Sarasota County Jail is adding an opioid addiction treatment program after seeing promising results in two other Florida counties.
Orange and Duval County jails added the anti-addiction medication Vivitrol to counseling services earlier this year, and so far they’ve had promising results. Officials have cautioned that it’s too soon to draw long-term conclusions, but Duval County Department of Corrections Director Mike Bruno has indicated that he’s cautiously optimistic.
“They are really becoming their old selves again, and their personality is opening back up,” Bruno told the St. Augustine Record. “When they had the addiction, and that’s all that they had was that craving to satisfy that addiction, every bit of who they were was being shut down. Now the clients are rediscovering themselves as they crest that hill and break that cycle.”
Jacksonville Sheriff Office’s Department of Corrections is partnered with River Region Human Services, a local drug rehab facility, to provide Vivitrol to inmates who are referred by judges, prosecutors, public defenders or medical personnel.
Kristin Barrett, River Region’s director of nursing, told the St. Augustine Record that the program is decreasing distractions and cravings and helping inmates focus on recovery.
Vivitrol is an injectable form of naltrexone, a drug that blocks the pleasurable side effects and cravings caused by opioids such as prescription painkillers or heroin. It isn’t addictive, and it’s administered once per month.
Medication-assisted treatments like naltrexone do not cure addiction, but they have proven to improve treatment outcomes for patients who also attend counseling and therapy.
The Sarasota County’s Sherriff’s Office has partnered with the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida’s drug court, Armor Correctional Health Services and Centerstone, a drug rehab facility in Bradenton, Florida.
The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, a nonprofit composed of prevention organizations and treatment providers, is funding the new program.
“This is just another step we’re taking locally to combat the national issue of opiate addiction,” Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight told the Sarasota Patch. “We are not so naive as to believe that arresting people will solve this problem.”
The drug court will refer non-violent offenders to the program. Armor and Centerstone will oversee the administration of Vivitrol, and Centerstone is offering outpatient services for inmates who are released from the program.
“The sheriff’s office is a full-service agency which means not only working to eliminate the influx of heroin into our community, but also providing services and resources to the people who need it most,” Knight said.
The goal of each treatment program is to end the cycle of recidivism, addiction and relapse among nonviolent offenders.
“The repeat offenders are the people who go out and they don’t receive the treatment or the care that they need,” Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Major Jeff Bell told Tampa Bay’s 10 News. “They’re much more susceptible to repeat their behavior, and this offers the opportunity to break that cycle.”
The first drug court in the United States was developed in Miami-Dade County in 1989, according to the Florida court system’s website. The rest of the country followed Florida’s lead. Today, there are more than 2,700 drug courts across the country, including 94 in Florida.
Studies continue to show drug courts produce positive outcomes such as:
A 2009 study conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability found adults sentenced to a Florida drug court programs were 80 percent less likely to eventually end up in prison than offenders sentenced to drug-related probation.
Another OPPAGA analysis of Florida drug courts published in 2014 found:
In 2015, there were more than 7,300 admissions into Florida drug courts. The courts led to the reunification of 205 children with their families and the birth of 112 drug-free babies to female drug court participants.
Adding medication-assisted treatments such as Vivitrol is one more step toward a treatment over incarceration approach by the state of Florida.