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NH jail programs help inmates fight addiction

One program is for incarcerated inmates and the other two are to help those leaving the jail re-enter society with resources to keep them from returning


By Brian Early
Portsmouth Herald

DOVER, N.H. — Carrie Lover Conway, criminal justice programming coordinator for Strafford County, estimates 80 to 85 percent of county's jail population struggle with drug addiction.

Often those who are in jail for drug-related crimes will be back at the House of Corrections again for similar reasons. Many multiple times.

Often those who are in jail for drug-related crimes will be back at the House of Corrections again for similar reasons. (Photo/Stafford County DOC)
Often those who are in jail for drug-related crimes will be back at the House of Corrections again for similar reasons. (Photo/Stafford County DOC)

This month, the county, with the help of outside nonprofits, will begin three pilot programs for inmates at the House of Corrections who want help to overcome their addiction issue. One is a program for incarcerated inmates and the other two are to help those leaving the jail re-enter society with resources to keep them from returning.

Starting in two weeks, Southeastern New Hampshire Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services will begin a voluntary intensive outpatient program, or IOP, for inmates that will be administered in the jail. While the inmates will not leave the jail, it's called an outpatient program because participants aren't housed in a special unit and it is not a 24/7 drug treatment program. Instead, the group will meet between 9 to 12 hours a week for classes and individual counseling at the jail.

"We all know it's not a best practice to have someone go to jail to receive treatment," Conway told the Strafford County Commissioners last month. "But, when they are in jail, we have to deal with them appropriately."

Southeastern held an informational meeting for inmates at the jail last week about the program and will hold another one this week as it seeks it first participants. Conway said the first eight-week session is for female inmates.

The county will not pay for any direct costs for the program. Southeastern bills the state's Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services for the service. Conway has applied for a grant through the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance, which is pending. If the county receives the grant, the program could be expanded.

One thing the IOP will not be is court ordered. Sharon Drake, CEO of Southeastern, told the commissioners the program would be more successful without participants forced to be there. Those who join the effort want to be there.

The second pilot program will be administered by SOS Recovery Community Organization, which is a program of Goodwin Community Health. Like the IOP, it is also voluntary. About 30 days before release, those interested will receive information about SOS Recovery, which offers peer-based supports for at all stages of recovery, such as help to find jobs and housing in a welcoming community. Inmates will also receive training on how to use naloxone, better known by its brand name Narcan, as well as receive a naloxone kit. The money for this program is from a Goodwin grant.

The third pilot program is a medication assisted treatment re-entry program run in collaboration with Families First Health and Support Center of Portsmouth. An inmate would meet with a nurse and substance abuse counselor from Families First before release to see if the inmate would be a candidate medication treatment, such as buprenorphine, a drug better known by its trade name Suboxone, which helps treat opioid dependence. The drug would not be administered until an inmate leaves jail and would be administered with counseling and behavioral interventions as well.

"One of our major goals is to reduce recidivism and to decrease fatalities in the community in our folks being released," Conway said.

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©2017 Portsmouth Herald, N.H.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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