Correctional health collaborative to focus on implementing evidence-based treatment for substance abuse, Hepatitis C

December 14, 2015

UMass Medical School will partner with academic medical centers to create a correctional health practice collaborative focused on implementing evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders and Hepatitis C in state prison systems.

Treatment teams from four as yet to be confirmed prison and jail systems from the United States will be guided by implementation science experts as they work to apply evidence-based care for substance use disorders, with emphasis on opioids, as well as screening and treatment for Hepatitis C.

“This is the our first effort to bring prison and jail systems together to work on a breakthrough collaborative,” said Warren J. Ferguson, MD, professor and vice chair of Family Medicine and Community Health at UMass Medical School, director of academic programs for its Health and Criminal Justice Program, and founder and co-chair of the Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health.

“Experts and providers who are in the trenches providing or coordinating care in correctional settings will work together and learn from each other,” Ferguson said. “In concentrating on substance use disorder and Hepatitis C, we strive toward care improvements that will have the largest impact on justice-involved populations.”

About 80 percent of the prison population has a substance use disorder and more than 17 percent are infected with Hepatitis C, according to recent research. Despite that, most prisons and jails have not adopted effective treatments and best practices.

“If we release inmates with these untreated health conditions to the community, there are several risks,” Ferguson said. “They could spread Hepatitis C infection to others, and evidence from Washington state suggests that those with substance use disorders are 125 times more likely to die from an overdose during the first two weeks after release.”

Substance use disorder will be the first focus area, with teams from the health care systems identifying a single site to test implementation of evidence-based practices. Teams will conduct an inventory of current screening and treatment practices for opioid addiction and make recommendations for improvements based on proven methods.

Improvements in the areas of Hepatitis C screening and treatment will be the second project, expected to begin in 2017.

The initiative is supported through two grants, one for four years from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and one for three years from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. The funding will be used, in part, to develop an Implementation Science Track at the Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health, hosted by ACCJH and supported by UMass Medical School.

In addition to the learning collaborative session to take place at the conference every year, there will be two distance learning conferences in each focus area. These will span 18 months with a kickoff session scheduled on the day prior to the start of the Academic and Health Policy Conference on Correctional Health March 17-18 in Baltimore, Maryland.  

Evaluation of the collaborative, guided by the expertise of co-investigator Dr. Faye Taxman from George Mason University, will be conducted to capture adaptations and adoption of evidence based recommendations, innovative practices by individual site teams and specific care outcomes.

The work of all four teams will be highlighted in presentations during subsequent conferences in 2017-2019 with oversight from the ACCJH Board of Directors. All team proceedings will be submitted for publication in the journal Health and Justice.

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