Vivitrol shots part of Boyle jail’s new re-entry program

Published 11:48 pm Friday, June 14, 2019

When the Boyle County Detention Center’s new mental health and re-entry program launches in July, inmates being released from the jail will be able to get injected with a medication that blocks opioid receptors and prevents them from getting high. The Vivitrol shots will not cost Boyle and Mercer counties anything because the company that makes the medication is providing them for free through a grant, Boyle County Jailer Brian Wofford said.

The Vivitrol shots would be available to inmates leaving the jail to participate in the counties’ intensive outpatient (IOP) program run by the Shepherd’s House; heading to the Seeing Hearts transition home in the process of opening in Boyle County; or just being released from the jail.

“They get the shot before they’re released and it blocks the receptors. So if they go out and try to use, they’ve wasted their money — they’re not going to get high,” Wofford said.

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The jail will soon be able to provide some inmates medication to help with schizophrenia as well, Wofford said.

Vivitrol is an injectable medicine used to treat alcohol dependence and prevent relapse to opioid dependence after opioid detoxification, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “To be effective, treatment with Vivitrol must be used with other alcohol or drug recovery programs such as counseling,” according to the FDA. “… After Vivitrol is injected, it lasts for a month and it cannot be removed from the body.”

The FDA warns one of the biggest risks with Vivitrol is increased likelihood of overdosing on opioids.

The Vivitrol shots are one of the newest additions to Wofford’s plans for mental health and re-entry services at the jail. The next year’s budget, which starts July 1, includes funding of approximately $56,000 to hire two contracted positions: a qualified mental health professional and a case worker. The mental health professional would provide services to inmates with mental health problems such as depression or suicidal thoughts. The case worker would help ensure inmates can find housing and access resources when they are released.

“I think it’s a very important piece, because if we spend this money and provide these services on the inside, and there’s no follow-up or after-care, and they just fall through the cracks, we’ve just wasted our money,” Wofford said of the case worker position in March. “… My goal is to focus on Mercer County, Boyle County inmates first. If there’s issues with a state inmate, a lot of times we can get them transferred. But if there’s a state inmate there that needs care, I’m not going to refuse them.”

Another new position planned at the jail is a program coordinator, paid for out of the jail’s canteen fund, which is funded by fees paid by inmates when they purchase items. The program coordinator would provide programming for inmates such as life skills classes, parenting classes and Moral Reconation Therapy — a program that helps people overcome substance abuse issues, Wofford has said previously.

More plans

Wofford told members of the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee Friday about several other plans he sees as possibilities in the future, after the mental health and re-entry program is launched in July.

One idea is to start up a work program for inmates who are in jail for failure to pay their child support. Wofford said he’d like to work out an arrangement with area factories in which the jail would transport inmates to work at the factories during the day, then the inmates could participate in re-entry classes at night. Half of the pay earned by the inmates could go toward their unpaid child support, part of the remaining funds could be put in a savings account the inmate could receive when released, another part could be made available for the inmate to spend in the jail canteen, and the remaining 20-30 percent of the pay would go to the jail.

“Then, if they were released, one — they would be walking out with a job; and two — they’d be walking out with a savings account,” Wofford said, noting it would also reverse the problem of child support debt piling up while someone is in jail. “… It puts people back out on level ground, because a lot of times, they go backwards in jail.”

Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean said child-support cases are getting more and more complex to handle, but he’d be interested in looking at what kind of program Wofford wants to implement. “I’d rather have folks paying their child support than not.”

Another idea is to start a substance abuse program for state female inmates, like the jail already has for state male inmates. Wofford said he’s confident he could land state funding for such a program, but it would probably have to wait until there’s a new or upgraded jail facility.

“The problem is I have no room … the way the jail is built, there’s no way for me to do that,” he said.

Wofford said he recently examined recidivism rates — how often people who are incarcerated in the jail return on new charges — and found that recidivism has dropped.

From Dec. 1, 2017, to June 1, 2019, the recidivism rate for females was about 66 percent and the rate for males was about 67 percent. The jail’s recidivism rate used to be about 74-75 percent, he said.

“I think the things that we’re doing with the IOP (through) Shepherd’s House and (other) programs is making a difference,” he said. “… I think once we add next year our re-entry program with the mental health and some things we’re going to try to track, I think we can get that down. And we know that recidivism is a big driving force behind cost.”