Prisons In Pennsylvania Start Providing Methadone Treatment To Inmates
http://www.csdp.org/news/news/handmmt.htmPrisons in three Pennsylvania counties are beginning to provide methadone treatment to opiate-addicted inmates. The Allentown Morning Call reported on Jan. 23, 2007 ("Area Prisons Open Up To Methadone") that "Lehigh County Prison has agreed to join Northampton and Berks county prisons in taking the next controversial step: continuing methadone treatment for short-term inmates who had been taking the medicine before incarceration. 'It's effective immediately,' Lehigh County Director of Corrections Edward G. Sweeney said about providing methadone maintenance in the prison. Spurred by proponents who say treatment helps addicts resist heroin and avoid returning to jail, Sweeney said, 'It's a growing trend.'"
According to the Morning Call, "Administered daily at government-regulated clinics, methadone helps long-time, heavy-use heroin addicts abide by the law, hold jobs, raise families. Yet for years, a Rikers Island jail in New York was the first and only correctional facility in the country providing methadone treatment to more than pregnant inmates. Regulations and costs associated with establishing a methadone clinic and a mindset that prisoners 'deserve to suffer' have kept the treatment a rarity in most county jails and state prisons. 'Jails weren't methadone centers,' explained Todd Haskins, vice president of operations for PrimeCare Medical, the Harrisburg company providing medical services to 27 county prisons in Pennsylvania, including Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Monroe and Schuylkill. 'It was illegal for them to prescribe it,' he said. And few jails have had enough money or heroin addicts to start their own."
The Morning Call reported that "Maintaining methadone treatment in prisons also has the support of federal health officials, such as former White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey, private foundations and state drug and alcohol agencies. And authorities say it could be argued that the Supreme Court's recent rulings against withholding prior medical care to prisoners could apply to methadone as well. 'People don't understand that heroin is a lasting addiction, a chronic condition like diabetes,' said R. Scott Chavez, administrative vice president for the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, which accredits prison methadone programs. 'You wouldn't think of not giving diabetics insulin,' he said. 'Studies have pretty much shown that the heroin addict must consider some replacement therapy or he will go back into heroin-seeking behavior.' A handful of jails and prisons in Connecticut, Chicago, California and New York have started their own methadone clinics within the correctional facilities, Chavez said. More, though, have gone the route of local jails -- working with community methadone programs to bring the service inside."
The Morning Call noted that " In this area, Berks County Prison led the way 11/2 years ago, when prisons and PrimeCare officials agreed to give continued methadone maintenance a try. Northampton County Prison followed suit six months ago. The concept came largely at the suggestion of Glen J. Cooper, a former Bethlehem health director who 10 years ago became executive director of New Directions Treatment Services, a multi-service organization that provides methadone, drug testing and counseling, mental health and HIV and hepatitis education at clinics in Bethlehem and West Reading. Cooper's clinics provide daily doses of methadone to 665 people who had been addicted to opiates such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone. Some have been free from illegal drugs for 30 years by coming to the clinic, he said, but the average length of treatment is 31/2 years. In prison, however, only those held for six months or less are considered, Cooper said. No 'lifers.' Also, the methadone clinic confirms by phone call that the prisoner had been a client before treatment begins. Appropriate doses for the week are delivered to the jail for the medical staff to administer to prisoners each day. And a clinic staffer goes to the prison to provide counseling. Cooper sent the protocol to all 41 methadone clinics in Pennsylvania, emphasizing that studies show methadone maintenance reduces the demand for heroin inside the prison and reduces the transmission of HIV and hepatitis, which can be spread by sharing drug-injecting needles. 'We are very proud of this,' he said."