PA state prisons offering specialized opioid medication assisted treatment for inmates

SOMERSET TOWNSHIP, SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. -- Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections fighting the state’s opioid crisis within prison walls, using drugs.

“Every morning I wake up, that’s the first thing that I have to do is  go out and get drugs and find new ways to get drugs," said an inmate at Laurel Highlands.

The Department of Corrections is now offering inmates struggling with opioid addiction a second chance.

It's a specialized ‘Medicated Assisted Treatment’ program also known as 'MAP' and is being tested at six different state prisons across Pennsylvania.

Inmates participating in the program at Laurel Highlands state prison in Somerset County, say it has been life-changing.

They are being allowed to have daily counseling sessions and are getting medication for opioid addiction withdrawal symptoms.

Program managers say it's helping the inmates feel better and work on finally staying clean.

“I started out using pills and other things when I was eleven years old," said an inmate.

Codi who is 28-years-old has been in and out of prison for the last ten years, fighting withdrawal symptoms each time.

“You feel like it’s a flu but twenty four hours a day until you get 'unsick' and start using again," he added.

It's a common theme for many participating in the program.

"They are very likely to give into those cravings that have been building up and building up," said Steven Seitchik, program manager."

Seitchik says the medication is a key part of the program, helping those in recovery gain coping skills.

“Now that I’ve been clean and sober and taking this medication, it's really helping me think a lot more," added Codie, inmate.

“Medication is one very very vital ingredient in trying to get them out and become productive members of society again," said Seitchik.

Whether that’s housing or getting a job Seitchik says it’s all about helping inmates get back on their feet.

“Counseling plus medications that’s generally always going to give you better results," he added.

DOC officials say they hope to expand the 'MAT’ program to other state prisons within the next year.

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