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Changes In Federal Law Increase Options For Drug Treatment Program In King County Jails

Charles Krupa
AP Photo
Buprenorphine has been prescribed in King County jails since June


This summer, jails in King County expanded offerings for medically-assisted treatment to help people with addictions.

The jails have been providing methadone treatments through a third-party vendor. In June, officials added another medication called buprenorphine.



Dr. Ben Sanders, medical director for the jail health services division, says this change has been especially helpful for people entering jails who already have a prescription for buprenorphine.  


“This is an example of providing for continuity of care for this type of stabilizing medication. It just happens that this medication is used to treat opioid-use disorder, as opposed to diabetes or high blood pressure or any other medical condition basically,” he said.


Sanders say the jails are now able to offer buprenorphine because of a change in federal law that allows nurse practitioners to prescribe it. He explains only doctors were able to before, and that became a major obstacle because doctors weren’t always readily available to write prescriptions.


Snohomish County also has been using the medication in its jails since the beginning of the year as part of a pilot program.   


Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.
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