DeFuniak Springs, Fla. - Walton County is caught up in the major Opioid Epidemic, that's sweeping the nation. Sheriff's officials are launching a program to help one of the most desperate segments of their population. They've entered into a partnership with Chautauqua Healthcare Services to help inmates battling addiction.
Everyday, 11 people die from opioid overdoses in Florida. Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, is introducing a new treatment plan for County Jail inmates using a drug called Vivitrol.
"The opportunity to provide Vivitrol, which is a drug that basically inhibits the opioid receptors. It gives these inmates an opportunity to succeed upon their release," explained Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Walton County Sheriff's Office.
"It's thought to block the pleasure centers that are aroused by opioids. Another, is that it is thought to reduce the cravings people get to use medication as well," shared Paul Phillips, Medical Director at Chautauqua Healthcare Services.
Governor Rick Scott's declaration of a statewide public health emergency for the opioid epidemic allowed for Florida to secure grant funding for programs, like this one, to help offset the costs.
"These shots are expensive. They are roughly $1,000 a shot but, if you think about that as compared to the daily average in most Florida jails, it's about $75 per day to hold an inmate," said Sheriff Adkinson.
"Our treatment teaches them what a trigger is. What makes them go there and we're are able to hold that off until they get taught and until they know what is going on," explained Rachel Gillis, CEO at Chautauqua Healthcare Services.
When the inmates are released back to the community, they will receive monthly injections at Chautauqua Healthcare Services along with intensive treatments and services.
"I am prepared to try anything at this point, to see if it works. I think there are some really good indicators that we can be successful with this," shared Sheriff Adkinson.
Vivitrol is the only extended-release medication approved by the FDA for treating opioid addictions.
Sheriff Adkinson said they will immediately begin identifying inmates who could potentially benefit from this treatment before they're released from jail.
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