Sheriff wants to join opioid pilot program

Kevin Coppinger

MIDDLETON — The Essex County Sheriff's Department announced Thursday it will work with the U.S. Attorney’s office and join forces with the state pilot program to explore expanding Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to deal with inmates who are addicted to opioids.

Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger recently met with U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling to discuss best practices for the proper implementation of MAT while addressing the operational, safety and security concerns of correctional facilities.

Coppinger said he was "pleased and encouraged by (Lelling's) willingness to work collaboratively" with the Sheriff’s Department to "help develop best practices for the proper care of inmates in need of treatment while addressing the operational, safety and security concerns of our facilities.”

Additionally, Coppinger has formally asked the Legislature to amend the Governor’s Care Act to include Essex County in the Pilot Program to develop a plan to facilitate the delivery of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder at county correctional facilities in Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex and Norfolk counties.

The Pilot Program was the result of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association working with the State Legislature to craft a statewide pilot program to provide medication assisted treatment.

The goal of this initiative, contained in the state’s latest opioid legislation, is to develop best practices for a MAT treatment program in a jail or prison setting and foster innovation in corrections in efforts to increase public safety, improve public health, and save lives.

In addition to administering medication while individuals are incarcerated, the sheriffs’ offices will provide behavioral health counseling and work with the inmates to build comprehensive treatment plans for when they are released.

Key government stakeholders will work in collaboration with the sheriffs’ offices, including the Department of Public Health, Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the Office of Medicaid.

Court case

In late November,  U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper ruled to allow a soon-to-be incarcerated Ipswich man access to his prescribed methadone treatment while serving his sentence at the Middleton jail.

After the judge's ruling, Coppinger said he is "presently planning to comply" with an order to provide an inmate with methadone to treat his drug addiction.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed against Coppinger in September by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union over a policy prohibiting prisoners at Middleton Jail from receiving methadone or Suboxone treatments.

At the time, Coppinger said such treatment raise "security, logistical and fiscal" concerns. But Casper, in her ruling, said Pesce would be "irreparably harmed" if he were denied methadone treatment.

Pesce faces a 60-day sentence for driving with a suspended license, stemming from an incident in July in which he was pulled over while driving to his treatment program. The infraction constituted a parole violation based on a previous charge of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs

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