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Evaluation of Using Telehealth for Opioid Use Disorders in a Correctional Setting

NCJ Number
Marina Duane; Jennifer Yahner; Malore Dusenbery; Erica Henderson
Date Published
May 2023
97 pages

In this study, researchers evaluated the use of telehealth to treat opioid use disorders in prisons.


This study assesses the use of telehealth to treat opioid use disorders in a correctional setting. The researchers aimed to determine whether treatment and individual counseling as its critical component could be done remotely, what facilitated or hindered its successful application, and how clients (i.e., incarcerated people) and the professionals supporting them perceived the effects. The findings address a critical gap in knowledge on whether counseling can be delivered via telehealth effectively in correctional settings. The report provides useful knowledge to other jails across the country on how to shift to a treatment philosophy and create an infrastructure that is conducive to treating opioid use disorders. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a community with high rates of opioid addiction, a jail in one county in rural Massachusetts set an example that treating addiction for people cycling in and out of incarceration can be done better (Partners for a Healthier Community Inc., 2015). In 2020, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) capitalized on its previously built infrastructure and system partners to offer all three federally approved Medications for Opioid Use Disorders (MOUD) and provide therapeutic counseling remotely to incarcerated people as a critical component of treatment. FCSO was able to continue offering all three medications (i.e., buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone) during the pandemic and to meet diverse clinical needs of people coming into their jail. FCSO also continued offering individual and group counseling via telehealth throughout the pandemic and shifted to a mix of telehealth and in-person services in 2022. In 2020, a research team from the Urban Institute and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago in partnership with FCSO leadership worked closely to study what FCSO had accomplished to continue offering all three modalities of MOUD using telehealth.