ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A drug treatment program within the walls of the Monroe County Jail system is working to reduce opioid use among inmates who are headed back into the community.
They’ve piloted a Medication-Assisted Treatment program that’s been funded by a grant through the University of Baltimore.
“I was involved in opioids, fentanyl, and heroin, cocaine,” said Thomas St. John, a former inmate and one of the first people to take part in the program.
St. John’s drug use landed him in jail earlier this year. But it was there he learned about the medication-assisted treatment program and said it turned his life around.
“I owe a lot of my credit to my sobriety today to this program. I don’t think I would be where I am today. I would have fallen back into old behaviors. All those old routines and behaviors I was doing,” said St. John.
The program helps qualified inmates receive FDA approved medication that mitigates their triggers and the need to consume drugs. The director of the program says the goal is to reduce opioid overdose deaths in the area and prevent addicts from going back and forth between emergency rooms and jail.
“It was extremely important to address this need, especially with our opioid situation that we have in our community. To be able to provide people with the assistant that they need while they’re incarcerated was paramount. So it came right on time,” said Dr. Tisha Smith, Director of inmate drug alcohol programming.
Some people may say programs like this one substitute one addictive drug for another. But for St. John, it’s about perspective.
“They’re looking at the unsuccessful stories. You have to look at the success stories behind all of this medication, and all the medication-assisted treatment. There’s a lot of people that you wouldn’t even know that are on medication-assisted treatment, and they’re sober. They’re productive members of society today,” said St. John.
“We should have more programs like this. Revamping the traditional way of thinking about corrections is the way to go. I am proud that we are at the forefront of that for New York State,” said Smith.
Currently, there are more than one hundred inmates involved in the program that include men, women, and veterans.