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Substance abuse counseling coming to Clinton County Jail

Press-Republican - 4/19/2017

April 19--PLATTSBURGH -- Stakeholders aim to once again offer substance-abuse counseling to Clinton County Jail inmates, starting as soon as the second week of May.

Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay), Clinton County Sheriff David Favro and Champlain Valley Family Center for Drug Treatment and Youth Services Inc. Executive Director Connie Wille announced the program at a press conference at the jail Tuesday afternoon.

"We know this program will work and help these individuals go back to society on some good footing," Jones said.

"The recidivism rate in our jails is directly linked to this opioid problem, and we can put a serious dent in that with this program."


In the 2017-18 state budget, $17,500 was made available through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program to help fund the initiative, Jones said.

The JAG Program "aims to reduce crime and violence across the state."

Additionally, the Family Center has committed to providing $12,000, Wille said.

And, Favro said, the jail will supply $10,000 to $15,000 worth of funding from inmate commissary funds.

Wille explained that two counselors, one male and one female, will bring at least 35 hours of service to the jail weekly.

They will provide assessments, education and referral services, thinking past discharge to elements such as safe, stable housing as former inmates continue to receive treatment.

Favro said upward of 90 percent of the jail's inmates, of which there are about 270, need substance-abuse counseling in some form.


The counseling program came out of Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery of Clinton County (SPARCC) steering committee and coalition discussions, Wille said.

Due to budget restrictions and cuts, the jail has not had a substance-abuse counselor for the last 10 years, Favro said, but the newly reinstated program will make a difference.

"I'm referring to this as Operation Seed for Change. And I say 'seed' because this provides us the seed; now we need to make it grow.

"We need to make the opportunities grow; we need to make the programs grow and what we're offering to fix the problem."

It will, hopefully, show long-term savings in the community, as well, the sheriff added.


The process of securing funding has been a labor of love for members of SPARCC and Clinton County Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Richelle Gregory, Wille said.

The goals are to engage people in treatment and recovery and to reduce recidivism.

"We're going to work out some way so that we can track the re-arrest numbers, and I'm hoping a year from now we can tell you the difference that we've made at Clinton County Jail," she said.

The funding is in place for one year, Jones said, and they will certainly fight to have it renewed .

The case for that could be made through data on recidivism, Wille said.


Spending money on programs like this at the forefront "is the wisest thing that we as a community can do," Favro said, and it is small money compared to initiatives like Narcan.

He acknowledged that the antidote's benefits can be priceless but said that openly giving it to people exacerbates the problem "because now they know that the safety net is there.

"All the cops, all the clinics, the hospitals, paramedics -- they're all carrying it," which inadvertently promotes a "they will save me" mentality.

"So there's no real concern about OD anymore. That's problematic," Favro said.

"That doesn't really help the issue at hand. This will help the issue at hand."


Potential candidates for treatment are those who will be incarcerated for at least 30 to 45 days, Wille said, giving the counselors time to assess them, provide education and connect them to services once they are released.

The jail's incarcerated youth program, which gets funding through Beekmantown Central School District, will also be proactive in the program, Favro said.

"It'll be a really nice day when we can sit here with the data that Connie had talked about and share with everybody our success stories and say we have reduced recidivism, we have saved lives, we have brought families back together," the sheriff said.

"If it's only a couple in each category, then we're successful; our seed is growing and turning into something beautiful."

"We feel that it is a start," Jones said. "Do we think it's the end-all? Of course not. There's still a lot of work to do.

"But through the combined efforts and we keep working at it, we are tackling this problem, and we've got to get rid of it."


Down the road, the Family Center will be working with the Sheriff's Office to potentially implement a Vivitrol program, Wille said.

According to its website, Vivitrol is a non-addictive medication used once a month to "prevent relapse to opioid dependence after detox."

Carefully screened inmates may first receive the drug shortly before they are discharged, then follow up at a local clinic as they receive treatment, Wille said.

Another upcoming program that the Family Center will bring to the jail is Getting Ahead While Getting Out, an evidence-based program that focuses on re-entry issues and accountability, she added.

And since families can be important change agents, later this summer the Family Center will offer services to inmates' families once or twice a month.

That will provide them "No. 1, a safe place to talk, and, No. 2, a lot of education about the disease of addiction and offering some tips on things that they can do to manage the addiction whether it's in their home or in the community," Wille said.

Email Cara Chapman:

Twitter: @PPR_carachapman


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