Rock County starts program to help inmates curb opioid addiction

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JANESVILLE (WREX)- Jails across the country are working to reduce recidivism rates and help inmates once they’re released from jail.

Now, new programs are emerging to help inmates kick their addiction before they are released. Officials in Rock County are starting a program already underway in Winnebago County. Newly elected Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson has seen the rise of overdoses in Rock County over the years.

“Right now we know we have a number of people in our community that are overdosing because of addiction,” he says.

Until now, those arrested who are addicted to opioids would serve their time and get released.

“We’ve known in the past, incarcerating someone for a period of time and then releasing them into the community has done nothing to address that addiction,” he added.

Rock County is now teaming up with Compass Behavioral Health to do more than that.

Through two grants, worth almost two million dollars over the span of four years, inmates can receive a shot called Vivitrol. Vivitrol is designed to block receptors in the brain so people do not feel the effects of opioids and do not crave them for thirty days.

“We know what a serious problem this opiate addiction is in our community,” Sheriff Knudson says. “This is a step in the right director toward addressing that problem.”

Vivitrol is already being given out in Winnebago County. Inmates can receive Vivitrol and other addiction services through Rosecrance.

“The whole idea is really to be able to disrupt the pattern of use,” says Craig Stallings, Senior Director of Operations at Rosecrance.

The company has been working with inmates in Rockford to give them Vivitrol shots and help coach inmates once they’re released.

“If we can engage individuals in specific treatment right way, that’s successful,” Stallings adds. “If we can keep them in long-term services, they have a good chance at sobriety.”

Winnebago County has helped 130 inmates in the last two years. The county receives roughly a million dollars per year. Though, Stallings says that money only covers workers and programs, not the shots themselves. Inmates are required to use insurance or medicaid to help pay for the shots. Last year, the Lieutenant Governor visited Rosecrance, calling it a key tool to help curb the opioid epidemic in the state. Stallings says Rosecrance has seen the dangers of opiates, even when former inmates are in treatment.

“In that four-week time, you are more susceptible to overdosing if you use,” he says.

Plus, Vivitrol does not prevent people from using other drugs.

“Vivitrol itself, or any drug is not a cure,” Stallings says. “It provides the opportunity for someone to want to address any withdraw symptoms or address cravings. Then, they’ll have the opportunity to work on treatment.”

With one person already treated in Rock County, they too are working on more than just giving the $1,200 shot to inmates getting released.

“We have a re-entry specialist that helps inmates adjust going back into the community,” Sheriff Knudson adds. “Addressing the issues they may have, finding housing, getting reestablished with insurance, maybe connecting with a doctor.”

Plus, inmates leaving jail in Rock County also receive a shot of Narcan, the drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose. When it comes to curbing the opioid epidemic, both counties say Vivitrol is just one step in the right direction.

James Stratton

James Stratton

Evening News Anchor

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