St. Louis County to Offer Inmates Addiction Treatment Medication


By Sarah Fentem

St. Louis County will use federal grant money to offer medication-assisted treatment to some county jail inmates with opioid addictions.

The county will use a $2 million, two-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to phase in treatment for inmates in Clayton’s Buzz Westfall Justice Center.

Health professionals consider medication-assisted treatment administered along with counseling the best standard of care for people with addiction. But the county has long lacked the money for medication-assisted treatment and only offered inmates behavior therapy, said Spring Schmidt, director of health promotion and public health research for the St. Louis County Health Department.

“For this population in particular, it’s incredibly cost-prohibitive to cover the actual cost of the medications as well as having the staff capacity to manage the treatment while in the corrections facility,” Schmidt said. “This funding will provide us with the opportunity to begin that process.”

In medication-assisted treatment, providers prescribe medications such as buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone to ease withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings and help patients stay in recovery. Health providers will most likely use buprenorphine for most patients, but will take into account which treatment an inmate is currently using before deciding how to treat them, Schmidt said.

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