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Arnold Ventures with the support of U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) today announced an initiative to expand medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder in jails, which are at the epicenter of the opioid crisis. 

Fifteen counties will receive guidance on how to overcome barriers to providing opioid treatment in jails and communities. Experts will help officials create treatment guidelines, manage administration of the medications, and educate jail staff about addiction. The counties will also develop a plan with local health care officials to ensure people can access treatment after they’re released.

We could change the trajectory of the opioid crisis by treating people in jails. Our goal is to create a model for local leaders who want to tackle this problem head on,” Kelli Rhee, president and chief executive officer of Arnold Ventures, said. 

The selected sites span the country from Lewis and Clark County Detention Center in Helena, Montana, which has 80 beds, to Cook County Jail in Chicago, the largest single-site jail in the United States. 

Tens of thousands of people with opioid use disorder pass through the corrections system each year. But only about 30 of the 3,200 jails in the country offer the opioid medications methadone and buprenorphine, which have been shown by research to be the most effective forms of treatment. Most individuals instead go through detoxification, which lowers tolerance levels without curbing opioid cravings and dramatically raises the risk that people will overdose after they’re released. 

Sheriffs, Correctional Officers and jail administrators are key beneficiaries when treatment is provided in jails and continued in the community. Not only does this lessen the burden of drug-related crime, but it stops the revolving door of individuals with opioid use disorder that enter our jails every year and present a potential danger to law enforcement and themselves,” Jon Adler, BJA director, said during remarks at a Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program national meeting in Washington, D.C.

In addition to working with BJA, Arnold Ventures is supporting several rigorous studies on medication assisted treatment in the correctional system. Research is underway in Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, and New Mexico, and results will be released in 2019 and 2020

The philanthropy has committed more than $26 million to expand treatment for opioid use disorder and prevent deaths. For more information about its portfolio of grants, visit www​.arnold​ven​tures​.org/​w​o​r​k​/​t​h​e​-​o​p​i​o​i​d​-​e​p​i​demic.