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State Launches New Opiate Treatment Program

Courtesy of Josh O'Gorman
Vermont Press Bureau
At a press conference Tuesday, Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen said the new program will help "a very at-risk" group of users: recovering addicts being released from jail.

Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday announced a program to treat opiate addiction in newly released inmates.

The pilot program offers recovering addicts being released from the Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland the option of being treated with the drug naltrexone, which blocks the euphoric effects of heroin and other opiates. Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen said people coming out of jail often need the most help recovering from addiction.

"This pilot program identifies a very at-risk population — that's those individuals who are in corrections. Oftentimes they are in corrections because of aspects of their addiction that have gotten them into corrections," he said. "But coming out of corrections, they often don't link up with treatment options."

The pilot program is a joint project of the Agency of Human Services and the West Ridge Addiction Treatment Center in Rutland. West Ridge medical director Dr. Gordon Frankle said the medication offers great potential for helping addicts stay clean.

"It lasts 30 days. It's an opiate receptor blocker. It's not divertible, unlike buprenorphine or suboxone, as it's called, or methadone. It can't be diverted," Frankle said. "You don't get high on it. It's not an opioid alternative. It's an opiate blocker."

The drug is administered by injection once a month. Officials say people under supervision of the Department of Corrections are at a higher risk for opioid addiction and Rutland is one of the areas in the state with the highest need for medication assisted treatment and recovery services.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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