Middle River Regional Jail and Valley Community Services Board work together to help those incarcerated and battling opioid addiction

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 11:12 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - A new program with Middle River Regional Jail and the Valley Community Services Board in Augusta County aims to help individuals incarcerated at Middle River who may have a history or currently battling opioid addiction.

Middle River Regional Jail has a number of treatment programs for individuals facing addiction. While many of them have had to be reduced during the pandemic, they are beginning to be phased back in. That includes the new opioid MAT program in partnership with the Valley Community Services Board (VCSB).

“I’m hoping that by September October, we will be back up where we were prior to March of 2020,” MRRJ Superintendent Jeff Newton said.

There are qualifications for the program that include being within 30 days of your release and completing the individual’s court process.

Individuals are given a medication called Vivitrol. The medication works to offset the euphoria experience when someone uses opioids, extending the period of abstinence from the drug beyond their release from jail.

“We want them to be productive members of our community, and if we can change the circumstances under which they came into our custody upon their release, then they are more likely to be successful and less likely to return to our custody,” Newton said.

“It allows them to work on all the other aspects of their life that may have either led to opioid use been made much worse by opioid use,” Jeff Robbins with VCSB said. “Specifically, unemployment family issues obtaining custody of children driver’s licenses, things that we kind of take for granted.”

Almost 500,000 people died from an overdose that involved opioids from 1999 to 2019, according to the CDC.

The MAT, or medication-assisted treatment program, works to identify those in need of treatment prior to their release.

“A lot of the folks who have opioid use disorder and are in jail can volunteer for this program to be treated with Vivitrol before they are released and then they can continue on treatment with Valley Community Services Board upon their release,” Robbins explained.

Participants are picked up from the jail on their release date and then taken directly to the VCSB.

The program is currently funded by the state opioid response grant.

“If an individual does not have insurance and for whatever reason does not qualify for Medicaid, we can actually bridge that financial gap between the individual’s ability to pay and their own recovery.” Robbins said. “Most of our folks don’t pay for any of it, which is great because it allows us to help a lot of people.”

Superintendent Newton says as of now there have not been any participants in the program but they are actively identifying those who may qualify in the future.

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