Program Helping Addicted Inmates

Program Helping Addicted Inmates Click to Enlarge Photo: Jake Judd (KNSI)

(KNSI) - A one of a kind health care program is helping jail inmates dealing with opioid addiction in Stearns and Benton County.

Jail staff sees people addicted to heroin and prescription opiates every day.

The Correctional Care program has nurses at the jails seven days a week to help people with opioid addiction, mental health issues or any other medical issues.

Dr. David Frenz, head of the Correctional Care program and CentraCare Health's Substance Abuse Treatment Director, says the program allows them to treat people as soon as they're in jail.

"Opioid withdrawal is pretty miserable, so we're hoping for comfort, but then we're also hoping that people continue taking the medication when they're released to the community to help keep them from relapsing."

Frenz says they usually prescribe suboxone to help stop the opioid cravings.

The program is paid for by the county or through private insurance if the person's coverage allows.

"If we're not helping people get well from their illness society is just going to pay for it in other ways. It's just going to become another criminal justice cost or public safety issue."

There were 75 opioid related deaths in Stearns and Benton County from 2009 to 2016 compared to 24 deaths from 2001 to 2008.

Frenz says they can't force people to stop using opioids but there are plenty of stories of people who have.

"I have some people who've been under my care for 10 or 12 years, taking medication the whole time and they lead very ordinary lives."

Frenz says the Correctional Care program has been very positive but it's too soon to tell how much of an impact it’s had. Benton County started the program in October and Stearns County joined in January.

St. Cloud Police Officers along with Stearns and Benton County deputies carry Narcan with them to help someone if they're experiencing an overdose.

The Sauk Rapids Police Department is considering having their officers carry Narcan.

In 2016, there were 2,000 non-fatal opioid overdoses reported in the state.