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  • Writer's pictureTASC of Southeast Ohio

The Telegram - 9/4/2015

Grant funding being sought for inmate mental health, drug addiction services

Ron Adkins, Executive Director of the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, was present during the Tuesday, September 1 meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners to seek a resolution supporting the application for grant funds for use in jail services for the three counties.

Last fall, Adkins explained he was approached by Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare in Athens and asked to partner with the facility on a grant that would address jail transfers from Gallia and Meigs Counties, two of the largest contributors of inmates to the mental health facility. The two entities were ultimately awarded $125,000 for the grant which provides funding for mental health services for inmates.

"When an individual is incarcerated, they lose access to all healthcare benefits," Adkins explained. "Private insurance, Medicaid, none of that is applicable. This has been a population that's been a challenge for us to serve based on funding."

Currently, a new round of funding is available that would include jail services for Jackson County. Adkins stated the grant is currently being written and would include some supportive services post release from jail including employment and housing linkage to help with the transition back into the community.

Adkins told the commissioners he is working in conjunction with Captain Donnie Willis of the Jackson County Correctional Facility (JCCF) in order to identify local needs, such as mental health assessments, counseling, psychotropic medications, and so on. Further, he stated he is working with Treatment Alternatives to Street Crimes (TASC) of Southeast Ohio to develop a contract for those individuals to visit jails two to three days per week in all three counties to provide alcohol and other drug dependency services.

Both Gallia and Jackson Counties have been identified as pilots for Vivitrol implementation as well, according to Adkins. Vivitrol is a medication that is meant to divert the urge and craving for opiates. Vivitrol is an injection administered every 30 days by a physician or nurse, unlike Suboxone which is taken daily in the form of a pill or a strip. Adkins hopes to bring Vivitrol into local jails for individuals who are deemed eligible, and begin a regimen before those individuals are released back into the community.

Commissioner Ed Armstrong asked Adkins if follow-up care post release from jail is a requirement. Adkins explained this type of care is typically voluntary unless the individual is placed on probation through the court system and such care is a stipulation of that individual's probation.

Commissioner Paul Haller inquired how a determination is made as to whether or not an inmate is suffering from a mental illness as opposed to opiate withdrawal, or the like. Sheriff Tedd Frazier explained such a determination can be made during a "dry out" period when an individual is first placed in jail. He stated the JCCF medical staff conducts a screening and if an inmate has a history of mental illness or drug abuse, it will come to light. Frazier also made it clear that should an inmate be suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms, certain types of drugs will not be administered at JCCF.

"We do not allow narcotics in the jail," Frazier stated. "We do not give Suboxone, they can have a Motrin. Once they dry out, they don't need that."

Adkins went on to explain it is vital in a jail such as JCCF, which is usually at or above capacity with regard to bed space, to get to a point where a crisis situation, such as a threat or attempt at suicide, can be avoided entirely.

"We need to have the capacity to treat these people on an ongoing basis so it doesn't escalate to the crisis," said Adkins. "Many times when they're at the crisis level, they get referred to the state hospital and it costs $535 a day to place them there. This is a far less expensive and therapeutically more appropriate level of care for many of them."

One of the final questions posed to Adkins was from Commissioner Haller who asked how long these types of treatments last. Adkins explained the answer to such a question depends on the individual's needs and the level of compliance.

"When you're mentally ill or addicted, you're mentally ill or addicted your entire life," Adkins stated. "You move to a level of recovery at some point, and recovery is sustainable, probably for the rest of your life. Once a person is released, our long-term goal is to get them independent and sustainable in the community."

The commissioners approved the application for the two-year grant funds in the form of Resolution 157-15, pending the approval of Prosecutor Justin Lovett.


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