Biometric methadone system for prisons

A biometric-based computer controlled methadone dispensing system (CCMDS) is being introduced to prisons in England to help control substance abuse.

Apr 24, 2008
By Paul Jacques

A biometric-based computer controlled methadone dispensing system (CCMDS) is being introduced to prisons in England to help control substance abuse.

CCMDS enables the accurate and controlled dispensing of prescribed methadone to prisoners addicted to heroin, according to the requirements outlined in their individual treatment record.

It prevents accidental over/ under-prescription and unauthorised usage, in addition to enabling advanced personalisation of treatment and the development of an accurate, automated treatment history.

CCMDS uses a combination of biometric identifiers, such as a fingerprint or iris scan, which are unique to an individual, to access the prisoner’s treatment record before dispensing methadone.

The system is being rolled out by NEC UK, specialists in biometric-based identification and security solutions, in a contract with the Department of Health (DoH). It is providing a complete system which includes biometric software, the network infrastructure, computer hardware and a methadone dispenser, in conjunction with treatment management software suppliers Methasoft UK and identity management experts Human Recognition Systems.

NEC will deliver CCMDS to around 100 prisons in England, providing ongoing technical support and consultancy for five years. Phase one, where CCDMS will be implemented in 72 prisons, started in December 2007. Prisons currently using CCMDS include HMP Leeds, HMP New Hall, HMP Lindholme, HMP Stafford, HMP Chelmsford and HMP Wayland. The DoH has approved the relevant Primary Care Trusts to implement CCMDS within their local prisons.

The treatment of substance addiction is a significant health challenge which the DoH faces in prisons. The use of CCMDS enables a simple, efficient and secure method for providing tailored and effective healthcare treatment to inmates, in line with the rehabilitation duty of care. Participation in CCMDS is not mandatory for prisoners, although uptake is high, and there is no infringement of personal security or human rights as CCMDS does not physically store ‘images’ of biometric data, only the coding which enables an individual to be identified.

David Payette, CEO and President of NEC UK, said: “CCMDS is a compelling example of biometric technology being used in a challenging real-life environment and clearly demonstrates that biometric-based identification systems are simple to implement, manage and use. Biometric authentication and verification will continue to become more prevalent as the requirement for tighter security and absolute verification of an individual increases

Dave Marteau, offender health substance misuse lead at the DoH, added: “Biometric-based systems provide a level of patient safety that is highly desirable in a busy treatment environment. Our larger prisons see ten new patients per day, and have as many as 300 patients on treatment at any one time. Biometric recognition linked to a computerised prescription is an excellent patient safety support to our clinicians.”

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