Ill. jail first in state to offer inpatient drug treatment
The new initiative fills a gap in the services now offered to inmates and those on probation, and comes at no cost to the county
Susan Demar Lafferty
The Daily Southtown, Tinley Park, Ill.
In a continuing partnership with the Family Guidance Center of Joliet, Will County officials will launch a pilot program to provide inpatient drug treatment programs to inmates at the county jail.
The program will start with 15 male inmates, according to former Circuit Court Judge Carla Policandriotes, who is now a consultant with Family Guidance, a non-profit behavioral health care organization.
The new initiative fills a gap in the services now offered to inmates and those on probation, and comes at no cost to the county, she said.
The county has been working with the guidance center since January 2016 on a Medication Assisted Treatment program, offering inmates an outpatient program, that includes Vivitrol injections, which blocks cravings for opiates.
Under Illinois law, nonviolent criminal defendants who have substance use disorders may be eligible for Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities probation if they agree to and are eligible for outpatient treatment in lieu of jail. The crime must be connected to their drug or alcohol illness, and if they successfully complete the program, the felony charge is cleared from their record, she said.
Policandriotes said Family Guidance assesses inmates at the request of their attorney or public defender, but it now takes eight to 10 weeks to do the assessment, and many inmates don’t want to wait that long. They are trying to cut that to two weeks, she said.
For those in jail, the wait for a bed in an inpatient facility can be lengthy, she said.
Family Guidance is “ready and able” to begin inpatient services in the jail immediately, and has the support of Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt and Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley, according to Policandriotes.
Years ago, they talked about treating the people most in need.
“There are no more ifs. Nothing like this exists in the state. You do more in Will County than any place else in the state. It’s phenomenal,” Policandriotes said.
This expanded service will result in less jail time and lower recidivism rates, she said.
Ron Vlasaty, executive director of Family Guidance, thanked the county board and all the county departments that “trusted us enough to work with us.”
“We know that treatment works. It’s great to see that a county realized it could not arrest its way out of this problem,” he said.
Family Guidance is at the county jail every Saturday to assess and educate inmates.
According to Policandriotes, 533 people in the county’s court system are currently in treatment programs, and a total of 3,076 have been served by Family Guidance “in their struggle to get clean and sober.”
Policandriotes said they have and will continue to work with Julie McCabe-Sterr, the coordinator of the Will County State’s Attorney’s Problem Solving Courts, which includes a court for drug offenders, veterans and those with mental health issues.
The county is marking the 20th anniversary of that program.
On Thursday, McCabe-Sterr sought approval from the Executive Committee to expand housing for those in recovery by purchasing an apartment building.
The county now owns two group homes, but needs more space, where clients can be supervised by county staff, she said.
“We have more control over our clients and we are good neighbors,” she said.
The apartment building would house 12 to 14 people, and she would hire a full time manager. Clients pay rent and the costs of the housing has been sustainable, she said.
The purchase would have to be approved by the county board.
The Problem Solving Courts now serve 250 people, McCabe-Sterr said.
Finally, Will County sheriff’s department social worker Bonnie Phillips said with a $1.25 million federal grant, the department community coalition will hire a full time coordinator and begin drug prevention efforts aimed at youth.
To qualify for the grant, the sheriff’s office created the non-profit coalition in 2016, and will now bring together governments, businesses, churches, schools and community members in a five-year county-wide effort to reduce youth substance abuse.
“We are attacking this problem from all angles,” Sheriff Mike Kelley said.
With this grant, the sheriff’s office can be eligible for additional grants, officials said.
Out of 731 grants that were awarded nationwide, the sheriff’s department was the only law enforcement agency to receive one, Phillips said.
©2018 The Daily Southtown (Tinley Park, Ill.)