On Sunday, Oct. 1, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department began a new phase of a program meant to help jail inmates with drug abuse problems.

The department has just started providing medication-assisted treatment to people who weren’t getting that type of treatment before they entered the jail. In the past, treatment that involved taking other drugs to combat opioid addiction was only offered to those who were already in treatment programs at the time they were arrested and locked up.

A national Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program  was established as a two-phased program and the Sheriff’s Department, like similar departments across the country, is now entering the second phase.

 This will immediately increase the number of inmates enrolled in the Sheriff’s Department’s MAT program.

Last year, the US Department of Justice determined that people recovering from opioid addiction should be classified as having a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, the Sheriff’s Department began the MAT program for qualifying inmates with a drug problem.

The MAT program consists of two phases: the “Continuation Phase” – which allows providing medication to those already in treatment before entering jail – and the “Induction Phase,” which allows providing medication to inmates with opioid addiction who weren’t receiving outside treatment.

This week the Sheriff’s Department began that second phase of the program – the “Induction Phase.” In that phase, people found to have an opioid problem – but who were not receiving medication assisted treatment for their drug problem, will be considered for the program.

Once an inmate is identified and approved, medical providers at the jail will authorize the use of medications that will be administered daily by a nurse in the jails.

The goal, according to department officials, is “to stabilize individuals and provide comprehensive substance use disorder treatment in collaboration with the Sheriff’s Office diversion and reentry program.”

In and out of jails, MAT programs allow inmates to take legally prescribed drugs to treat their opioid disorders only as long as the patient isn’t engaged in the illegal use of drugs. The person uses the medication under the supervision of a licensed health care professional. The medications offered for “Opioid Use Disorder” are methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone, all of which are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating addiction.

In October of last year, the Sheriff’s Department began the first phase of a MAT program for inmates in both the Greensboro jail and High Point jail, which allowed inmates to continue with their recommended medication daily within the facility.

When opioid addicts are arrested and sent to jail, they look for ways to satisfy their addictions and the goal of MAT program is to stabilize their body and mind so that the individual can feel normal during treatment and early addiction recovery.

Those who have served as detention officers in the county’s two jails over the years have some pretty ugly stories of locked up addicts going through withdrawal.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, “The MAT program works very closely with the Sheriff’s Office diversion and reentry program with the ultimate goal of providing a ‘whole patient’ approach to the treatment of substance use disorder.”