Addiction & Overdose

Improving Access to Methadone in Jails and Prisons

July 1, 2022

Sara Whaley, Brendan Saloner, Josh Rising

Given the high rates of opioid overdose deaths among people who have recently been discharged from correctional facilities, using medications to treat people with opioid use disorder before they are discharged is an evidence-based approach to save lives. Several programs across the U.S. have successfully implemented this strategy. In Rhode Island, for example, post-incarceration overdose deaths in the state dropped by 60% after the state started offering medications, including methadone, to people with an opioid use disorder in the state correctional system.

Unfortunately, a number of regulatory barriers make it difficult for correctional facilities to provide medications—in particular, methadone—to people who are incarcerated. To address this issue, faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have put forward a set of recommendations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In the short term, these recommendations call for the agency to provide waivers that permit many correctional facilities to expand access to life-saving care. Then, the agency should revise its regulations to put in place a responsible framework that encourages treatment with methadone.

The faculty authors of the report include research associate Sara Whaley and associate professor Brendan Saloner. Another author is Josh Rising of Rising Health Strategies.

Read the full report here (updated Oct 2022) and view the fact sheet that summarizes this new approach to increase access to methadone in carceral settings and answers frequently asked questions about the topic. 

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