Snohomish County Jail expands medication-assisted treatment program

Snohomish County has become one of the first large jails in the nation to offer comprehensive treatment options to all inmates with heroin or other opioid-related disorders.

The Snohomish County Jail has expanded medication-assisted treatment (MAT), making it available to all inmates who qualify for the program. In the first two weeks of the program, 197 inmates were enrolled in MAT.

“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,” said Sheriff Ty Trenary. “Expanding the MAT program adds one more tool to our toolkit for battling addiction in Snohomish County.”

The initial pilot MAT program was launched in January 2018 in collaboration with Ideal Option, a substance use disorder treatment provider. At that time, the program was limited in the number of inmates that could be enrolled by several factors, including having enough providers with prescription waivers. Between December 2018 and September 2019, 104 inmates were enrolled in MAT and remained active. In the first two weeks of the expanded MAT program (Sept. 29 – Oct. 14) 197 inmates were enrolled, almost double the number enrolled in the previous nine months.

Any inmate with current or a history of opiate addiction, currently on buprenorphine through Ideal Option or another prescriber, or tests positive for opiates during the booking process is eligible to participate.

“Medication-assisted treatment can be controversial in a corrections setting. It is not controversial in the medical world because providers know addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as such,” said Dr. Ken Egli, co-founder and medical director of Ideal Option. “The move to expand MAT in the jail speaks to the courage of Snohomish County jail leadership. This is a program that the rest of the nation can look to as a model.”

“Our goal is to give inmates a better chance at recovery by making sure they are connected to the same service provider in the jail as when they are released,” said jail Health Services Administrator Alta Langdon, who coordinates the program with Ideal Option.

Not all inmates may qualify for the expanded MAT program, including those with no documentation of opiate addiction, federal prisoners, and those who have misused or diverted buprenorphine in the jail in the past.

  1. More taxpayer money wasted. I have known several addicts; what they need is a kick in the butt and a month in jail with nothing but regular chow. They will be cured this way — I guarantee it! I have seen it happen multiple times. They may relapse, but that’s another matter entirely. No special treatment is needed for opioid addiction — or any addiction, for that matter. Whatever happened to JUST SAY NO?

  2. They need medical treatment or they will die. Not giving them the needed medical attention is akin to murder.

    I believe the jail has been remiss in giving human beings what they most need. Rehab after the medical treatment does its magic.

    Get professionals in there. Too many people have died at the hands of those who just don’t care about human life.

    Those that ignore and make fun of people who are in dire need of medical treatment, adherence to necessary diet requirements and the rest, should be behind bars as well. When someone is detoxing, it is a medical emergency. How many ignored those calls for help? How many got off scott free? That is very telling about who the problem employees are. Have some scruples, education and empathy. Is that too much to ask? Many have gotten away with not adhering to the requirement to assist those in need. Define criminal behavior, please.

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