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New addiction treatment for repeat, nonviolent offenders helps combat opioid epidemic in East Tennessee
MARCH 17, 2017 at 3:03 p.m.

KNOXVILLE — The Helen Ross McNabb Center began a pilot Vivitrol addiction treatment program, A Shot at Life: Medication-Assisted Treatment, to serve repeat, nonviolent offenders at the Knox County Jail this week.

The goal of the pilot is to provide addiction treatment for individuals affected by opioid substance use disorders in order to reduce recidivism and relapse rates. The project is anticipated to reduce the short-term and long-term costs associated with incarcerating individuals with untreated opioid substance use disorders in East Tennessee.

The Center is collaborating with the Knox County District Attorney’s Office and Knox County Sheriff’s Office and will consult with the Knoxville Police Department. Funding from a Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee grant will support medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for 30 participants for 18 months of service to demonstrate MAT’s effectiveness and benefit to the community.

“Our mission of ‘improving the lives of the people we serve’ led the Center to implement medication-assisted treatment services,” said Jerry Vagnier, Helen Ross McNabb Center president and CEO. “Vivitrol is state-of-the-art treatment that is needed now more than ever as Tennessee is experiencing a substance abuse epidemic that has touched all corners of our community, leading to devastating outcomes.”

An estimated 45 percent of people who are incarcerated have substance use disorders and mental health conditions, representing a significant number of people in need of effective addiction treatment. Across the country, MAT programs targeting low-level offenders with opioid dependency disorders are reporting successful outcomes.

Vivitrol is a non-addictive medication with no street value that is proven to help prevent relapse to opioid dependence, after detox. It will be administered once monthly to block the opioid receptors in the brain and remove the physical symptoms of substance use disorders, and the Helen Ross McNabb Center will provide wraparound care to address the psychological aspects of substance abuse.

The Helen Ross McNabb Center is a premier not‐for‐profit provider of behavioral health services in East Tennessee. Since 1948, the Center has provided quality and compassionate care to children, adults and families experiencing mental illness, addiction and social challenges. As the Center celebrates nearly 70 years of providing services to communities in East Tennessee, its mission remains clear and simple; “Improving the lives of the people we serve.” For more information, visit

Published March 17, 2017


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