I-Team: Treating heroin & other drug addictions in jail

22News I-Team investigation

LUDLOW, Mass. (WWLP) – The state has an obligation to care for everyone who’s put in jail, but as the 22News I-Team investigates, one highly addictive street drug is starting to cost you thousands of dollars in care a year.

Every day thousands of inmates in Massachusetts jails get their medications from prison staff, but take a closer look at what they’re prescribed and you’ll notice a disturbing pattern.

“Detoxification is a big issue when folks come in, about 80-90% of folks have substance abuse issues when they come in,” said Patrick McCarthy, Health Service Administrator at the Hampden County House of Corrections.

As police focus on getting heroin off the streets, Hampden County House of Corrections Health Service Administrator Partick McCarthy told the I-Team complications related to heroin now top their list of medication expenditures.

We obtained a list of medications the state’s Department of Corrections is spending the most on and found the top five treat HIV-AIDS or Hepatitis C, conditions commonly developed using heroin, These medications alone are costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Here’s a look at the top 10 medications given out by the state’s Department of Correction:

  • EFAVIRENZ-EMTRICITABINE-T      $111,637.49 HIV-AIDS
  • EMTRICITABINE-TENOFOVIR D      $63,993.28  HIV-AIDS
  • BOCEPREVIR                     $42,643.51  HEP-C
  • ATAZANAVIR SULFATE             $39,421.90  HIV-AIDS
  • RALTEGRAVIR POTASSIUM          $27,012.75  HIV-AIDS
  • SORAFENIB TOSYLATE             $26,312.15  CANCER TREATMENT
  • CICLESONIDE                    $23,832.20  ASTHMA TREATMENT
  • DARUNAVIR ETHANOLATE           $21,246.37  HIV-AIDS
  • GLATIRAMER ACETATE             $19,573.20  MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
  • OMEPRAZOLE                     $17,959.20  REFLUX DISEASE

Here’s a look at the list of top 10 medications given out at the Hampden County House of Corrections:

  • VISTARIL – DETOXIFICATION
  • TRAZODONE – DEPRESSION
  • CLARITIN – ALLERGIES
  • CELEXA – DEPRESSION
  • LIBRIUM – DETOXIFICATION
  • LISINOPRIL – HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, HEART FAILURE
  • PEPCID – INDIGESTION
  • ZOLOFT – DEPRESSION
  • NAPROSYN – ANTI-INFLAMMATORY (GUNSHOT/STAB WOUNDS/CORONARY ISSUES)
  • NEURONTIN – TREATS SEIZURES

You’ll see four deal directly with drug use and detoxification, 3 are for depression and mental health, while the rest are pain medications and anti-inflammatories for things like gunshot or stab wounds.

As heroin and opiate use increases in the community, McCarthy says they’ve also started investing in kits to try and keep recovering drug users clean when they are released back into the community.

“The quality of the heroin is increasing and the number of overdoses. So we’ve taken measures, we use narcan here, we send inmates with opiate problems back out into the community with narcan as well as their families so if there are overdoses, we can prevent deaths in the community,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy also says it’s common people will come in with health conditions that have gone untreated for years because they’re not aware they have them. Not until they’re put in jail and forced to undergo health evaluations.

This is just the start of the I-Team’s series of heroin-use and the impact it’s having on the community. On 22News at 11, we’ll go through thousands of death records to find out how many overdoses there have been in each city or town in western mass in the last two years and hear from families impacted.

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