Patients in the CHI St. Gabriel’s opioid treatment program will now be able to have their medication issued to them while in the Morrison County Jail.

The Morrison County Board of Commissioners was informed that the drug   suboxone had been added as a narcotic that could be issued by jail staff.

Sheriff Shawn Larsen said there are restrictions however.

Only current patients in the St. Gabriel’s treatment program are eligible for this.

The reason for adding the drug to the jail’s list of narcotics it can administer to prescribed patients, is that if they are taken off of it suddenly, they can fall back into old habits.

“The doctors are telling us, ‘If you stay on suboxone, you need to be on it long enough for your brain to become normal again,’” Larsen said.

While individuals are being brought into the jail for non-drug related issues, such as outstanding warrants and other issues, if they do not continue to take their prescribed suboxone, they can develop cravings for heroin and other opioids again, Larsen said.

“They crave the drug, they crave the heroin, they crave the opioids. And once they get out of jail, guess what they’re doing — they’re relapsing,” Larsen said.

After stakeholders, including the Sheriff’s Department and jail staff, the Morrison County Social Services Department, CHI St. Gabriel’s and more discussed the pros and cons of bringing the suboxone into the jail, they decided on a couple of caveats.

CHI St. Gabriel’s program is the only one included in this, because the program is intensive and has good monitoring of patients, Larsen said.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Department will not be paying for the drugs, so patients have to have their suboxone with them, or it would be refilled by CHI St. Gabriel’s.

“It would be based on the pay source they currently have,” Morrison County Social Services Director Brad Vold said.

This is important, Larsen said, because given that suboxone can cost $10 per dose, which is administered twice a day, the Sheriff’s Department couldn’t afford to purchase it.

The drug, which is administered as a film on the tongue or lips, would be given by the jail’s medical staff, who would ensure the drug is taken, Larsen said.

Vold said CHI St. Gabriel’s would be working with the jail staff to wean long-term inmates off of suboxone while in jail, before putting them back on the medication prior to discharge.

Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski asked if any other facility has a program like this.

“As of right now, I believe there are no other jails in Minnesota (with this program),” Larsen said.

Commissioner Randy Winscher asked why that was.

Suboxone is fairly new, Larsen said and there are a lot of factors that need to be considered, such as the status of the clinic, liability and others.

The jail has already begun administering the suboxone to incarcerated patients, but Vold and Larsen both wanted to inform the Board of it, before commissioners heard about the program from someone else.

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