County jail launching new addiction treatment program

Jan 17, 2019

The Monroe County Jail is adding a new type of drug and alcohol treatment program.


The downtown Rochester jail is set to offer medication-assisted treatment starting Tuesday.


A new treatment facility aimed at tapering inmates off of addictive drugs and helping them stay away from dangerous substances in the future is opening at the Monroe County Jail in downtown Rochester.
Credit Monroe County Jail

It’s a departure from the usual approach at jails, said Tisha Smith, who directs the inmate drug and alcohol programs for the sheriff’s office.


“Usually correctional facilities are centered around law enforcement. You might treat individuals while they’re inmates, but then it’s like, you know, ‘peace, love, and out the door,’ ” Smith said. “Now it’s, ‘Hey, we’re going to provide you with a whole lot of services and a whole lot of care while you’re here, and we’re going to gently hand you off to this community provider.’ ”


Medication-assisted treatment is a two-part therapy. It starts with using specific drugs to taper people off highly addictive substances and manage withdrawal. Then, counseling and mental health support services help people stay away from drug use after the initial medical treatment.

In Monroe County’s program, inmates will have their first counseling sessions in jail and then schedule ongoing appointments for the weeks and months after their release.


Smith said statistics show the need for a new approach to drug treatment in jail. She estimated that between 85 and 90 percent of people entering Monroe County correctional facilities have some sort of substance use disorder, and “research has shown that people that get out of corrections are at about 150 percent higher risk for overdose deaths” than the rest of the population.


“When you’re coming out of corrections, you’re also dealing with what we call ‘biopsychosocial factors,’ ” Smith said. “People are getting out of corrections, and they’re concerned about housing, clothing, food, transportation, job prospects, jobs.”


The new program is voluntary, said Smith. Inmates need to be screened when they arrive at the jail and comply with the medication requirements once they’re in the program.


The county already runs a chemical dependency treatment program at its correctional facility in Henrietta. This is set to be the first such program at the downtown jail.


Jail officials have long wanted to start a treatment unit, said jail bureau Captain Dale Erne, who’s worked for the county for 25 years. They found a supporter in Sheriff Todd Baxter, who helped pursue a $262,500 grant from the University of Baltimore that’s funding the first year of the program, Erne and Smith said.