New substance abuse unit starting up at Harford County Detention Center

Planned substance abuse unit will help addicts
Posted at 6:42 PM, Dec 20, 2016

Jails and prisons across the state offer counseling and support groups for drug addicts who land in lock-up.  But most of them also see a cycle of abuse spinning through the system; drug users get arrested, they spend time behind bars, and they get released with the same itch to get high. That's something Harford County officials hope to change.

Most people who to do time in the Harford County Detention Center aren't there very long, the average length of stay is 45 days.

County officials now want to use that time to help addicted offenders maintain sobriety after their sentence ends. They've flagged inmates who could benefit, and are jump starting a substance abuse unit behind bars.

"It's aimed at treatment to steer them away from, once they're discharged from the facility, returning to heroin or pills or whatever their opiate of choice is," said Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler.          

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Detention Center officials estimate about 60 percent of the inmates are addicted to opiates.  Serving a sentence can be a good opportunity for folks to fight the need for a fix, and face their demons.           

Gahler said they just want to make the biggest impact while prisoners are at the correctional facility.

"Some of its peer support, some of its re-entry,” he said.  “Having the find programs and employment for when they get out of the Detention Center, just things that will occupy a person's life that maybe will take them away from a path of drug addiction when they come back out."

The recovery unit isn't fully functional yet, officials expect it will be up and running early next year.  The Sheriff and Warden are searching across the country for effective treatment programs in correctional facilities to use as models, and just last week they traveled to Virginia and toured two jails.

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