New team aimed at fighting opioid use disorder in Lewis and Clark County tours jail

Posted at 10:57 PM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-19 16:19:16-04

HELENA – Lewis and Clark County’s new Opioid Use Disorder Team is just one month away from their trip to the nation’s capitol.

Thursday, two consultants from Denver and Washington, D.C. spent the day with the team in Helena.

Lynn Dierker is the county team coach, and Kathy Rowings works for National Policy Engagement and Information Sharing Initiatives at the Institute for Intergovernmental Research.

Part of the day involved a jail tour.

The purpose of the tour was understanding the jail environment, including the challenges of the currently overcrowded facility.

The consultants were also able to see where inmates receives medical and mental health treatments, and ask questions about the facility to Captain Alan Hughes with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Kellie McBride is the director of the county’s Criminal Justice Services Department. She said while the data is hard to nail down, she estimates 40 to 50 percent of inmates at the county detention center have an opioid use disorder.

When they’re in Washington, D.C., on August 13th and 14th, the five-person team will learn more about expanding treatment of those disorders while people are incarcerated.

The team will learn from experts to help overcome barriers to providing opioid treatment, such as creating treatment guidelines and educating jail staff.

“The other big factor, which is at play here too, is strengthening the community side of things,” said Dierker. “And making sure when somebody leaves jail, they’re handed off into the community, and they don’t just go out with no support. Because we know the risks are so high for people who leave the jail, to overdose, to go back and overdose.”

The group’s trip is part of a recent grant from the Institute for Intergovernmental Research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and in partnership with Arnold Ventures.

The members of the team include Hughes, McBride, Commissioner Andy Hunthausen, Ben McGaugh with PureView Health Center, and Samantha Pierson-Hartwig, a nurse at the jail.