According to a study titled “Opioid Overdose Mortality Among Former North Carolina Inmates: 2000–2015”, inmates across North Carolina are 40 times more likely to overdose on opioids after release from jail or prison. Once an opioid user’s drug tolerance has decreased after being incarcerated they are at high risk if they use again. In 2018, there were 88 opioid-related, registered deaths in Buncombe County and 46 of those individuals had been booked into the BCDF at some point. These new findings are a result of a joint research project between The Register of Deeds’ Office, Buncombe County HHS and the Sheriff’s Office.
Providing a MAT program in a detention setting has proven successful in other communities according to a 2018 report on Medically assisted Treatment produced by the National Sheriff’s Association. The report lays out the clear benefits of the program: “Evidence strongly supports that the use of MAT increases the likelihood of successful treatment for individuals with Opioid and reduces morbidity and mortality. Research has begun to show that adding MAT to the treatment of those involved in the criminal justice system confers the same benefits and also reduces recidivism.”
The Sheriff’s Office is also distributing Naloxone kits to individuals self-reporting opioid use upon their release from the Detention Facility. These kits are in accordance with North Carolina Health and Human Services recommendations.
The MAT program builds on the foundation of Buncombe County’s strategic response to the opioids epidemic, including harm reduction, peer support and post-overdose response. Buncombe County Health and Human Services has operated a successful Syringe Services Program since August of 2019, with the assistance of Peer Support services through Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness. Evidence-based public health strategies such as syringe services and exchange programs offer opportunities for healthier outcomes by providing testing, sterile injection equipment; linkages to care and recovery options; and Naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug that can save the life of a person experiencing an opioid overdose.
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is confident that supporting and expanding our MAT program will reduce the number of our community members addicted to opioids, help save the lives of community members and reduce property crime associated with drug addiction.