MERCER, Pennsylvania (WKBN) – Of the nearly 2.3 million inmates in U.S. prisons and jails, 65 percent meet medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
The Mercer County Jail is no exception.
“They come into jail and they have no idea what they’re doing, their strengths [or] how they’re harming people, let alone themselves,” said Warden Erna Craig.
Those addicted inmates are always put into a detox program. However, Craig said there is an increasing number of people who leave jail and go back into using drugs — sometimes ending up dead.
To put a stop to that, the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission will start offering Vivitrol, which is a once-a-month shot that blocks the body’s receptors that gives users a high.
“This helps them then whenever they get out and go back into the community where it’s going to be available,” said Matthew McConnell, the chair of Mercer County Commissioners. “It breaks the craving and won’t go back into it.”
The shot will be given to prisoners who are willing to go through the program, which also includes counseling services. The prison will work with their medical team to determine if the person should receive the shot and then decide when to administer it based on their release date.
The first shot will be free. They will then continue with a prescription for anywhere from 8-18 months, although most insurance agencies will help cover costs.
Each time they go to get the shot, they will be examined for drug usage.
“If they are trying to override the Vivitrol, they may be removed from the program,” said Kim Anglin, executive director of the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission.
The shots will be given in a mobile unit provided by Positive Recovery Solutions in Pittsburgh.
They’re hoping to have their first couple of inmates ready within the next month and a half.