ELIZABETH, NJ — New Jersey saw 3,118 suspected drug overdose deaths in 2018 including 150 in Union County, state Health Department Data shows. It marks an alarming rise in drug-induced deaths up from the 2,221 reported two years ago, according to the figures from the state medical examiner’s office, which put 98 of those deaths in Union County.
It’s little surprise then that some inmates at the Union County Jail suffer from addictions and that the county government is helping with their rehabilitation.
On Thursday, the Freeholder Board approved the county’s Department of Corrections’ purchase Vivitrol for inmates at the jail in Elizabeth. Vivitrol is a non-addictive monthly injection used to help prevent relapse to opioid dependence, its manufacturer says.
“This is for individuals going through withdrawals,” said Ronald Charles, the county corrections' department’s director. “It blocks the inhibitors in the brain so that they don’t get the feeling of high.”
Sixteen people are enrolled in the department’s re-entry program and would benefit from the drug, Charles said.
Vivitrol would be administered by CFG Health Systems, of Marlton, which provides medical services for the department. The medication must be prescribed and administered by a doctor.
The roughly $24,000 the freeholders approved for the purchase of Vitriol, Charles said, is backed by an approximately $200,000 grant previously awarded by the state.
Charles said the corrections department has also purchased Suboxone and the opioid antidote naloxone, commonly called Narcan, in recent months, using other portions of this state grant.
Suboxone is a prescription medication to treat opioid addiction, its manufacturer’s website says. Naloxone is a nasal spray that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose.
The corrections department offers additional re-entry services, including counseling and group therapy to work in conjunction with these medications, Charles said.