On the heels of the US Department of Justice’s recent guidance on protections for people with opioid use disorder, MAHEC recently hosted a statewide webinar on Operational Basics: MAT in Jails Facility Implementation – Legal, Medical, Security, and Community Considerations. Counties across North Carolina who are looking to start or expand their medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs are turning to Buncombe’s program for guidance and answers.
At the helm of Buncombe Detention Facility’s (BCDF) MAT program is MAT Services Director Sarah Gayton. Since the onset of the program in 2019, Gayton has seen a 20 percent reduction in community overdose deaths of individuals with an arrest event within the prior 5 years. Additionally, data from 2019 reflects 18 percent lower recidivism rates for individuals on MAT in our facility. “Implementing MAT in our jail is saving lives and has a positive impact both within our facility and our community. We are thankful for the partners and collaborations in place to make this a successful program,” says Captain and BCDF Facility Administrator Jeffrey Littrell.
The three-part webinar series is one of many collaborations working to expand access to treatment and recovery services for the justice-involved in North Carolina. Representatives from the US Department of Justice, NC State Opioid Treatment Authority, and MAHEC came together to share the legal, medical, and operational basics of providing MAT in NC facilities. “The reduction of overdose deaths and recidivism rates demonstrates that investing in evidence-based solutions such as MAT saves lives and improves community wellness. Hosting the webinar series was the culmination of years of implementation, lessons learned, leveraging community stakeholders, local data, and feedback through the process,” shares Gayton. “Our hope is that this information will provide insight from our facility regarding the programmatic, structural and operational implementation of MAT.”
Last month, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein toured the Buncombe County Detention Facility and referred to its MAT program as the “gold standard.”
In 2019, Sarah Gayton was appointed by Sheriff Quentin Miller to develop a MAT program for the BCDF, and in 2020 Buncombe became the first county jail facility in the state to have a fully operational MAT program. Gayton’s career in public behavioral health and jail programming, in conjunction with her training as a detention officer have uniquely equipped her to understand the organizational, community, and operational needs of an effective jail MAT treatment program. Gayton has gained subject-matter recognition as she continues to advocate and provide technical assistance for MAT-related programming across North Carolina.