‘Withdrawal is a very significant problem’: El Paso County Jail gets $150K to treat inmate opioid addiction

 El Paso County Jail
El Paso County Jail (KKTV)
Published: Jul. 29, 2019 at 9:13 AM MDT
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The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was given a big chunk of change to help treat inmates who are addicted to opioids.

The Colorado Department of Human Services awarded the El Paso County Jail $150,000 to expand its medication-assisted treatment program. MAT combines medication with behavioral therapy and is considered to be the most effective way to treat opioid use disorder, according to CDHS.

“This is going to help members of our community who are incarcerated and struggling with opioid addiction hopefully to get the treatment and the help that they need so when they get out, they can be productive members of society and not be addicted,” said Jackie Kirby, EPSO’s media relations manager.

According to the sheriff’s office’s grant application, a small number of inmates were already given MAT services, like drug court clients and pregnant women with valid MAT prescriptions, but with the grant, more inmates will be able to receive the treatment.

“Hopefully we can help those inmates overcome this addiction so they can get out and be successful,” Kirby said.

According to Kirby, the sheriff’s office will implement the program slowly but hopes to eventually treat around 1,100 inmates.

In addition to providing funding for the drug treatment, Kirby said the grant will also help make administering the drug easier.

“Right now, people who are on methadone, we actually have to take them off-site to a methadone clinic, and that can be very manpower intensive,” Kirby said. “So this is an opportunity for us to have treatment right at the jail.”

Kirby said the jail will receive funding for five years. It will get $150,000 the first year, and the sheriff’s office is still waiting to learn how much it will receive the following four years.

This is the first year the sheriff’s office has applied for the grant. CDHS also awarded funding for 16 other county jails around the state. Pueblo County received $150,000. It had previously received $80,000 for MAT services from 2017-2019. A Pueblo County spokesperson said 140 inmates have received treatment since the program started in January 2017.