A new $1.5 million federal grant will expand the scope and address gaps in a medication for addiction treatment program that has successfully reduced post-incarceration drug overdose deaths in its initial stages.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In 2016, the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) became the first state correctional system in the U.S. to screen all incarcerated individuals for opioid use disorder and provide medications for addiction treatment (MAT) for those who need it. A 2018 study led by researchers from Brown University found that the program significantly reduced post-incarceration drug overdose deaths. 

Now, a new $1.5 million grant from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will allow Brown, RIDOC and their partners to expand the existing program and treat more people. 

“The goal of this project is to increase the number of individuals with an opioid use disorder receiving medications for addiction treatment by providing intensive outreach to those involved in the criminal justice system, who are at high risk for overdose and treatment non-compliance,” said Rosemarie Martin, an assistant professor at Brown’s School of Public Health and the principal investigator on the grant. “By ensuring access to MAT, levels of relapse and recidivism will decline, hopefully leading to lower crime, intact families, higher levels of employment and community engagement.”

Martin is involved in evaluating the effectiveness of RIDOC’s existing MAT program, and she said two gaps in the program are ensuring that patients continue treatment after they are released and treating individuals who were released before they began MAT. The new grant will allow the team to specifically address those areas. 

The expanded program will include transportation to outpatient MAT service providers for the first six days upon a participant’s return to the community. Additionally, the team will work with peer recovery support services to provide expanded guidance, support and information after the participant’s release from prison. Peer recovery support specialists are people who have been in recovery from substance abuse for at least two years and have received specialized training in addiction support.

Over the three years of grant support, the team hopes to treat more than 300 additional Rhode Island residents with opioid use disorders. Other partners for the expanded MAT program include CODAC Behavioral Healthcare, the largest and only nonprofit opioid treatment program in the state, and the Rhode Island State Police’s Heroin-Opioid Prevention Effort Initiative.