ATLANTA -- Fulton County jail authorities are announcing a new drug being made available to inmates who are suffering from opioid withdrawal.

Officials will announce Friday that doctors will be able to prescribe buprenorphine to treat patients experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

NaphCare is a correctional healthcare company that recently assumed control of healthcare services in the Fulton County jail. The company provides healthcare to almost 30,000 patients every day in 27 jails across the country.

COO Brad McLane said the company has seen a 100-percent increase over the last two years in the number or patients requiring medical care for opioid withdrawal in these jails.

“The standard approach to managing opioid withdrawal in the jails is to monitor the patient as they go through withdrawal and administer comfort medications to blunt symptoms," McLane said. "These patients can become very sick and can even be at risk of dying.

"Our approach to caring for these patients dramatically reduces the risks and symptoms associated with withdrawal. We have gone from patients who were too sick to get out of bed, to patients who are healthy and able to work with our healthcare professionals to tend to their other healthcare and mental health needs.”

NaphCare is launching the drug in 11 jails, including Fulton County.

“The correlation between suicide risk and opioid withdrawal is frequently cited in medical literature," said Dr. Emily Feely, NaphCare's chief medical officer. "While it is difficult to quantify the impact, we believe that reducing patient suffering during opioid withdrawal will decrease the risk of patients attempting suicide in the jail.”

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