Recovery support specialists inside the jail: a program description of treatment engagement for opioid use disorder

Matthew Martin, Megan A. Phillips, Mary Saxon, Kailey Love, Laurie Cessna, Deborah L. Woodard, Mary Page, Kenneth Curry, Alyssa Paone, Bobbie Pennington-Stallcup, William Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: People living with opioid use disorder (OUD) disproportionately encounter the criminal justice system. Although incarcerated individuals with OUD face higher risk for withdrawals, relapses and overdoses, most jails fail to offer comprehensive medications for OUD (MOUD), including recovery support services and transition of care to a community provider. The purpose of this paper is to describe the development and implementation of a comprehensive MOUD program at a large county jail system in Maricopa County, Arizona. Design/methodology/approach: The authors used the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) to develop a community-based, multi-organizational program for incarcerated individuals with OUD. The SIM is a mapping process of the criminal justice system and was applied in Maricopa County, Arizona to identify gaps in services and strengthen resources at each key intercept. The program applies an integrated care framework that is person-centered and incorporates medical, behavioral and social services to improve population health. Findings: Stakeholders worked collaboratively to develop a multi-point program for incarcerated individuals with OUD that includes an integrated care service with brief screening, MOUD and treatment; a residential treatment program; peer support; community provider referrals; and a court diversion program. Recovery support specialists provide education, support and care coordination between correctional and community health services. Originality/value: OUD is a common problem in many correctional health centers. However, many jails do not provide a comprehensive approach to connect incarcerated individuals with OUD treatment. The Maricopa County, Arizona jail system opioid treatment program is unique because of the ongoing support from recovery support specialists during and after incarceration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-508
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 17 2021


  • Correctional health care
  • Criminal justice system
  • Drug abuse
  • Opioid substitution therapy
  • Post-release care
  • Reintegration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


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