CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Inmates fighting addiction in the Chesterfield County Jail now have the chance to go through medication-assisted treatment instead of a painful withdrawal.
The county jail is one of only 15 selected across the country to be awarded a grant for the treatment of inmates behind bars.
Chesterfield County will receive scholarships for five staff members to attend training programs. Experts will work with jail officials to create treatment guidelines, manage medication administration and educate jail staff about addiction.
“Everybody is different and one size does not fit all when it comes to recovery,” said Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard.
Leonard told 8News the grant will expand the Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (HARP), established in 2016.
The program has already helped more than 800 inmates under Sheriff Karl Leonard, but the program uses abstinence from drugs to get inmates clean. The new grant will change that, adding a medication-assisted resource for recovery.
“The addiction is so strong sometimes the struggle is so tough,” Sheriff Leonard said. “Sometimes that there are folks who need either methadone or suboxone to help them get through the withdrawal process.”
Avery Hawkes was released from custody just three weeks ago and tells 8News he would have died if not for the abstinence program.
Hawkes says he thinks the option to get clean with the help of medication could be right for younger addicts.
“[They] have not experienced the pain and the degradation that comes along with this addiction that we have and this lifestyle that we live — it’s needed,” Hawkes said.
Patsy Tucker is one of the counselors now helping addicts behind bars, after getting clean herself.
Tucker was incarcerated in Chesterfield in 2016. She tells 8News she had been arrested dozens of times before.
Now she is glad the Chesterfield Jail and Sheriff Leonard are getting national recognition for working with addicted inmates.
“I just think its really awesome that Chesterfield is able to provide that to people,” Tucker said. “So that they don’t have to continue falling deeper and deeper into addiction.”
Chesterfield will also develop a plan with local health officials to ensure people can access treatment after they’re released.
The grant program is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and Arnold Ventures, the philanthropy headquartered in Houston.