Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – For people battling drug addiction, winding up in the county jail can feel like the end of the road. But thanks to a collaboration between the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office and Job & Family Services, it can be the first solid step on the road to recovery.
“We have so many people who come into the jail as addicts,” said Sheriff Robert Radcliff. “We deal with it the entire time they’re here. We would get them to a point where they’re clean, get them on some medication, and then they would go out the door and we couldn’t do anything for them at that point.”
That began to change in January, though, when the Sheriff’s Office teamed up with Pickaway County Job & Family Services to help addicts who don’t already have one obtain a Medicaid card.
“Now the minute they leave, they can continue to have the medications they need and be ready for placement in rehab programs without having a gap in time where they could relapse,” Radcliff said. “We’re hopeful it will mean we’ll see fewer repeat offenders coming back through the system.”
Joy Ewing, director of Pickaway County J&FS, said obtaining a Medicaid card can take 30 days or more, and her agency was more than willing to help when the Sheriff’s Office approached them with the problem.
“When someone is scheduled to be released, we have a staff member go over and meet with the person,” Ewing said. “They complete the application and get anything they need prior to them being released from jail. Now they can go right to the pharmacy to get those prescriptions, and it could also help them get placement in a drug treatment facility.”
The program is fairly new, not only to Pickaway County but the state of Ohio as well, and Radcliff and Ewing agree it will take some time to monitor the true impact of the effort.
Still, Pickaway County leads the state in implementing the collaborative program, and it is already creating a buzz with other agencies across the state exploring their own options to implement similar programs.
Radcliff was asked to present the program at the Ideas That Work Conference held Jan. 21 in Columbus and hosted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Heroin Unit. He spoke during the “Community Solutions” portion of the event.
Ewing said inquiries about the program began pouring in the same day.
“I started getting emails that afternoon,” she said. “A lot of people in other counties have reached out to us to find out what we’re doing.”
Radcliff said he already considers the program a success and hopes people struggling with addiction will take full advantage of the help being offered.
“They didn’t get here overnight, and we can’t expect it to end overnight, but we’re going to work with all of our partners and other agencies we can to use our resources wisely and provide a community response to the problem,” he said. “If we can get even one person to open their eyes and help themselves, it’s a good thing.”
The Sheriff’s Office also recently partnered with the Pickaway County General Health District to obtain a grant to equip deputies with Naloxone through Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone). Naloxone is the generic form of Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medicine that can save the lives of overdose victims when administered in time. More information on that program can be found here.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal