Today, NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services announced that it has distributed more than 13,000 naloxone kits to people visiting New York City’s jails from Harlem to Hollis since the launch of HealingNYC.
The program first launched as a pilot program at the Central Visitor Center at Rikers Island in 2014. In 2018, as part of HealingNYC, the program expanded to visitor centers at Manhattan Detention Center, Vernon C. Bain Complex in the Bronx, and Brooklyn Detention Center. Correctional Health Services staff were onsite at the Manhattan Detention Center today distributing naloxone to visitors and providing demonstrations on how to use naloxone.
Naloxone is a safe medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Correctional Health Services distributes naloxone at jail visitor centers 16 times a week. Each naloxone kit distributed by this program contains two doses.
“We made a commitment under HealingNYC to make naloxone kits more accessible, particularly in communities at high risk of overdose, which includes individuals recently released from incarceration,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “I am proud Correctional Health Services continues its vital role in actively equipping visitors to the City’s jails with this life-saving medication.”
“National research has consistently shown the heightened risk of overdose for people who are newly released from incarceration,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “Putting naloxone in the hands of their family and friends is an important strategy to save lives.”
“While we offer an array of services for our patients living with opioid use disorder, it’s critical to engage their loved ones as well,” said Dr. Patsy Yang, Senior Vice President for NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services. “Making sure people who are likely to witness an overdose have access to naloxone is a key part of addressing the opioid crisis. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to train and distribute to visitors to any of the City’s jails, the means with which they can subsequently save a life.”
“The Department of Correction has been pioneering opioid treatment in our facilities since 1987, and we are proud to partner with NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services in offering jail visitors free naloxone kits and instructions. It is no secret that many people who wind up in our custody struggle with opioid addiction, and this is about doing what we can to help save lives, whether those lives are in our custody or not. HealingNYC is exactly the kind of initiative we need to fight the opioid epidemic,” said Cynthia Brann, Commissioner for the Department of Correction.
“I applaud NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services for their commitment to deliver the lifesaving medication naloxone to the friends and family members of people leaving jail,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Health Commissioner. “Through this innovative program, thousands of New Yorkers now have the tool they need to keep their loved ones safe.”
Naloxone distribution is one part of Correctional Health Services’ role in HealingNYC, the citywide plan to combat the opioid epidemic. Correctional Health Services also runs the Key Extended Entry Program (KEEP), the nation’s oldest and largest jail-based opioid treatment program. The program helps incarcerated patients initiate or continue treatment with methadone and buprenorphine, medications that are considered to be the gold-standard treatment for opioid use disorder. The program served nearly 4,000 patients in Fiscal Year 2018. On any given day, Correctional Health Services treats approximately 1,000 patients in the NYC jail system with methadone or buprenorphine.
In addition to KEEP, Correctional Health Services operates A Road Not Taken, a diversion program in seven housing areas on Rikers Island. Modeled after a therapeutic community, services include substance use counseling, case/management, health education, and daily support groups. Approximately 40% of patients with substance use disorder are also followed by Correctional Health Services’ mental health team.
Patients are also eligible for court services and comprehensive re-entry planning. Correctional Health Services has expanded its reentry services through the Substance Use Reentry Enhancement (SURE) program, which offers harm reduction screening, overdose prevention counseling, naloxone training, Medicaid application assistance, community referrals to initiate medication-assisted treatment and transitional care services. The program serves approximately 900 patients monthly throughout the jail system.
“The distribution of naloxone to families and friends visiting their loved ones at our City’s jails will prove critical in our efforts to prevent potential opioid-related overdoses and deaths,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “These efforts under the HealingNYC initiative further demonstrate our City’s commitment to adequately combat the serious opioid crisis we are facing.”
“The de Blasio administration’s programs to increase access to naloxone are saving lives,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair, Richard N. Gottfried. “Harm reduction efforts, particularly for high-risk populations like those exiting the correctional system, can prevent deaths by overdose and give drug abusers a chance to turn their lives around.”
“The opioid epidemic has impacted many groups in our community including the incarcerated” said Assembly Member David I. Weprin, Assembly Correction Committee Chair. “The distribution of life saving naloxone kits to visitors of this vulnerable population is a smart move by NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services and I thank Dr. Mitchell Katz, President & CEO of Health + Hospitals, and Dr. Patsy Yang, Senior Vice President for NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services, for their efforts to reduce the harmful impacts of substance use.”
For more information, visit nychealthandhospitals.org/correctionalhealthservices.