If a new opioid bill is signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker, five Houses of Correction will pilot a medication-assisted treatment program for addicts.

The Berkshire Eagle reports the Berkshire County House of Correction, overseen by Sheriff Tom Bowler, isn't one of them.

In an interview with The Eagle, Bowler welcomed the pilot program but expressed doubts about the efficacy of medication-assisted treatment in jails in place of an abstinence-based model.

Still, Bowler is curious to see how a three-year pilot program plays out and calls it a "step in the right direction."

Echoing the position of the Massachusetts Sheriffs' Association, he prefers the pilot program instead of a previously proposed statewide mandate that all county jails to provide medication-assisted treatment like methadone or buprenorphine (commonly known by the brand name Suboxone).

The pilot was just one facet of a dense bill attempting to address the opioid addiction epidemic passed by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk for approval last week.

The program would require jails to provide voluntary medication-assisted treatment to any inmate who enters with a valid prescription. The treatment can only be altered or halted if a qualified addiction specialist makes such a determination.

The bill would also force jails to "make every possible effort" to connect inmates with an appropriate provider of medication-assisted treatment upon their release.

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