April 1, 2019, Nina Feldman - WHYY
After almost three months, the Philadelphia jail will begin accepting male inmates into its Suboxone program to treat opioid addiction. Admissions had stalled because doctors at the jail had reached the patient limit set by the federal government.
About one in every five inmates at the Philadelphia jail has opioid use disorder — on any given day, that’s about 900 people. For the Department of Prisons’ chief of medical operations, Bruce Herdman, those numbers offer an opportunity to get people on treatment while they’re incarcerated.
Suboxone, the brand name for the drug buprenorphine, is one of the three FDA-approved medications used to curb cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms for opioid use disorder.
The department started offering buprenorphine to its female inmates in February 2018 and expanded the program to men last summer. The jail became the largest provider of medication-assisted treatment in the city of Philadelphia, which has about 12,000 total slots for the treatment, 3,000 of which are available.