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N.C. jail awarded $473K grant to fund substance abuse disorder treatment for inmates

The funds will help establish an initiative known as a Medication-Assisted Treatment plan at the Rockingham County Detention Facility

Rockingham County Detention Facility

Rockingham County Detention Facility.

Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office

News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

WENTWORTH — As the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office grapples with 11 inmate deaths over the past three years — including suicides by three known opiate users — the county jail has been awarded a state grant that could bring medication-assisted treatment to prisoners battling addiction.

The N.C. Department of Public Safety has recently awarded $473,002 to the Rockingham County Detention Facility, according to an announcement by the sheriff’s office.

The funds will help establish an initiative known as a Medication-Assisted Treatment plan. Thus far, only about 20 of the 100 counties in North Carolina have implemented such a program, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Under the program, medications are administered to inmates to help treat their substance-abuse disorders.

The move toward implementing such a program comes at a time when opiate addiction among inmates is spiking. For instance, nearly 80% of all North Carolina inmates who came through the state’s jail system during 2021-22 had an untreated substance-abuse disorder, according to the state. Nationwide, roughly five million inmates struggle with substance abuse, a quarter of whom battle opioid addiction, according to the National Sheriff’s Association.

While some North Carolina medication-assisted programs screen inmates and initiate treatment for the duration of their jail stay, others provide help just before they are released. Studies have shown that inmates with substance-abuse disorders have a heightened chance of overdose two weeks after leaving incarceration.

The program is also a way for jails to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates that inmates who are already taking an opiate use disorder medication at the time of arrest should be allowed to continue it while in custody, according to Luke Woollard, a lawyer for Disability Rights of North Carolina in Raleigh.

Kevin Suthard, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office who wrote the proposal for the competitive grant in April, said “preliminary indications are it could begin as soon as July.’'


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