HELENA — On Tuesday, Lewis and Clark County leaders will consider accepting a large federal grant to expand substance abuse treatment for inmates in the county detention center.
The county commission will vote on whether to accept $600,000 over three years from the U.S. Department of Justice. The money would go toward the Medication-Assisted Treatment Bridges Project – paying to provide inmates with medications that are used to help reduce cravings for opioids.
Kellie McBride, director of the county’s Criminal Justice Services Department, estimates as many as half of the people in the detention center may be dealing with substance use disorders. She say providing medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, within the jail could be a key step to keep some of those inmates from reoffending.
“It doesn’t just help the individual that has the addiction,” she said. “It helps the whole community, because it stops the involvement in the criminal justice system and it helps keep the community safe.”
McBride said the grant would provide medications like buprenorphine and naltrexone in the jail. It would also fund a contracted addiction specialist and case manager to work with inmates.
Lewis and Clark County is one of 15 counties nationwide that has been taking part in a national initiative to “build bridges” between jails and community treatment resources to address substance use. Since last year, the county has partnered with PureView Health Center and the Helena Indian Alliance. The two organizations provide peer-support specialists to pick up inmates when they are released from jail and connect them with treatment.
“What we were missing was the ability to actually provide MAT in the detention center,” said McBride.
McBride said starting treatment while people are still in the detention center, rather than only after they’re released, could lead to better outcomes.
If the county commission accepts the grant, McBride said they will have to add some additional security measures at the jail – including security cameras and a safe for securely storing the medication. She said the program could be up and running by the end of the year.
While the medication would be the biggest addition, McBride said it remains just part of a larger effort.
“It’s not just about the medication, but it’s the talk therapy, the group therapy, everything that goes along with the medication,” she said.