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Posted on: Aug 18, 2017

In Light of Opioid Crisis, Drug Courts Looking to Treatment Programs to Curb Recidivism

By John P. Gallo, Marion County Public Defender Agency

As the opioid crisis rages throughout the midwest, drug courts are looking at drug treatment programs that are effective at curbing recidivism. Some courts are turning to Vivitrol, a drug which is designed to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. Vivitrol is a monthly shot which, when combined with counseling, purports to reduce opioid replace after detoxification.

Vivitrol differs from other drugs which manage opioid addiction, such as suboxone or methadone, in that it does not get a user high. Instead, Vivitrol blocks withdrawal symptoms, essentially cutting a person’s craving for opiates.

The Marion County Probation Department has adopted Vivitrol as one of its options for working with defendants with opioid additions through Opiate Supervision team. A client is eligible if they have been convicted of a Level 6 felony or higher, have violated probation, the client has a problem with opiates, and the client has a minimum of 365 days left on probation or they agree to extend probation. If a client qualifies and is accepted into the program, the client is given a shot of Vivitrol while still in the jail, then released to probation which includes drug screens, counseling, and other wrap around services.

Some have expressed concern with the fact that Vivitrol has been marketed directly to courts and judges. According to reporting by ProPublica and NPR, some experts have concerns that a healthcare decision is being made by courts.

Regardless of that concern, attorneys should be aware of the options for their clients. If a client is made aware of the risks and rewards and decides that Vivitrol is a good fit for them, it represents another avenue through which clients may successfully treat their addition and re-enter our community.

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