BACKGROUND: Until recently, few carceral facilities offered medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD). Although more facilities are adopting MOUD, much remains to be learned about addressing implementation challenges related to expansion of MOUD in carceral settings and linkage to care upon re-entry. This is particularly important in jails, where individuals cycle rapidly in and out of these facilities, especially in jurisdictions beginning to implement bail reform laws (i.e., laws that remove the requirement to pay bail for most individuals). Increasing access to MOUD in these settings is a key unexplored challenge.
METHODS: In this qualitative study, we interviewed staff from county jails across New Jersey, a state that has implemented state-wide efforts to increase capacity for MOUD treatment in jails. We analyzed themes related to current practices used to engage individuals in MOUD while in jail and upon re-entry; major challenges to delivering MOUD and re-entry services, particularly under bail reform conditions; and innovative strategies to facilitate delivery of these services.
RESULTS: Jail staff from 11 New Jersey county jails participated in a baseline survey and an in-depth qualitative interview from January-September 2020. Responses revealed that practices for delivering MOUD varied substantially across jails. Primary challenges included jails’ limited resources and highly regulated operations, the chaotic nature of short jail stays, and concerns regarding limited MOUD and resources in the community. Still, jail staff identified multiple facilitators and creative solutions for delivering MOUD in the face of these obstacles, including opportunities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite challenges to the delivery of MOUD, states can make concerted and sustained efforts to support opioid addiction treatment in jails. Increased use of evidence-based clinical guidelines, greater investment in resources, and increased partnerships with health and social service providers can greatly improve reach of treatment and save lives.
Jail-based treatment for opioid use disorder in the era of bail reform: A qualitative study of barriers and facilitators to implementation of a state-wide medication treatment initiative
Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, 17, 30. doi: 10.1186/s13722-022-00313-6. PMCID: PMC9161649.