The number of people suffering from substance use disorder who think they won’t end up in jail is probably large—especially if they have good jobs and therefore consider themselves to be ‘functional alcoholics/drug users’.
‘Functional addicts’ who are able to hold down a job and otherwise keep pace with life’s responsibilities never think the worst will happen to them. But it can, and often does.
As a recent episode of the TV program Dopesick Nation showed, even formerly responsible citizens may find themselves stealing, forging prescriptions, and so forth to support their habit.
You may have heard we’re not doing nearly enough for substance abusers who end up in jail. But there are a few programs around the country that seek to help these people, often in small towns, that can serve as examples for other towns. Here are a few.
Peer recovery coaches in NJ
In one New Jersey town, certified peer recovery specialists are volunteering to work with those suffering from substance use disorder who are incarcerated. In a new program called Next Step, the volunteers are called coaches, and they help to steer prisoners into treatment.
Bail reform in certain areas of the country means that nonviolent offenders are being released earlier, and for addicts, that usually means without treatment or the offer of treatment. (And many [most?] likely got little help in jail.) Although it’s too soon to comment on the program’s success, shortly after the program was instituted at the jail, nearly half of those screened entered treatment.
One of the county prosecutors noted that when people are sent to jail, it’s often their lowest point, a good time to try and convince them that treatment may save their life. Several local organizations have stepped up to provide clinical assistance, including a social services organization helping inmates find jobs, a recovery center, a peer recovery organization and a hospital.
Having a peer in recovery work with an incarcerated person is another tool in the toolbox to help someone get healthy and return to society.
The Start Strong 3 E’s in Kentucky
There’s a new treatment program in the detention center in Kenton County, KY, in which inmates are expected to be “Employed, Enlisted, or furthering their Education,” 12 weeks after release, according to the program director. The key in this area, which has suffered greatly in the opioid addiction crisis? The jail is partnering with Aetna Better Health and getting help from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
The concept involves giving medication not only to quell cravings or ease withdrawal symptoms, but to stabilize patients getting therapeutic care in jail. They will then have the option to stay with medication assistance during and after their incarceration, according to a local TV station. And, luckily for these inmates, there’s an aftercare program with intensive job training.
Vivitrol and Counseling in Upstate New York
In Onondaga County, NY, addicted inmates are given the opportunity to have injections of Vivitrol and attend counseling sessions. According to the Vivitrol website, the medication “is a non-addictive, once-monthly treatment proven to prevent relapse in opioid dependent patients when used with counseling following detoxification.”
Chicago’s Thrive program
Inmates suffering from substance abuse in a Cook County jail who are not in the drug court program are being offered naloxone on release and will be monitored “in a modified version of the sheriff’s electronic monitoring program.” (For example, caseworkers who worked with one woman on the inside will continue to work with her once she’s released.)
Other programs, in Indiana, Orange County, Florida, and Cincinnati, Ohio and Kings County, California, to name a few, show that a number of jails realize they can contribute to finding solutions to substance abuse in this country. Whether it’s to offer Suboxone, Naltrexone, Vivitrol, peer coaches, and counseling and job training, or a combination, these programs can serve as a blueprint for other jails.