This is the first week inmates about to be released from prison in New Hampshire can receive the substance abuse medication Vivitrol.
The program is designed to reduce re-offenses and drug overdoses after release.
DOC deputy commissioner Helen Hanks says the prison will give inmates a single dose of Vivitrol seven days before they return to the community. Then, Hanks says, “We connect them with a primary care provider so that we continue that continuity of care model to help them have the best success they can.”
Research shows incarcerated drug users are as many as eight times more likely to die from overdose immediately after release than at other times in their lives.
Vivitrol is an injectable opioid and alcohol addiction medication that doesn’t reduce cravings, but does block the effects of opioids and alcohol. The drug’s manufacturer, Alkermes, will provide the prison with those initial doses free of charge – one shot lasts one month.
The program is modeled on a similar partnership between Alkermes and the state of Massachusetts.
Studies show Vivitrol, a monthly injection, has better outcomes than the daily pill version of the drug, known as Revia. Vivitrol, however, costs the state $1200 per month, per patient, while Revia costs $18 per month. So, Hanks says, the prisons will continue to provide Revia to inmates who are not soon-to-be-released.
So far, 20 inmates are receiving daily doses of Revia. As for them, access to Vivitrol will be based on inmates’ interest, demonstration of 10 days of abstinence, and other requirements.
Both Revia and Vivitrol make patients less tolerant to opioids, and therefore more vulnerable to a fatal overdose in the case of relapse. Relapses are less common with Vivitrol, however, because it is harder to skip doses.
Hanks says the roll out of the prison’s new Vivitrol program for outgoing patients will be slow and deliberate.