El Paso County Jail (copy)

(The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The El Paso County jail is getting $150,000 extra to help opioid-addicted inmates by administering drugs that alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

In “medication-assisted treatment,” drugs such as buprenorphine and methadone, paired with counseling and behavioral therapy, can reduce a person’s risk of overdosing on prescription painkillers or heroin after being released from jail, say officials with the Colorado Department of Human Services.

The Sheriff’s Office is working with the jail’s medical provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, to determine what medications to use and how to screen inmates to see if they’re good candidates for the drugs, said Lt. Lari Hanenberg.

“We want to make sure we are slow and methodical and conscientious about how we proceed,” Hanenberg said.

“We’re very fortunate that the state is willing to provide the funding for an issue that is obviously a problem not only locally, but statewide, nationally.”

Across Colorado last year, 974 people died from drug overdoses, including 130 people in the county, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

Drug overdose deaths across Colorado drop for the first time in years

A few inmates, including pregnant women with prescriptions, now get the medication-assisted treatment through the Sheriff’s Office, says a funding request submitted to the state.

When an inmate has a methadone prescription, the Sheriff’s Office transports that person to a local clinic to receive the drug, the application says.

Armor recently began offering a dose of Vivitrol to some inmates before their release.

The injection, another common form of medication-assisted treatment, blocks receptors in the brain that allow opioid users to experience a high.

El Paso County jail giving some inmates a shot at beating opioid addiction

The state’s Opioid Response grants are administered by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. More than $1.5 million in grants for the treatment will go to 16 other Colorado jails in the program’s latest round of funding, according to the state Human Services Department.

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