Snohomish County Jail expands medication-assisted treatment program

Snohomish County has become one of the first large jails in the nation to offer comprehensive treatment options to all inmates with heroin or other opioid-related disorders.

The Snohomish County Jail has expanded medication-assisted treatment (MAT), making it available to all inmates who qualify for the program. In the first two weeks of the program, 197 inmates were enrolled in MAT.

“When we treat addiction like a medical condition, rather than a moral failing that we expect to solve with a pair of handcuffs, we can break the cycle of drug-related crime and homelessness,” said Sheriff Ty Trenary. “Expanding the MAT program adds one more tool to our toolkit for battling addiction in Snohomish County.”

The initial pilot MAT program was launched in January 2018 in collaboration with Ideal Option, a substance use disorder treatment provider. At that time, the program was limited in the number of inmates that could be enrolled by several factors, including having enough providers with prescription waivers. Between December 2018 and September 2019, 104 inmates were enrolled in MAT and remained active. In the first two weeks of the expanded MAT program (Sept. 29 – Oct. 14) 197 inmates were enrolled, almost double the number enrolled in the previous nine months.

Any inmate with current or a history of opiate addiction, currently on buprenorphine through Ideal Option or another prescriber, or tests positive for opiates during the booking process is eligible to participate.

“Medication-assisted treatment can be controversial in a corrections setting. It is not controversial in the medical world because providers know addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as such,” said Dr. Ken Egli, co-founder and medical director of Ideal Option. “The move to expand MAT in the jail speaks to the courage of Snohomish County jail leadership. This is a program that the rest of the nation can look to as a model.”

“Our goal is to give inmates a better chance at recovery by making sure they are connected to the same service provider in the jail as when they are released,” said jail Health Services Administrator Alta Langdon, who coordinates the program with Ideal Option.

Not all inmates may qualify for the expanded MAT program, including those with no documentation of opiate addiction, federal prisoners, and those who have misused or diverted buprenorphine in the jail in the past.

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