Overdose is the leading cause of death among those recently released from prison. A study from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health found that, “In the first two weeks after being released from prison, former inmates were 40x more likely to die of an opioid overdose than someone in the general population.” (UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, 2018) In the last 23 months, overdoses in the United States have reached an all-time high. Estimates show that the total number of overdose deaths spiked in March 2020, just after the pandemic began; according to The Commonwealth Fund, “Opioids accounted for around 75% of all overdose deaths during the early months of the pandemic.” (Baumgartner & Radley, 2021)
Overdose deaths have an even bigger impact on justice-involved individuals. Fifty-eight percent of people incarcerated in state prisons meet the criteria for a substance use disorder (National Inmate Survey, 2007-2009). Data from the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics reported that, “There were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% from the same period the year before.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021) For those using opioids, incarceration often leads to tolerance loss from periods of abstinence, increasing the risk of overdose. Additionally, access to healthcare post-release, including Medication-Assisted Treatment, is limited.
While it can be difficult for justice-involved individuals to find and maintain sobriety while in prison, it is essential for our participants that we begin substance use education and support while they are still in prison to prepare them for their release. Incarceration disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic individuals, and they are often underserved and socioeconomically disadvantaged. “Many suffer from mental health conditions, including substance use disorders, making them vulnerable to overdose.” (Ranapurwala, 2018).
Ensuring justice-involved individuals receive wrap-around support before, during, and after their release is critical to achieving and maintaining sobriety. Concordance offers support throughout each phase of our program. In the pre-release phase, participants receive individual and group programming with therapists and career educators. Participants create a life plan to help them set goals, receive pro bono legal services, and are introduced to 12-step programming. Post-release, after meeting with their support team comprised of a therapist, case manager, and career educator, participants enter intensive full-day programming where they attend individual and group sessions.
In addition to these services, Concordance offers access to Concordance House, a residential facility designed to provide a supportive environment for those in recovery. Concordance House can be a pivotal part of a participant’s sobriety by providing a safe place to transition from prison into society. Residing in the Concordance House allows participants to immerse themselves in a fully sober environment, free from common triggers to relapse, so that they have the best chance of beginning their journey towards maintaining sobriety.
“We are aware that our participants fall into an at-risk category and that many have a history of substance use disorder.” said Kevin Ellege, a Concordance Case Manager. “Often when justice-involved individuals release from prison, there are limited treatment options and long waiting lists for treatment facilities. This lapse in treatment can lead to potentially fatal outcomes for individuals with a current substance use disorder. Concordance participants have immediate access to our sober living facility upon release, reducing the risk of use.”
The impacts of substance use disorder are far-reaching. Concordance is proud to walk alongside our participants through every step of their healing journey.
Baumgartner, J., & Radley, D. (2021, March 5). The Spike in Drug Overdose Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Policy Options to Move Forward. Retrieved from The Commonwealth Fund: https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2021/spike-drug-overdose-deaths-during-covid-19-pandemic-and-policy-options-move-forward
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, November 17). Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000 Annually. Retrieved from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2021/20211117.htm
Ranapurwala, S. (2018, October 22). Opioid Overdose Deaths among the Formerly Incarcerated. Retrieved from Public Health Post: https://www.publichealthpost.org/research/opioid-overdose-deaths-among-formerly-incarcerated-persons/
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. (2018, July 19). Former inmates at high risk for opioid overdose following prison release. Retrieved from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health: https://sph.unc.edu/sph-news/former-inmates-at-high-risk-for-opioid-overdose-following-prison-release/
Wolfe, Z. (2021, November 18). Americans are overdosing on a drug they don’t know they’re taking. Retrieved from CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/17/politics/fentanyl-overdose-deaths-what-matters/index.html