HELENA – Lewis and Clark County officials want to expand opioid treatment in jail with the help of a national initiative.
The county is one of 15 jurisdictions across the country that will participate in the program — Planning Initiative to Build Bridges between Jail and Community-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.
It’s the smallest site on the list; the largest is the Cook County jail in Chicago.
Part of the program includes scholarships for five staff members to travel to Washington, D.C. where they’ll learn about opioid treatment guidelines, medications, and addiction education.
County leaders like Kellie McBride, the criminal justice services director, said the opioid epidemic directly impacts people in Montana.
“The expense on the county is immense,” she said. “We may not see it when we walk out our door and look at our beautiful blue sky, and the beautiful community we get to live in, but it is here, and it is impacting us.”
Through this grant, they’ll also work with local health officials to make sure people struggling with opioid addiction can get help after they leave jail.
According to a press release from the county, only 30 jails in the country offer the opioid medications methadone and buprenorphine as treatments, even though research shows the medications are one of the most effective forms.
The county will learn about offering those treatments in its detention center through this program.
“There is medically assisted treatment for folks, so how do we provide that in the detention center?” said McBride. “We want to make sure folks leaving the detention center are connected with that same treatment when they get out.”
The program is a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and Arnold Ventures, a national philanthropy.
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-Evelyn Schultz reporting for MTN News