People who have recently been released from prison are at a greater risk of overdose. A 2005 report on drug-related mortality among newly released offenders (1998-2000) showed that male prisoners in the study were about 29 times more likely to die than males in the general population.
The Department of Health and Ministry of Justice have funded a joint initiative to improve the “through the gate” provision for prisoners who are dependent on drugs and alcohol. Ten prisons in the North West are currently piloting a range of innovative interventions to provide more intensive support and supervision for people leaving custody which include the use of peer mentors, recovery housing services and take-home naloxone as they return to the community.
Public Health England has also published a checklist to support local authorities with commissioning services and interventions that help to prevent overdose, as part of a wider treatment and harm reduction system.
The Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS) programme, implemented in prisons between 2006 and 2010, sought to improve the standard and quality of drug treatment in prisons. One of the key drivers for this programme was the need to reduce drug-related deaths among people who had been recently released from prison.
Through IDTS, prisoners could get access to evidence-based opioid substitution treatment in prison, which they could continue in the community after release. The extent in which this was successful in reducing drug-related overdose deaths will be one of the themes in the IDTS evaluation, which will be published next year.
The principles of IDTS continue to be adopted by local partners responsible for commissioning health services.