Local sheriffs join fight against drug most heavily trafficked behind bars

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Sheriffs are taking a big step forward in the fight to stop a major drug trafficking problem inside of Indiana jails.

Suboxone strips are often laced with opioids. The strips are designed to help addicted inmates ease off of drugs by releasing a small amount of the addictive chemicals into the bloodstream. Instead, they are being smuggled into jails at an alarming rate.

“I think that I can speak for 91 other sheriffs in the state that these suboxone strips are a problem for any correctional facility,” said Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox.

The problem is so bad officials say 70 percent of inmates at several correctional facilities across central Indiana have tested positive for the drug.

“The bigger counties like Madison, Hancock, Johnson, Morgan, are all running 30 percent to 50 percent or even 69 percent positive when they are testing inmates,” said Cindy Costello of Wytham Toxicology Lab, which does the drug testing for several jails and correctional facilities in Indiana.

“All of my clients are complaining about it day in and day out seven days a week. They say it is the worst crisis to ever hit their jails,” said Costello.

More than 100 sheriffs and public officials statewide signed a petition asking the state’s Medicaid director to change the approved addiction treatment from suboxone strips to pills, which they say are harder to sneak into jails.

“It could be stopped because there is an alternative and that is a pill form as opposed to the transparent strips. If they would just go to the pill form then they could stop this,” said Costello.

The committee considering the issue voted to allow doctors to prescribe those their Medicaid patients the pill form and not just the strips. Costello says this is a big win for law enforcement.

The committee also says they will use the inspect system to electronically track suboxone prescriptions in the state.

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