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N.H. Prisons Expand Treatment for Opioid and Alcohol Use Disorders

Emily Corwin for NHPR


New Hampshire's state prisons are expanding medically assisted treatment for alcohol and opioid use disorders. The program will be funded with around $2 million from a federal State Opioid Response grant focused on improving treatment and recovery initiatives across the state.

Addiction is common among inmates, but their options for treatment in prison over the last few years have been limited to Vivitrol and naltrexone.

Now, the state says in addition to Vivitrol/naltrexone, it will also offer Sublocade and the commonly prescribed medication Suboxone, both forms of buprenorphine that help people manage opioid cravings. Inmates can opt into the treatment program to get addiction medication, counseling, and support of a re-entry coordinator to help them continue treatment after they leave prison.

Helen Hanks, commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, says they'll track inmates' progress over 24 months.

“We've got two years to see how this model works," she says. "Then we can really look to see what additional things we want to expand, is it reducing people's recidivism, and is it keeping people reintegrated.”

Suboxone (the brand name for buprenorphine) is one of the most trafficked drugs in prison. It can be abused easily, but Hanks says the prison has set up a routine to ensure it is administered properly.

"It's important that as much as we're adding buprenorphine, we also combat it as a contraband into our prison facilities."

Much of the state opioid response grant to New Hamsphire initiatives has focused solely on combatting the opioid epidemic, leaving some to wonder how the state will tackle the more widespread problem of alcohol use disorder.

Citing high rates of alcoholism among opioid users, Hanks asked for an exception from the response grant to allow her department to purchase presciption drugs that combat alcohol addiction as well. Starting this month, she says the DOC will also offer Acamprosate and Disufirm for alcohol use disorder.



Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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