Medication-Assisted Treatment Inside Correctional Facilities

This action brief describes medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and how and why it may be made available to people with alcohol or substance use disorder who are incarcerated, offering specific strategies and techniques for implementing an effective MAT program in correctional facilities. The brief addresses the potential for medication diversion, staffing and training, treatment planning, safe and secure administration of medications, partnering with community-based providers, funding considerations, and integrating supportive technologies.

MAT is the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with behavioral therapies to treat alcohol and opioid use disorders. When provided as part of the rehabilitation and reentry process for people incarcerated in correctional facilities, MAT addresses substance use as a criminogenic risk factor and may contribute to long-term recovery and reduced recidivism. As with any medication or treatment, there is a risk that individuals receiving MAT may divert their prescribed medications for illicit sale and use within the facility. However, with the appropriate program elements in place, sheriffs, wardens, and jail administrators can provide this effective and evidence-based treatment to individuals during incarceration.

There are many specific strategies and techniques that can help decrease medication diversion and ensure safe administration of MAT, which this document details. These include assigning dedicated staff to support MAT programs, establishing multidisciplinary teams, conducting patient-centered treatment planning, optimizing the administration environment, responding effectively to incident reports, training staff on an ongoing basis, working with community-based partners, and using technology to coordinate and oversee the treatment program. With appropriate planning, implementation, and continued oversight, MAT provision in correctional facilities has the potential to support improved outcomes for the individuals in treatment, the systems that serve them, and the communities to which they return.

This resource was first shared in 2019.

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