EVERETT — The Snohomish County Jail is now offering medication-assisted treatment to all inmates who suffer from opioid addiction.
The facility has gained a reputation as the county’s largest detox center, a place where more than one out of three inmates test positive for opioids. And many of those people are caught in a cycle of drug use, homelessness, crime and arrests.
In an attempt to break that cycle, the jail has partnered with Ideal Option to expand a pilot program so anyone booked into the jail can access Suboxone, a drug known to ease withdrawal symptoms and increase chances of beating addiction.
“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,” Sheriff Ty Trenary said, in a press release.
Trenary is running for re-election this year and is being challenged by Adam Fortney, a sergeant who works in the sheriff’s office.
The jail has been offering the drug to a limited number of people since January 2018. Officials said the drug has eased strain on the jail and reduced health hazards associated with detoxing, which can sometimes be fatal.
Since December 2018, Ideal Option counted 104 inmates who participated in medication-assisted treatment.
Within two weeks of the program’s expansion at the end of September, that number nearly doubled, to 197 inmates.
As restrictions have been lifted on who can take part, that number should only grow. Now, anyone with documentation of an opiate addiction can be prescribed Suboxone, as long as they aren’t a federal prisoner and haven’t previously misused the drug in the jail.
And through Ideal Option, there are more health care providers who can hand out Suboxone. Under federal rules, providers must obtain a waiver to prescribe patients Suboxone, and there’s a limit on the number of prescriptions each provider can give.
Insurance, especially Medicaid, foots the majority of the bill for the program. The county’s general funds pay for the medication itself, at the rate of $1 per person, per day.
The jail hosts over 850 inmates on average. More than 20,000 people were booked into the facility last year.
The Suboxone program is one in a series of reforms made by the sheriff’s office in recent years as the county has dealt with a surge in opioid addiction.
The sheriff’s office started an embedded social worker program, opened a diversion center, added medical and mental health screening during the booking process and doubled the jail’s medical staff.