A new grant for the Northumberland County Jail allows inmates fighting addiction to receive counseling services and injections of medication to manage the effects of alcohol and opioid dependence.
The $271,228 grant, awarded to the correctional facility in Coal Township, comes from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The grant was secured through cooperative efforts from the prison and staff from the county departments of mental health, drug and alcohol, courts and probation and parole, said Warden Bruce Kovach.
"The goal is to reduce recidivism and reduce opioid deaths that occur," said Kovach. "Correction, in general, is getting way from warehousing inmates. Jail is punitive, but we want to be corrective. We want to change behaviors and keep people from dying from opioids."
The medication is Vivitrol, the prescription brand name for the drug Naltrexone. Before starting Vivitrol, a person must be opioid-free for a minimum of 7 to 14 days to avoid sudden opioid withdrawal.
The Northumberland County Prison Reentry Program is volunteer-based and inmates must show a desire to succeed before being admitted into it. Inmates will work with a counselor before receiving the injections as part of their release. The grant runs through June 2021.
Kovach said the first organizational meeting was held last week and PrimeCare Medical, the county's medical provider for the prison, will administer the medication.
"There are always efforts on the part of the inmates to introduce contraband," said Kovach. "We work on fighting that daily. Addiction is strong, they're willing to take the risk to get it into the jail."
The program has the support of the county commissioners.
"Any counseling that helps those incarcerated and helps them recover, I am 100 percent backing it," said Commissioner Sam Schiccatano. "Any way we can help inmates after release to straighten out of their lives and be a successful part of the community, I will do anything in my power to help that."
Schiccatano has a meeting next week with Jubilee Ministries about establishing a group home in Mount Carmel. Representatives of the faith-based ministry attended the public meeting on Wednesday to offer alternative sentencing such as a group home to offenders.