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Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado announces the launch of a pilot program aimed at helping opioid-addicted inmates stay opioid-free in the time between their release and entry into support programs Tuesday, August 27, 2019. The program began Monday. Joining him are Tulsa County Jail Administrator David Parker, left, Tulsa County Undersheriff George Brown and Turnkey Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Cooper. (Kelsy Schlotthauer/Tulsa World via AP)

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A county in Oklahoma launched the state’s first opioid relapse prevention program that would allow released inmates who are addicts to receive a drug that inhibits the effects of opioids and curbs the urge to use.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office launched the pilot program on Aug. 26 to provide Vivitrol, an FDA-approved drug.

“We are in the midst of a drug and mental health crisis,” Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado said. “Our jails are no exception. A good portion of our nonviolent crimes are committed by people suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.”

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According to Dr. William Cooper, the CEO of the jail’s medical partner and vendor Turnkey Health, Vivitrol is an extended-release form of naltrexone, which blocks the brain’s opioid receptors and reduces the euphoria associated with the drug, as well as the sedative effects of alcohol.

Each injection costs about $1,000. Cooper estimates 10 to 15 inmates will be approved for the program every month.

The program’s funding is allocated through partnerships with the makers of Vivitrol, Turnkey Health, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and the Center of Therapeutic Intervention, Regalado said. A number of community advocates and state legislators are also involved in the effort.

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He noted that the state’s $270 million settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma could become a resource. The program began the same day an Oklahoma judge decided in the state’s favor and ordered a $572 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson. The judge ruled that the consumer products giant and its pharmaceutical subsidiaries contributed to the state’s opioid crisis.

Inmates in the county jail who require treatment for withdrawal beyond the jail’s detox program will be considered candidates for the program, Cooper said. Pregnant women and inmates who are sentenced to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections aren’t eligible for the pilot program, the Tulsa World reported.

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Casey Roebuck said eligible inmates are expected to receive one dose at the jail that lasts for one month. He said released inmates can receive a second dose once they begin receiving aftercare addiction services from providers in the community.

The drug is only one part of the medication-assisted treatment program, Cooper noted.

“It’s a good beginning,” Cooper said.

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