Indiana Court Offers Device to Ease Opioid Withdrawals, Giving an Alternative to Jail

By Kelly Burch 02/03/17

Indiana lawmakers hope that the new treatment program will keep more people out of jail. 

Man wearing the bridge.
Man wearing the Neuro-Stim System Bridge Photo via YouTube

An Indiana court is piloting a program where offenders can wear a device that eases the pain from opioid withdrawal before entering treatment—rather than being put in jail for drug-related offenses. 

The Greenwood, Indiana court is utilizing the Neuro-Stim System Bridge, a device that is placed behind the year and blocks the pain of withdrawal by sending signals to the cranial nerve. The device is placed by a medical professional and is removed five days later, when the individual is past the painful withdrawal state. 

“Pain and fear of pain is no longer an obstacle,” said Brian Carrico, vice president of sales for Innovative Health Solutions, the maker of the Neuro-Stim System Bridge. After wearing the device for five days, people in the program then enter rehabilitation, where they receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and counseling.

Lawmakers in Indiana are hoping that the program will keep more people out of jail. “My hope is that this will lighten the jail load. Clearly the heroin program is feeding the jail population,” said Judge Lewis Gregory of the Greenwood City Court, the first court in the U.S. to pilot the program. 

Insurance does not cover the Bridge, which costs $495 plus the cost of placing and removing it. However, a $7,000 grant from Drug Free Johnson County will fund the program for about six months, during which time no taxpayer money will go toward the program. If it is successful, lawmakers are hopeful that insurance providers will begin covering the bridge.

The idea for the program came when Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper shared that his sister died eight years ago of a heroin overdose. After the experience, he began sending more people to Greenwood’s Recovery Court, which allows people to opt for court-ordered rehabilitation instead of jail time. State Senator Jim Merritt contacted Cooper to ask about incorporating the Bridge into the drug court. 

On the first day of the program, one person signed up. Gregory said he is unsure of how many people will take advantage of the new program. However, the county is eager to streamline the program and expand it to other areas of Indiana. “My intent is to work the bugs out in Greenwood and expand to Johnson County,” Cooper said.

They're waiting to see how incorporating the device contributes to the success of drug-court participants. “This program will get the bugs out. I believe this program will be held up not only by the courts in Indiana but nationwide,” said Senator Merritt. “This is one effort we can hold up because this will be successful.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.