An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County

Search

Commissioners authorize prison’s Vivitrol grant application, discuss hot conditions inside facility

Lancaster County Prison. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

The Lancaster County Prison is looking to resume its Vivitrol injection program this fall, adding another option to its Medication Assisted Treatment program for inmates with substance abuse disorder.

To pay for the medication, it plans to seek a $135,851 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency. On Wednesday morning, the county commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the application.

The grant is considered noncompetitive Deputy Warden Joe Shiffer told the county commissioners, so the prison can expect to receive the funding as long as it meets the state’s criteria.

The prison was previously able to offer Vivitrol injections from 2018 to 2022, but the funding ran out, Shiffer said during commissioners’ work session Tuesday.

“This would just allow us to offer the injections again,” he said.

Vivitrol is a brand name for the medication naltrexone, which is used to reduce cravings in individuals with alcohol or opioid dependence.

It comes in two forms: An injection, which lasts about 30 days; and pills, which are taken daily. About 10 inmates have been using the pill form, Reentry Manager Christina Fluegel said.

The prison’s MAT program currently relies on two other medications: Buprenorphine, known by its brand name, Subutex; and methadone. From January through May, 204 MAT participants have received Subutex and 48 have received methadone, according to data provided at the June Prison Board meeting.

Along with medication, MAT patients participate in education and counseling to help them overcome addiction.

People have different needs and react differently to various medications, so it will be good to have Vivitrol as another tool in the toolbox, Shiffer said.

The funding would cover two years, from October 2024 to September 2026, and would pay for 107 injections. That’s likely enough to meet the expected demand, Fluegel said.

The prison launched its Subutex program in September 2022 and expanded it in part with some of its funding from the nationwide opioid settlement. Vivitrol would also be an allowable purchase under the settlement agreement; Commissioner Alice Yoder thanked Shiffer and Fluegel for pursuing the state grant instead, allowing the the county to reserve its settlement money for other uses.

Heat wave

During Tuesday’s meeting, Shiffer and the commissioners were asked about conditions at the County Prison in the current heat wave.

The prison housing units lack air conditioning and conditions inside become extremely hot and stuffy when temperatures hit the 80s and 90s. LNP is getting complaints from inmates about not having enough ice or other means of cooling themselves off, reporter Tom Lisi told the commissioners.

This is an issue that comes up every summer, Commissioner Josh Parsons said. Prison staff do everything they can to make the environment “manageable and humane,” but it’s challenging, and will remain so until the county’s new correctional facility is built.

There’s no doubt it’s hot at the prison, Shiffer said. He said ice is being provide to all units. Last year, the prison bought larger fans to improve air circulation and help mitigate the sweltering conditions.

“We’re doing everything we can,” he said.

Yoder invited individuals with complaints or concerns to reach out to her directly. Parsons and Commissioner Ray D’Agostino, however, said complaints should be brought first to prison administrators. If that doesn’t resolve an issue, it can then be brought to the commissioners through Chief Clerk Larry George.