Pioneering Program Helping Addicted Inmates in Atlantic County Jail

The Press of Atlantic City

By The Press of Atlantic City Staff

Prisons are an important front line in the war on the opioid crisis. Nationwide, half of state prisoners and two-thirds of jail inmates meet the clinical criteria for drug dependence or abuse. In New Jersey, 80 percent of inmates with a substance use disorder were under the influence when they committed their crime.

Recently released inmates are about a hundred times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the general public. The administration of Gov. Phil Murphy sees preventing those deaths as a key to reversing the state’s increasing overdose fatalities.

This month, Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal visited the John Brooks Recovery Center in Pleasantville to draw attention to a program with the Atlantic County jail that is making a difference.

It is the first in the state to bring medication-assisted treatment such as methadone to addicted county inmates, and officials hope to expand the program to other counties. In it, a converted bus with exam and intake rooms provides inmates with daily doses of methadone — which reduces the symptoms of drug withdrawal and blocks the euphoria of opioids. Eligible patients include those already on methadone, addicts at high risk of returning to crime and pregnant women who are addicted.

The program currently is treating 36 inmates. Since it began a year ago it has served 345 with opioid addictions.

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