Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Connecting Incarcerated Women to a Telehealth Program to Combat Opioid Addictions

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published an article about how a Telehealth Program could improve outcomes for drug addicted, justice-involved women. The first few days following the release of incarcerated individuals is very difficult and puts them at  high risk for opioid use. In the hopes of preventing relapse and overdosing, researchers have been testing ways to connect inmates with community-based treatment and support programs before they are released. This research project is called the Women’s Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (WJCOIN), which is supported by the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative (NIH HEAL Initiative). They have been testing videoconferencing-based telehealth solutions as a solution to expand evidence-based practices involved in treating addiction. This battles against the justice system and helps respond to the opioid crisis. This telehealth approach is seeking to understand what works best for real women in life situations.

The project is being launched in 18 states and Puerto Rico to test strategies to expand effective treatment for people with opioid use disorders. The initiative has partnered with local and state justice systems and community-based treatment providers to create the best outcome for people with substance abuse disorders.It is estimated that one half of people in the country’s jails and prisons suffer from a substance use disorder but very few receive the treatment they need. Narrowed down, women in particular face high barriers when it comes to having access to treatment and continuing it after being released. They also suffer from a higher rate for opioid overdose compared to men. Because of this, the five-year WJCOIN study will aim to enroll 900 incarcerated women with opioid addiction problems at nine state jails who are within 30 days of being released to use telehealth to link them to community treatment providers.

Collaboration between Department of Corrections (DOC) and Behavioral Health Treatment Centers is key to helping women have access to recovery programs and getting them on the right track after being released. Many suffer from opioid addictions and never fully recover, ending up back in jail. The Telehealth Program hopes to reduce recidivism and help individuals, specifically women, get back on track to living a sober and healthy life.