Chicago will now be giving at-risk inmates naxolone which is an overdose-reversing drug once they are released from jail. Los Angeles too has announced that it will be following suit. This is in the quest to combat opioid use which is a nationwide epidemic.
Since last summer, Cook County Jail, the largest single-site jail in Chicago has offered training to around 900 inmates on how to use naxolone nasal spray devices. Up to 400 of these devices have been distributed to men and women who are at risk upon release. These devices are able to reverse the effects of opiate overdose within no time. They are similar to those which law enforcement officers use.
According to Sherriff Tom Dart who runs the Cook County Jail, drug addicts have higher chances of overdosing within two weeks of getting out of jail since they have not used the drug for a long period of time. Offering them the over-dose reversing drug ensures they stay alive and if they are able to get past the two week window, then they can seek channels of treatment and be free from drugs.
The drug is administered by Correctional Health. Dr. Connie Mennella who is the chair of Correctional Health says that as of now, only the inmates are being trained on how to use the drug but with time, friends and relatives of these inmates will be trained. Correctional Health aims at spreading the word in communities about this drug.
Those who support this drug argue that using it can change the life of that individual and ensure that they live once it’s administered. It is for these reasons that it is important that family and friends are trained on how to use it in case there loved ones has overdosed.
According to Sheriff Tom Dart, many inmates upon their release who used drugs revert back to their old habits and this is one of the greatest challenges correctional facilities face. They are those who don’t even take a long time before they get their way back to prison. The overdose reversing drug therefore is a good idea whose time has home and he hopes that it may change the lives of those who are addicted to drugs.
Cook County only recently started to roll out this program and its effectiveness is yet to be gauged. There are those who have made testimonies of how these kits changed their lives for the better.
A similar program was launched in New York City in 2014 and since then, up to 4,000 kits have been distributed to the family and friends of released inmates. Chicago is borrowing greatly from New York’s model.
Dr. Ross MacDonald, chief of Medicine, Division of Correctional Health Services, New York City Health and Hospitals had this to say: “We did a survey of their use of the kits after six months and 226 people responded to the survey and found 50 usages (of the naloxone), and found that 87 percent of the overdoses where the naloxone was used, (the victim) survived.”
It remains to be seen how this drug will change inmate addiction in Chicago but a lot of people are optimistic.