Colorado Lawmakers Aim to Provide Addiction Treatment in County Jails

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Updated 08/03/2022

Seventy percent of the more than 20,000 Coloradans that end up in jail each year have an addiction. Managing addiction is a major ordeal in prison, and many inmates end up detoxing in prison alone. Four inmates have died while detoxing in Colorado jails in the last five years, and countless others have spent days or weeks sick and unable to eat until they pass through the worst of withdrawal. The problem is, most counties do not have funding for addiction treatment in prisons, so they do not have any resources to help those that need it.

Some Colorado lawmakers want to provide help for these inmates in the form of addiction treatment and medication-assisted detox. Inmates who detox while in jail without professional care are more likely to resume drug use when they are released. However, if they receive help with detox and addiction treatment while incarcerated, they are less likely to relapse after release.

The Colorado Office of Behavioral Health earmarked $5.2 million this year to provide addiction treatment in prisons, but only 5 of 57 Colorado jails got money for medication-assisted treatment. Out of those five, only two provide medication to assist with detox routinely. A new bill now before the Colorado legislature would require prisons that receive state money to allow methadone and other medications that assist with addiction treatment into those prisons. This measure would make it easier for prisoners to receive addiction treatment and improve their chances of long-term sobriety.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Benefits

Especially for those who have misused drugs for an extended period, medication-assisted treatment can ease long-lasting cravings and make it easier to adjust to life without addictive substances. Medications also help alleviate initial withdrawal symptoms to remove the risk of dangerous complications that could be life-threatening in some cases.

If the need for medication-assisted treatment persists when a prisoner finishes their sentence, many counties have clinics that offer methadone or other medications so that their treatment can continue. Receiving additional treatment can help lessen the rate of relapse and give inmates a chance to continue their recovery after release.

While many outside the treatment community fear that using medications like methadone amounts to trading one addiction for another, it has been shown repeatedly that these medications lead to better treatment outcomes and lower rates of relapse. This could then lead to lower recidivism rates and keep many former inmates from ending up back in jail if their addictions recur.

If you or any of your loved ones struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol and want to find an addiction treatment program, contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake today to discuss your options.

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