Crawford County jail

A new, voluntary treatment program to help county jail inmates overcome addiction to opioid medications or alcohol has been approved by the Crawford County Prison Board.

SAEGERTOWN — A new, voluntary treatment program to help county jail inmates overcome addiction to opioid medications or alcohol has been approved by the Crawford County Prison Board.

On a 6-0 vote at its meeting Thursday at the county jail in Saegertown, the Prison Board agreed to allow the jail's medical provider, PrimeCare Medical Inc., to work with Positive Recovery Solutions (PRS) of Washington, Pa., for medical management of the prescription drug Vivitrol, which blocks the pleasurable effects of opioids or alcohol. Board member Christine Krzysiak was absent from Thursday's meeting.

Vivitrol is a non-narcotic shot given once a month that controls a person's cravings for opioid drugs — like heroin or prescription opioid painkillers like morphine or oxycodone, or alcohol, Amanda Cope, a registered nurse with PRS, told the board.

It would be administered to inmates who are in drug or alcohol treatment programs who volunteer for the drug, she said. The drug would be administered four days prior to their scheduled release date, Cope said. Those inmates will have gone through a detoxification program within the jail, she said.

First developed in 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Vivitrol in 2010 to treat and prevent relapse of patients with opioid dependence who have undergone detoxification treatment, according to the FDA's website.

Vivitrol binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, produces no opioid effects and does not allow other opioids to enter, Cope said. By blocking the effects of other opioids it takes away the pleasurable effect, which can help with preventing relapse in a patient, she said.

"It releases a predictable amount of medicine over a predictable time," Cope said of how it works.

Vivitrol will cause withdrawal if someone still has opiates within their body when given Vivitrol. For that reason, a person has to go through detoxification prior to starting the medicine and ideally have not taken any opiates for seven to 14 days before the first injection, Cope said.

The first shot will be given free to the inmate while in jail prior to release with the monthly followup injections to be billed to the inmate/patient's private insurance or Medicaid or Medicare programs if the inmate/patient doesn't have private insurance, Cope said.

PRS already has medical management programs of Vivitrol with the county jails in Blair, Armstrong and Indiana counties and is in various stages of setting up programs in more than two dozen other Pennsylvania counties, Cope said. It also is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to develop programs for the 27 state prisons, she said.

Treatment programs are individualized to each patient and last approximately 12 to 18 months per patient though a patient could stay on it as long as the person felt it was needed, Cope said.

PRS works with county probation/parole offices and drug and alcohol programs to make sure an inmate stays compliant with treatment following their release, Cope said.

"It's a good program," said Chuck Laffey, PrimeCare Medical's coordinator at the Crawford County jail, noting PrimeCare also handles medical care for the Blair County jail. 

The program won't affect costs at the county jail because it's billed through insurance, Laffey said.

"I'm excited about the program," said Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz, who is chairman of the Prison Board.

"I love the idea of it," David Crowe, executive director of the Crawford County Drug and Alcohol Commission, said at the meeting.

With approval by the Prison Board, PRS plans to set up its Vivitrol program at the county jail with PrimeCare within the next 30 days.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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