A shot at a new life for recovering addicts
Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a multipart series looking at the drug epidemic gripping the nation.
By Chris Parker
Schuylkill County prison inmates who are recovering from opioid addiction and motivated to stay clean now have another tool to help them rebuild their lives.
In addition to counseling, offenders close to the ends of their sentences may qualify for injections of Vivitrol, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids.
Vivitrol, the brand name of naltrexone, is a promising weapon in the war on addiction.
Up to 80 percent of the county’s prison inmates are in jail for crimes related to addiction. About 95 percent return to drug abuse after release from prison, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Last year, the state Department of Corrections awarded Schuylkill County a $108,512 grant to start a Vivitrol pilot program.
Schuylkill was among 13 counties to get a portion of the $1.5 million grant. The others were Allegheny, Bradford, Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton and Pike.
Vivitrol programs are in place in our region.
Last year, Lehigh and Northampton county prisons began using the grant money to offer Vivitrol, along with support services, to inmates.
In Carbon County, Warden Timothy L. Fritz said the drug is not currently offered.
“We’ve discussed it with the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug & Alcohol Commission,” he said.
Fritz said the agency would explore available grants.
Efforts to reach CMP Administrator Jamie Drake and case management supervisor Chris Sorrentino for comment were unsuccessful.
Efforts to reach Monroe County prison Warden Garry Haidle and deputy warden Philip Diliberto were also unsuccessful.
Vivitrol doesn’t come cheap.
“A single injection, which lasts approximately 28 to 30 days, runs between $1,200 to $1,400,” said Frank J. Komykoski Sr., Strategic Planning Officer for PrimeCare Medical Inc.
The company handles Schuylkill County’s Vivitrol program.
“Alkermes, the company that markets Vivitrol, has been providing the first dose for free,” Komykoski said. “The second dose would be covered by the patient’s insurance as they typically receive their shot a few days prior to being released.”
PrimeCare supports 30 county jail Vivitrol programs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and West Virginia.
The programs have administered more than 228 injections to inmates/patients over the past 18 months, he said.
“Each county’s Vivitrol program is managed slightly differently, depending on the individual county. In Schuylkill County, the program is primarily run through a company named Clinical Outcomes Group.
PrimeCare provides the initial screening, and Clinical Outcomes performs the counseling and administers the injection.
Clinical Outcomes has given 30 injections since August 2017.
“Once the inmate is released from county custody, they are no longer our patients and we are unable to track their progress,” Komykoski said.
Clinical Outcomes said the program has been up and running since July 2017.
It’s funded by a grant from the Department of Corrections that was awarded to the Schuylkill County Drug and Alcohol Program.
Referrals are made to the agency by the medical department at the prison, by the corrections officers, or by Adult Probation. Inmates at the prison can also refer themselves by writing a request to the medical department, according to Clinical Outcomes.
Inmates, once referred, are screened. If eligible, they are given full bio-psycho-social assessments by the program coordinator/counselor.
The inmate then receives group counseling services in the prison and is scheduled for a Vivitrol shot before leaving the jail.
The medical director from Clinical Outcomes Group, Dr. John Stefovic, is available to the group members once a week to draw blood work and/or administer the Vivitrol injections.
If an inmate is released on a day when Stefovic is not at the jail, he or she can come into the office for the injection.
Inmates in the Vivitrol program are already enrolled in the Intensive Outpatient Program at Clinical Outcomes on the day of their release.
They can begin their treatment immediately and continue to see the same counselor that they saw while at the jail.