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It is estimated that approximately 20% of incarcerated individuals in the United States have mental illnesses, and over the past 50 years, it has become apparent that jails are the new asylums.

By Ann Iñiguez, MA, MBA, CCHP, Director of Mental Health

When a new officer initially starts working in corrections, he or she may think it is simply a matter of interacting with men and women charged with and possibly convicted of crimes.  It often comes as a surprise to new recruits the number of inmates who are diagnosed with (or suspected to have) mental illnesses.  It is estimated that approximately 20% of incarcerated individuals in the United States have mental illnesses, and over the past 50 years, it has become apparent that jails have become the new asylums.  But how did this come to be?

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ABC 13 News reporting by Hannah Mackenzie

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein visited Asheville on Monday, July 25, to take a tour of the Buncombe County Detention Facility.

During his tour, Stein was briefed on the jail’s ‘MAT' program. The “Medication-Assisted Treatment” program is an effort to help detainees recover from opioid addiction.

“I really believe that Buncombe County can really be a model to other counties across the state,” Stein said. “It’s all about attacking the crisis of the opioid epidemic."

The attorney general’s tour follows on the heels of his opioid agreement announcement. The $26 billion settlement with three of the nation’s major opioid distributors and one manufacturer will be split between local and state governments across the United States. According to the Department of Justice, North Carolina will receive $750 million.

“We know that Buncombe County is going to have about $18 million over the 18 years and they’ll decide for themselves what are the most effective strategies to deploy,” Stein said. “[The money] can go to things like treatment facilities, detox facilities, recovery support services, harm reduction strategies that keep people alive until they’re ready to get the treatment they need to get healthy.”

Stein, who was impressed with the MAT program, is hopeful other North Carolina counties will utilize funds to implement similar options for inmates.

“There’s still only about 11 or 12 statewide that have [programs like MAT], but it is a movement going in the right direction,” Stein said.

The data reflects a positive trend, according to Sheriff Quentin Miller, but the long-term effects are unquantifiable.

“It’s an opportunity for us to save someone’s life and for me, that’s paramount,” Miller said. “Our percentages of people who are dying and overdosing has dropped, especially who have been inside our detention facility, so I call that a success.”

Lance Karner said he wishes it was around when he needed it.

“I tried getting detox medication when I was in jail, and I couldn’t get any kind of detox I was just detoxing cold turkey,” Karner said. “I’m grateful for where I’m at and the experiences that I had, but there’s no telling that that might have helped me, saved me a couple of years.”

Karner is now a harm reduction coordinator with Buncombe County Health and Human Services’ syringe exchange program. He is using his experiences to educate and connect with others.

“It opens up the door for communication,” Karner said.

According to data from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, over the last two years, 335 new detainees started the MAT program while behind bars.

https://wlos.com/news/local/nc-attorney-general-impressed-by-buncombe-county-opioid-addiction-treatment-program

 

WTKR3 News Reporting by Margaret Kavanagh

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – COVID-19 is putting on a strain on people living with mental illnesses and this can be an even bigger problem for people who are locked up in jails and prisons.

The Virginia Beach Jail is taking action to better educate their employees on how to identify and spot issues surrounding mental illness, drug overdoses and withdrawals inside their facility.

MEDIKO, a company based out of Richmond recently won… Read more

 

WTKR3 News Reporting by Margaret Kavanagh

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – COVID-19 has been a big problem for certain jails and prisons around the country. News 3 got an exclusive behind the scenes look at what a Virginia Beach jail is doing to keep the virus away as they’re operating with a new medical service team.

“It certainly changed the way we do business,” said Rocky Holcomb, the Chief Deputy of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.

He said they thoroughly screen people coming into the jail. Inmates are kept with the same people and interaction has been limited. Chief Deputy said they are constantly cleaning… Read more

Addressing Opiate and Alcohol Withdrawal in Corrections
By Kaveh Ofogh, M.D., Founder & CEO of MEDIKO

The death tolls continue to rise due to substance abuse and withdrawal. The environment hit the hardest:
corrections. Because of this epidemic, you need to know the signs and symptoms of withdrawal to protect
yourself and your inmate patents. Death due to substance withdrawal is the most common cause of successful
lawsuits within detention centers in the United States.

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A local physician is appalled that several of his patients who are undergoing treatment for drug addiction were refused their withdrawal prescriptions in jail.

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The correction industry is in desperate need of an alternative to either Privatization of Medical or the more significantly risky self-management models utilized in the majority of jails and prisons in the United States.

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Virginia is using cutting-edge “telemedicine” to allow doctors to look at patients from miles away.

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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) released a scathing letter of finding regarding an investigation on Piedmont Regional Jail’s medical care of inmates over a year ago. And now that a settlement has been reached, the jail is finally seeing the cost for providing sufficient medical care for its inmates. The price tag is a little more than expected.

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Methamphetamine has been at the forefront of the drug debate as police make record-setting numbers of lab seizure and prosecutors secure the convictions of meth-trade kingpins. Most areas of the region however face a far bigger drug problem – prescription drug abuse. It’s an issue that gets little attention these days due to the intense focus on stamping out methamphetamine.

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Even the best of clinicians find correctional institutions difficult environments in which to work. Inmates frequently have multiple medical, mental health, and substance-abuse issues that are not easily managed by a single provider. Furthermore, the number of correctional patients with coexisting mental health and medical needs is increasing.

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The challenge of launching such a complex system would require a seamless orchestration of personnel, equipment, scheduling, and expertise. With 30 years of experience working in correctional facilities and 10 of those years working in the private correctional facilities management industry, Noble was the right man for the job. Yet, despite his extensive experience and comfort with health care models, Noble and the transition team wanted to do things differently, more effectively, and less expensively than the existing models allowed.

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Currently, approximately 2.4 million inmates are housed in correctional facilities across the United States. That equates to 1 out of every 110 Americans behind bars on any given day. Incarcerated individuals are the only segment of the U.S. population with a constitution right to receive adequate physical and mental health care. Still, one of the most heavily scrutinized aspects of a correctional facility is the cost of its medical department.

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