Vermont is leading with a new way to fight opiate addiction. This new strategy is the drug Naltrexone, which is not an opiate or a maintenance method drug like the ones that are currently used to battle opiate addiction. This drug will be used in a pilot program that is coming out of a joint project between the West Ridge Addiction Treatment Center in Rutland and the Agency of Human Services.
Vermont's health commissioner, Dr. Harry Chen, states that while this particular treatment option is not going to be appropriate for everyone, it will expand the current options that are available for opiate addicts. This will greatly help addicts as they leave prison, something that has been a struggle in the past as they frequently are not linked up with treatment options following incarceration. This pilot project will help offenders who are leaving the custody of corrections to get injections to block the effect of opiate drugs.
This treatment plan will be paid with a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted to the Vermont state Health Department. It will total to three million dollars. Chen stated that he knew that there were people who were coming out of prison who did not want to use drugs again but knew that they were at an increased risk. This is an opportunity to serve these individuals.
This is a part of an increased effort to address the growing opiate epidemic. Naltrexone, or Vivitrol, is not an opiate itself and cannot be used to get high as other treatment options such as methadone can. This drug is relatively new but has been used to treat alcohol dependency issues. So far, the Health Department has trained over fifty health care providers on how to administer this new drug, with a specific focus on those in the corrections system.
Those who are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections tends to be at a higher risk for addictions, especially opiate addictions. Rutland is currently one of the areas in Vermont that have the highest need for treatment options and recovery services due to a large population of opiate addicts. The governor is certain that this new drug will be especially promising for those who are being released from prison who have a high motivation to stay off drugs but are struggling with maintaining their clean date.
This drug will not work for everyone and does not cure addiction. It is administered once a month and can be prescribed through most doctors. The study will begin in Rutland due to the need, but there are high hopes that the pilot will go well and spread to other areas across the state.
In addition, Shumlin mentioned that there is a widespread effort to reduce prescription pill and heroin abuse across the state. There has been multiple treatment centers that have opened in the last two years, increasing the amount of addicts that can be served by over one thousand every year.