In Forsyth County, North Carolina, in the first 7 months of 2018 nearly 750 doses of Narcan; the opioid overdose reversal drug, had been administered. The calls to emergency responders come in all day, all night, and there’s no end in sight. Nowhere is safe from the opioid epidemic, and with increased drug abuse, crime rates are also going up. In Forsyth County, they’re starting a program in the jails to help inmates struggling with substance use disorders.
Of the 2.3 million inmates in America, around 1.5 million suffer from substance abuse disorders. “The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, and we consume two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs and incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners, more than eight out of 10 of have some substance involvement,” said Califano, who served as U.S. health secretary from 1977 to 1979. The opioid epidemic has continued to grow and shows no signs of stopping. Forsyth county elected district attorney, Jim O’Neill, has been rallying with the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners to get on board for a pilot program. The program is called DATA, short for District Attorney’s Treatment Alternatives.
What is the DATA Program?
The DATA program aims to help lower recidivism rates for people continuously coming into jail for committing low-level crimes to fuel their addiction, such as petty theft like stealing the loose change in a car or pawning stolen property. The cycle has become apparent for many who have entered the system because of drug and alcohol abuse; get arrested, sentenced, serve the time, get high after release, get arrested again. The cycle continues with many, never being able to seek treatment for their alcohol or substance use disorder.
The DATA program aims to change that. The program wants to offer Vivitrol to inmates who qualify (those charged with penny ante property crimes committed to fuel substance use ) for the program. The inmates will receive the once monthly Vivitrol shot. Vivitrol is a 30-day extended release dose of the drug naltrexone. The only non-narcotic medication that blocks the effects of opioids (and alcohol.) Since it is non-narcotic, it can be distributed by health professionals at the jails and prisons.
The program doesn’t just stop with a shot of Vivitrol and well wishes, the inmates are given a case manager who determines the level of care that they would need, and the inmate is taken to an inpatient or an outpatient treatment program. There are surrounding rehabs that are willing to participate with the DATA Program. The inmates are given 7 to 10 days of education, counseling, and support at the inpatient level and then transferred to an outpatient program.
Every inmate/patient will have a probation officer, receive the Vivitrol shot every 30 days (it’s re-administered after 30 days) and will have to be in the outpatient program for 12 months to complete the program. The participant’s charges will only be dropped after they complete the program. If the requirements of the DATA program are not met (not attending mandatory treatment, or meetings with their probation officer) they will be dropped from the program.
Will the DATA Program be Successful?
The DATA Program pulled its idea from another jail in Kentucky that had started a similar program. The program in Kentucky saw drops in the recidivism rates from 70% chance of ending up back in jail to a 10% chance, after completing the program. There has also been the drug court program that has been around for many years. It gives offenders the chance to go through outside treatment, continue meeting with their probation officer and meeting all requirements of the program, in lieu of jail time. Drug court doesn’t have the inclusion of the Vivitrol shot being a main component of the program. Both predecessor programs have had great success with those who have been charged with crimes related to their substance use disorders.
Programs like these that allow those who desperately need treatment and not jail time, the chance to achieve sobriety. Instead of remaining untreated with no healthy coping skills once they leave the program, the DATA program gives them the education and the tools that are needed to stay sober long-term. The Vivitrol shot is often a saving grace. It can help the recipients of the shot with their cravings for opiates, and it prevents them from getting high. It can relieve people of the mental obsession long enough to get back into a normal life in recovery.
Programs like the DATA Program are needed. It helps people break free from the vicious cycle of addiction, it gets them out of jail, and means that fewer people are dying of opioid overdoses. If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about the Vivitrol shot or GateHouse’s treatment program, contact us today at (855) 448-3588.