Indiana is taking an extraordinary step to ensure offenders released from state prisons are less likely to die on the outside from an overdose of an opioid drug, such as heroin.
The Indiana Department of Correction recently announced it's making naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal agent, available at no cost to individuals departing IDOC facilities.
"Expanding the availability of naloxone to all offenders upon release from one of our correctional facilities is one way we can ensure these individuals a smooth transition back into the community as contributing members of society, forever removed from justice-involved settings," said Dr. Kristen Dauss, IDOC chief medical officer.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication given when a person is showing signs of opioid overdose. It blocks the toxic effects of the overdose and often is the difference between life and death.
Indiana correction officials now are asking offenders during their pre-release medical screening if they would like to leave prison with a free naloxone kit. The kit includes one dose of naloxone, instructions for use and a referral card for treatment.
The kits are provided by Overdose Lifeline Inc., an Indiana nonprofit organization focused since 2014 on helping individuals, families and communities affected by substance use disorder through advocacy, education, harm reduction, prevention, resources and support.
Overdose Lifeline Inc. donated 2,255 kits worth more than $84,000 to IDOC for distribution as needed.
"We want to make naloxone available to anyone who needs it without any barriers," said Christine Daniel, IDOC executive director of transitional healthcare. "When an offender accepts a kit upon release, they can feel confident knowing they'll face no punitive action or judgement."
The correction agency said it hopes to duplicate the program in each of Indiana's 10 parole districts. It also plans to track over time how many naloxone kits leave each facility.
"These efforts align with both the state and Overdose Lifeline's goal of reducing the stigma surrounding substance use disorder," Dauss said. "We want to provide this lifesaving medication that could possibly reverse an overdose and save someone's life."