SCHENECTADY COUNTY — Schenectady County will start a new project to help inmates with a drug problem get into treatment programs when they are discharged from the County Jail.
The county received a $200,000 grant from the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to start the program, which will provide in-jail counseling and speed post-release referrals into drug treatment programs. There will be no cost to the county, officials said.
The County Legislature will vote Tuesday on accepting the funding and contracting with New Choices Recovery Center of Schenectady to provide the services, which will be particularly aimed at inmates with heroin or opioid addictions. Drug addictions often are an underlying factor in many thefts, burglaries and other crimes.
“Research shows that many inmates will leave prison clean, but if not connected with treatment and transitional services will relapse, leading to an overdose,” said Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski, D-Rotterdam.
That addicts have been off heroin while in jail increases the risk of an overdose if they immediately go back to using the drug, according to experts, which makes the days after their release critically important.
“That’s a very dangerous time for a person with a heroin or opioid addiction disorder,” said Darin Samaha, the county’s director of the Office of Community Services, who oversees drug treatment and mental health services in the county.
The grant money will cover the hiring of three people by New Choices to work on counseling inmates inside the jail, case management and jail discharge planning. Ideally, people who need the help will enter a drug treatment program immediately after they get out of jail. It will also allow the use inside the jail of addiction treatment drugs like Vivitrol, which reduces an addict’s craving for drugs.
“The goal with this program is to develop a comprehensive drug abuse treatment program within the facility,” Samaha told a County Legislature committee meeting earlier this week. “The staff who will be hired with this [grant] will handle the warm hand-off, really trying to get people an appointment the same day [they are released] and get them right into a program.”
Under a separate grant the Legislature is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, OASAS awarded the county $34,888 for compulsive gambling prevention and treatment. Those services also will be offered by New Choices.
The grant will allow people who do not have health insurance coverage for gambling addiction treatment to receive free treatment, county officials said.