Local sheriffs say Suboxone strips are at the center of drug trafficking in jails

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana sheriffs are demanding change to stop a major drug trafficking problem at their jails. Their calls have gone unanswered.

“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 Suboxone strips are thin, transparent and nearly undetectable. When placed underneath the tongue the strips are designed to help ease addicts off of opioid dependence by releasing a small amount of the addictive chemicals into the blood stream. In Indiana jails and correctional facilities, the strips are doing more harm than good.

“The bigger the counties like Madison, Hancock, Johnson, Morgan– they 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.

Whytham Toxicolgy is a company that does the drug testing for 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.

Costello says that the fix is simple. She wants the states medicaid director to change the approved addiction treatment from Suboxone strips to pills. More than 100 sheriffs and public officials statewide agree and signed a petition calling for that change. The committee considering the issue still said no.

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

Now, Costello and sheriffs across central Indiana say they will continue their fight by working with lawmakers.

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