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Pennsylvania and Michigan Expand Medications for Opioid Use Disorder to People Behind Bars

New Tool Kit and February 25 Webinar will Assist Jails and Prisons Around the Country to Increase Access to Methadone and Buprenorphine

Pennsylvania and Michigan, two states that have been hit hard by the overdose crisis, will be expanding access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) to people behind bars. Vital Strategies, a lead partner in a $50 million Bloomberg Philanthropies-supported initiative to reduce overdose deaths, will be partnering with the corrections and health agencies in each state to provide methadone and buprenorphine to people who are incarcerated in prisons and jails.

“People who have been incarcerated are up to 100 times more likely than the general public to die from overdose in the weeks following release from incarceration, said Daliah Heller, Director of the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies. “We are proud to partner with state and local governments to ensure that life-saving medications like methadone and buprenorphine get to people behind bars who need them.”

Vital Strategies and the National Council for Behavioral Health will also be hosting a webinar on February 25, where they will share their planning and implementation toolkit for prisons and jails around the country who are interested in providing medications for people with opioid use disorder. The toolkit has already been downloaded more than 1,500 times and 1,000 people have registered for the webinar.

What: Webinar on Implementing Medications for Opioid Use Disorder in Jails and Prisons: Lessons from the Field


– Shannon Mace, Senior Advisor, National Council for Behavioral Health

– Anne Siegler, Consultant, Vital Strategies

– Karen Taylor, Warden, Camden County Department of Corrections

– Tyler Winkelman, Clinical-Investigator, Hennepin Healthcare

– Annie Ramniceanu, Addiction and Mental Health System Director, Vermont Department of Corrections

When: Feb 25, 2020 02:00 PM

How: Webinar Registration Link

“Individuals who have opioid use disorder are disproportionately more likely to be involved with the criminal legal system, yet few jails and prisons offer evidence-based medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), the gold standard treatment,”  said Shannon Mace, Senior Advisor, National Council for Behavioral Health. “Our hope is that this toolkit will encourage adoption of MOUD among jails and prisons nationwide to save lives and offer individuals with OUD a path to recovery.” 

The National Council for Behavioral Health partnered with Vital Strategies and faculty from Johns Hopkins University to develop a planning and implementation toolkit. The toolkit was supported by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Last summer, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel announced that every state prison would allow persons to continue their medication treatment if they had been receiving treatment in the community or a jail prior to entering state custody. The Department of Correction’s Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Statewide Coordinator Steve Seitchik will work extensively with sister state agencies to help expand its use and find new ways to increase MOUD services to individuals incarcerated in prisons and jails across PA.

Vital Strategies is partnering with the Department of Corrections to implement this directive, providing project staff to help every state correctional facility launch or expand their medication treatment capacity. The collaboration has led to enhanced levels of coordination between county and state facilities to ensure continuity of treatment.

“On behalf of Secretary Wetzel, the Department of Corrections is very excited to partner with Vital Strategies on this expansion,” said Seitchik. “We know that Medicated Assisted Treatment reduces morbidity and mortality, transmission of infectious disease and criminal activity – it also has shown that it improves treatment retention and social functioning.”

Vital Strategies is also supporting robust technical assistance for county jails that have been funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to launch or expand access to agonist medication. The initiative is a collaboration between PCCD, the Department of Corrections, Health Management Associates (HMA) and Vital Strategies. The seven counties receiving intensive, one-on-one technical assistance for effective rollout of agonist medications in their jails are: Armstrong County, Bucks County, Cambria County, Franklin County, Lawrence County, Lehigh County and Montgomery County.

In Michigan, Vital Strategies is working with state agencies on similar initiatives that include launching pilot medication programs in state prisons, state funding and support to country jails for medication treatment programs, and better coordination of care when a person is returning to a community after release from incarceration.

“Turning the tide on the opioid epidemic will require engaging incarcerated individuals, returning citizens, and others who have historically fallen through the cracks in our health care system,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Michigan looks forward to partnering with Vital Strategies to increase access to high-quality treatment for justice-involved individuals.”

Funding through Vital Strategies enabled correctional leaders from both states to attend the Opioid Response Network’s “Medications for Opioid Use Disorder in Correctional Settings” conference in Rhode Island to learn and share best practices with other states.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

About the Overdose Prevention Program

In November 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $50 million investment to address the country’s overdose crisis. The initiative—a first-of-its-kind partnership between Vital Strategies, Pew Charitable Trusts, CDC Foundation, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health—is helping up to 10 states implement solutions over three years to strengthen and scale up evidence-based, data-driven interventions to reduce risks of overdose and save lives.