County Jails Struggle With A New Role As America’s Prime Centers For Opioid Detox

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NPR on 08/24/2019 by Eric Westervelt

Faced with a flood of addicted inmates and challenged by lawsuits, America’s county jails are struggling to adjust to an opioid health crisis that has turned many of the jails into their area’s largest drug treatment centers.

In an effort to get a handle on the problem, more jails are adding some form of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to help inmates safely detox from opioids and stay clean behind bars and after release.

But there are deep concerns about potential abuse of the treatment drugs, as well as worries about the efficacy and costs of programs that jails just weren’t designed or built for.

“It was never traditionally the function of jail to be a treatment provider, nor to be the primary provider of detoxification in the country — which is what they have become,” says Andrew Klein, the senior criminal justice research scientist with the company Advocates for Human Potential, which advises on jail and prison substance abuse treatment programs across the U.S. “So, with the opioid epidemic, jails are scrambling to catch up.”

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