Opioid addicted inmates at the Atlantic County Jail are the first in the state of New Jersey to obtain their daily dose of methadone from a mobile service provided by the John Brooks Recovery Center. This program is a part of the state’s efforts to bridge the service gap for incarcerated addicts.
The program estimates an enrollment of approximately 50 inmates in the mobile service. For Alan Oberman, Director of the John Brooks Recovery Center, this is a huge achievement. Current research indicates that medication assisted treatments like methadone coupled with counseling and assistance programs work well. For this reason Oberman and many other county leaders fought for 5 years to bring this program to life.
Currently in the U.S., only 164,450 addicted inmates receive any treatment. That is only 11% of 1,495,000 incarcerated addicts.
Equally disturbing is the fact that drug overdose deaths increased by 20% in the space of only one year in New Jersey–most involving heroin.
“One of the most at-risk populations for overdoses is recently incarcerated people. Their tolerance for the drug drops after they are clean in jail for a period of time, so if they use when they get out, they are likely to overdose,” Oberman explains. “We know the program will reduce the chance of an overdose once they get out” (Leonard, 2017, para. 6).
County jail warden Geraldine Cohen believes programs like these can offer second chances to the forgotten men and women behind bars. Her son, who has been in recovery for 13 years with the help of methadone, has turned his life around and is able to work a successful job, has bought a house, and is getting married. “Hopefully we can help more people like my son with this program” (Leonard, 2017, para. 3), she says.
Oberman and his team of experts staffing the mobile program understand that its success does not rest in merely providing methadone, which reduces withdrawal pain and subdues the euphoric effects of heroin. The mobile treatment program’s design is aimed at holistic health and provides community resources for inmates.
“These individuals will be treated as if they were in [the] John Brooks Center”(Leonard, 2017, para. 9) says Oberman. “A doctor and nurse will see them, do evaluations and physicals, prescribe their methadone and get them linked to programs and continuing treatment services once they are discharged” (Leonard, 2017, para. 9).
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson anticipates the mobile methadone program’s positive effects will not only benefit the inmates, but also their families and the communities they hope to return to. County officials are hopeful that this program’s success will lead other sites to implement similar services.
Levinson believes that helping inmates while they are part of the system is a huge key to their future success. Keeping them behind bars and doing nothing to help them change their lives only produces future problems. “The worst thing we could do is nothing” (Leonard, 2017, para. 17), Levinson says.
For more information on this topic, please read “Atlantic County Inmates First in State to Get Mobile Methadone Program” by Nicole Leonard.
Leonard, N. (2017, August 21). Atlantic County Inmates First in State to Get Mobile Methadone Program. The Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved from http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/atlantic-county-inmates-first-in-state-to-get-mobile-methadone/article_96049e8e-5100-5dfe-8559-41d223549b7c.html