The Role of Jails in Combating the Opioid Crisis
Date:  01-30-2018

Sixty-three percent of people in jail meet the criteria for drug dependence or use
From Vera Institute of Justice:

A report released January 24, 2018 from the Pew Charitable Trusts sheds new light on what has long been true but is often overlooked:

Local jails play a vital role in our nation’s health care safety net, working often as the default response to people with mental health and substance use disorders. Individuals passing through jails have high rates of chronic and infectious diseases as well as disproportionately high rates of mental health and substance use disorders compared to the general population. Even so, jails are often ill-equipped to respond to the health care needs of people in their custody. According to the report, jails face challenges in providing adequate care due to factors such as short lengths of stay and unpredictable release dates. However, there is also wide variation in the health care delivery models used by jails across counties—from how they pay for health care to the services they offer—and few mechanisms to ensure that investments result in high quality care for people in their custody.

The gap between the health needs of people in jail and the services jails provide is glaringly evident when thinking about how jails are responding to the current opioid crisis. According to surveys conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of people in jail meet criteria for drug dependence or abuse. Many of these individuals have opioid use disorders and could benefit from access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)—a combination of behavioral interventions and medication (methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone) that have been shown to decrease opioid use, increase treatment retention, and reduce criminal activity.

Read the report here.