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Ohio Dropping Big Money to Treat Addicts in Prison

Ohio Dropping Big Money to Treat Addicts in Prison

Author: Justin Mckibben

As an Ohioan, it makes me proud to see my home state actually making some major moves in efforts to make a difference for thousands of lives that have been burdened with drug addiction, especially those who ultimately ended up with consequences for their crimes and prison time.

The state of Ohio is getting ready to make a major financial commitment to helping treat addicts in prison across the state who are trying to get clean from drugs and alcohol. Recently the state announced new plans with a big budget, expecting over the next 2 years to spend $61 million helping rehabilitate prisoners.

Handing Over Mental Health

Up until now the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) has been in charge of running addiction recovery services in state prisons, but now the responsibility is being handed over to the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) department as of this month, which will allow more addicts in prison to have access to drug treatment.

Along with the budget created by Gov. John Kasich’s administration and the job description, a lot of money stands to change hands. So in the spirit of accounting for those dollar signs, let us look at a few transactions taking place:

  • Current $12.5 million addiction treatment budget being immediately transferred over from the DRC to the MHAS
  • New two-year, $71 billion state budget will have double the current spending on recovery programs over the next two years.
  • It calls for MHAS to spend $27.4 million on prison drug treatment initiatives this year and $34.3 million in 2017

Another amazing part of this new program for the addicts in prison is there will be a request for some additional funding so that resources can be added to help further support the rehabilitation of addicts in prison by assisting them in seeking employment when their sentence ends.

Beyond that, the new program also seeks to establish a system for access to housing and medication-assisted treatment upon their release, and extra 60 physicians will be hired over the next six months to work with addicts in prison across the state.

This seems to be part of a new trend of political positions based on helping treat and rehabilitate drug addicts in prison and drug offenders across the country instead of harsh and crippling incarcerations. Similar programs stand to help treat heroin addicts in Maryland, while other states are trying to get a few steps ahead and offer programs where addicts can actually turn themselves and their drugs in for an opportunity to get treatment.

How Does This Help Ohio?

The director of MHAS in Ohio Tracy Plouck said for the time being the primary focus will be efforts for non-violent offenders who are serving sentences of 18 months or less. She explained in a recent interview:

“By reducing the state’s overall recidivism rate, we are actually reducing cost to the taxpayer in the long term. We are seeing fewer people who are incarcerated for crimes that could be avoided because the root cause…their addiction…why they might have committed the property crime or drug offense in the first place is no longer occurring,”

As it now stands there are approximately 20,000 inmates who will leave Ohio prisons each year. To put it in financial perspective each prisoner who doesn’t return to prison can save the state about $25,000 each year. So these kinds of programs are basically long term investments for the health of the community.

According to the statistics addicts in prison who receive drug treatment while serving their sentence have recidivism rates of just over 10%. So only a portion of the prisoners who get the help they can while locked up will actually commit another offense and end up back behind bars.

This brings it home. When I came across this news and discussed it with another Ohioan (specifically my father) he asked “why spend the money there and not on prevention?” To that I say as important as prevention is, it also makes a lot of sense that if you have prisoners already in the system who are admittedly addicted to drugs or alcohol, why not spend the time treating them while they are already there? Although pops has a point, let’s get some more work done trying to get ahead of this thing, too.

If you have an addict who has already begun a history of crime related to drug abuse, why not do everything in your power to support their change. Because if they get out in a year or a few and nothing has changed, they are more likely to contribute to the problem instead of becoming part of the solution.

Sure, Ohio is going to be putting out a lot of cash for this wave of second chances, but in the spirit of rehabilitation and compassion it only makes sense to try and inspire change by being committed to it.

All over the country reforms in drug policy are shaping a very different world for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, and for every individual there is new hope for an incredible future.

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