A South Jersey jail is the first county correctional facility in the state to offer methadone to opioid-addicted inmates.
The move comes amid a growing opioid epidemic in New Jersey and across the country. President Donald Trump, who this week declared the crisis a “national emergency,” pledged to increase law-enforcement efforts around the drug trade.
The one-year pilot program at the Atlantic County jail aims to bring addiction treatment directly to a population in grave need, said Alan Oberman, CEO of John Brooks Recovery Center, which is offering the treatment.
“Research has shown that people who start on methadone in a jail setting have a higher likelihood to link with treatment once they leave jail than people who are not on methadone,” Oberman said. Methadone helps people addicted to heroin or other opioids reduce their dependence.
About three-quarters of the inmates in the jail are addicted to opioids, according to Oberman, because drug habits often cause users to commit petty crimes.
“It might be shoplifting. It might be drug dealing,” he said. “Most people start by trying to rob from their families.”
John Brooks will drive a medically equipped bus into the jail. Inmates will board the bus, where a nurse will use a machine to dispense their methadone dose, which the inmates drink.
Inmates eligible for the program include those who are addicted to opioids and have been in jail twice in the last year; inmates already taking methadone; and opioid-dependent pregnant women.
John Brooks will then take on those inmates as patients once they leave the jail. The patients will also receive wraparound services such as counseling in an attempt to keep them free of drugs once they leave jail.
The New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services allocated $335,000 to fund the pilot program.