Opioid Treatment Programs
Opioid treatment programs in correctional facilities are fairly rare due, in part, to the regulatory red tape and institutional resistance that have often stymied attempts to establish them. But with the help of NCCHC and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, OTPs aiming to serve correctional populations stand a better chance.
By federal law, corrections-based OTPs must obtain certification from SAMHSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but to become certified, the OTPs first must be accredited by a federally approved body. In February 2004, SAMHSA granted NCCHC the authority to accredit OTPs, making it one of only six bodies so authorized and the only one specializing in corrections.
In the field of opioid addiction treatment, clinical studies and years of experience show that the methadone-based approach to detoxification and maintenance is an effective intervention for patients assessed as appropriate candidates for it. Clinical studies also confirm that providing methadone to opioid-dependent pregnant women protects the health of the fetus.
Unfortunately, the absence of such opioid treatment programs in correctional facilities means lost opportunities to help addicted inmates, especially those who participate in a community-based OTP but must forfeit continuity of care when they become incarcerated. NCCHC’s accreditation program is a valuable service for facilities that have had to use other strategies, such as reliance on community-based OTPs, to help addicted inmates. Corrections-based opioid treatment also smoothes the transition when the inmates are released and enhances community safety.
Standards for OTP Accreditation
NCCHC standards are the foundation of the OTP program. The NCCHC Standards for Opioid Treatment Programs in Correctional Facilities are based on federal regulations but address the special nature of care provided in correctional facilities as well as the necessarily limited focus of such treatment in this setting.
OTPs actively seeking accreditation by NCCHC are eligible for technical assistance consultation, funded by SAMHSA, that assesses current operations and itemizes what may be necessary to comply with the standards.
An OTP seeking accreditation from NCCHC need not be in a facility whose health services are accredited.
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Benefits of NCCHC Accreditation
Validates with objective criteria the areas in which the health care facility is doing well and areas for improvement
Promotes and documents an efficient, well-managed system of health care delivery with feedback from knowledgeable correctional health care professionals
Protects the institution by minimizing the occurrence of adverse events, thus avoiding health-care-related lawsuits and grievances and often reducing liability premiums
Educates and trains staff on NCCHC standards, with the benefit of introducing new efficiencies and standard practices
Recognizes staff contributions and excellence, improves morale and aids recruiting
Helps obtain community support and provides justification for budget requests
Protects the health of the public, staff and inmates by assuring that those incarcerated and released receive adequate and appropriate health care