to be an effective treatment that saves lives and reduces crime,” said Don Spector, an attorney for prisoners in some of the largest class-action lawsuits against the prison system.

Federal official overseeing the prisoner’s health Jay Clark Kelso called the findings “a step in the right direction.”

The results are in stark contrast to opioid deaths that have risen across the US. Largely driven by the highly toxic fentanyl, overdose deaths rose from about 21,000 in 2010 to more than 100,000 last year.

Officials said overdoses in California prisons began to subside about six months before the pandemic and continued after the department eased restrictions on visits and inmates’ movements. He said other state prison systems with similar pandemic restrictions did not see a similar decline in overdose deaths and hospitalizations.

Results track earlier results after prison authorities 60 prisoners started treatment With medicine in 2016.

Officials estimate that at least 65% of prisoners have a substance abuse problem.

The use of anti-craving drugs is part of an approach known as “cognitive behavioral therapy,” in which people talk to mental health counselors to identify and change their own destructive behaviors.

The program aims to ease the transition back to the community of former drug users, helping more than 2,200 parolees to date receive continued treatment after their release.

Steven Fama, another attorney who represents inmates and tracks prison treatment programs, said corrections officials have gradually but steadily increased treatment and reduced waiting lists over the past two years, However, thousands of prisoners are still awaiting screening to see if they are eligible.

Correctional officials said their goal now is to reduce the backlog, while developing therapy for prisoners serving shorter sentences. They also aim to improve the handoff of parolees for community-based treatment.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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