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Medication Assisted Treatment is making a difference at SCI Dallas, throughout the DOC

Tags: DOC, Dallas
June 26, 2023 12:00 AM
By: Madison Holmberg, Intern

PA Coat of Arms

​Quinn, an incarcerated man in recovery, recently wrote, “The MAT Program has changed my life for the better, and I hope it becomes available to any and all that could benefit from it.”

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is used to address certain types of substance use disorders (SUD), including opioid use disorder. MAT has proven to be successful in the treatment of incarcerated individuals with SUD by promoting behavioral, psychological, and emotional stabilization for people in treatment.

A testimonial from an inmate at SCI Dallas about MAT.MAT program participants at SCI Dallas were asked to write about their experiences in the program during and after their time being incarcerated. Their experiences are valuable to consider when reviewing program outcomes, as these first-hand accounts yield insight into the program's real-world success. Program participant Christian said, “I find that being on suboxone helps me by giving me a long-term period to work on being a functioning, responsible participant of my family and society.” Christian wrote, “... my long-term goal is to wean off suboxone, however in the meantime I am able to work on the core issues and beliefs that fuel my addiction without the probability of relapse setting me back.”

Even in the short term, MAT is making a positive impact at SCI Dallas. “The same security lieutenants and COs that used to bust me for using drugs are now asking me to speak with other inmates who are still struggling with their addiction,” wrote program participant Daniel.

MAT was introduced to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2014 at SCI Muncy through a vivitrol pilot program. Vivitrol is a non-narcotic medication used for the treatment of alcohol and opioid use disorders. MAT has gained acceptance in the corrections field nationally and in Pennsylvania, especially following Governor Tom Wolf’s declaration of the PA opioid crisis as a “disaster emergency” in January 2018. Wolf recommended that MAT be provided throughout the department, and several months later, access to vivitrol was expanded to all facilities. In 2021, medication through MAT expanded to include Sublocade (injectable buprenorphine). At the end of 2022, a total of 1,207 Vivitrol injections and 3,552 Sublocade injections had been administered since the beginning of the program.

A testimonial from an inmate at SCI Dallas about MAT.Every MAT patient is different. Patients come from varying backgrounds, with unique histories, challenges, and timelines for recovery. Something that everyone does share is the same desire for rehabilitation through this program—a clear reflection of their positive experiences within MAT and their desire to help others share these same positive experiences. A common theme that can be drawn from the experiences of MAT program participants is the hope they have for their peers to also partake in the program. MAT program participant Kenneth wrote, “I think every prison in the U.S. should offer this program to every inmate because I know it will help them and change their life like it did mine.”

The most common medications used during MAT are methadone, naltrexone (Vivitrol and Revia), and buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, and Sublocade). These medications assist by reducing cravings, which helps patients to focus on reentry and rehabilitation. The medications provided through this program are part of an overall treatment plan to help manage and ultimately eliminate symptoms of opioid use disorder. Program participant Louis wrote, “I feel as if MAT is a 50-50 system. 50% the medication, 50% the treatment. You cannot just take the medication without the counseling and the hard work and expect to be successful.” Louis emphasized how treatment through MAT is not as easy as taking medication and instantly being cured of addiction—it requires a lot of hard work and mental strength to fully overcome it.

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