OPIOID ADDICTION: PRISON DIVERSION

June 18, 2019 at 4:45 am

Will taking opioid dependent prisoners into the great outdoors be a way to a road to recovery?

Aired on June 17, 2019.

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> HI, I'M MATT RYAN, NEW YORK
NOW MANAGING EDITOR AND
"METROFOCUS" CONTRIBUTOR.
TV STATIONS ACROSS THE STATE
FOCUS ON THE GROWING OPIOID
EPIDEMIC AND WHAT'S BEING DONE
IN THEIR COMMUNITIES TO HELPING
THOSE TRYING TO RECOVER FROM THE
ADDICTION.
WE TRAVELED UP NORTH TO EXAMINE
A PROGRAM THAT HELPS THOSE
AFFECTED BY GETTING THEM BACK IN
TOUCH WITH MOTHER NATURE.
>> I WOULD DO ANYTHING AT FIRST,
LIKE DRINK, SMOKE POT, ECSTASY,
COKE, ANYTHING.
I REALLY FOUND OPIATES.
>> SHE BATTLED WHAT WAS AN
ADDICTION.
IT INCLUDED TWO ARRESTS,
ARGUMENTS WITH HER FAMILY AND AN
UNCERTAIN FUTURE.
>> THERE ARE MANY MOMENTS, I
KEPT GETTING WORSE AND WORSE AND
BAD THINGS JUST KEPT HAPPENING.
I KNEW I HAD TO GET CLEAN.
I JUST DIDN'T KNOW HOW I WAS
GOING TO GET CLEAN.
>> IT TOOK AWHILE, BUT THE
REALIZATION CAME THE HARD WAY
THIS PAST WINTER.
>> SITTING IN THE COUNTY JAIL
DETOXING, YEAH.
THAT'S WHERE IT KIND OF HIT.
>> BUT INSTEAD OF JAIL TIME,
EXTENDED PROBATION AND MORE
FINES, THE 28-YEAR-OLD TOOK A
HIKE, LITERALLY.
IT'S PART OF A DIVERSION PROGRAM
RUN BY THE GLENS FALLS HOSPITAL
RECOVERY AND THE COUNCIL FOR
PREVENTION.
IT'S ALSO A COLLABORATION WITH
LAW ENFORCEMENT IN BOTH WARREN
AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES.
THE GOAL IS TO GET PEOPLE LIKE
CARRIE OUT OF THE CRIMINAL
JUSTICE SYSTEM AND INTO
TREATMENT AND REDUCE THE DAYS
SPENT BEHIND BARS.
>> WE KNOW AS A COMMUNITY THAT
BOTH WARREN AND WASHINGTON
COUNTY JAILS STRUGGLE WITH
MENTAL HEALTH POPULATION.
I WAS AT A PANEL WITH UNDER
SHERIFF SEAN LEMMERY.
HE SAID WARREN COUNTY 60% OF THE
INMATES HAVE MENTAL HEALTH
ISSUES.
WE KNOW MANY PEOPLE WITH OPIOID
ADDICTION END UP WITHDRAWING IN
JAIL.
IT'S BRUTAL.
IT'S SOMETHING YOU WOULDN'T WANT
TO PUT YOUR WORST ENEMY THROUGH.
SO WE WANTED TO COLLABORATE WITH
THE COUNCIL AND WITH THE
CRIMINAL JUSTICE COMMUNITY TO
CREATE A PROGRAM THAT WOULD MAKE
IT BETTER FOR THE PATIENTS WE
WERE SERVING.
THE IDEA IS TO MEET A YOUNG
PERSON WITH AN EARLY CRIMINAL
JUSTICE EVENT, PREFERABLY A
MISDEMEANOR THAT CAN BE SCOOPED
UPPED AND FUNNELED INTO
TREATMENT, AND STILL HAVE THE
RESPONSIBILITY OF PROBATION AND
THE COURT OR WHATEVER THAT LOOKS
LIKE FOR THE INDIVIDUAL.
AND THEN RATHER THAN SERVING
THAT SENTENCE IN JAIL, USE THEIR
TIME IN TREATMENT AND HELP
DIVERT AWAY FROM THE JAIL PIECE.
SO THAT'S KIND OF WHAT WE'RE
AIMING AT, TO KEEP PEOPLE OUT,
IN THEIR HOMES, CONCENTRATING ON
GETTING JOBS OR EDUCATION, BEING
WITH THEIR CHILDREN, WHATEVER
THAT LOOKS LIKE TO KEEP THE
FAMILY UNIT UNIFIED AND PREVENT
THE TIME IN JAIL.
>> JUAN RODRIGUEZ IS A SOCIAL
WORKER AT THE CENTER FOR
RECOVERY.
HE EXPLAINS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN
THE COURT REFERS A PATIENT.
>> THEY REVIEW AND LOOK AT ALL
VIABLE CANDIDATES.
THEREAFTER THE COURTS ARE
INVOLVED WITH REGARDS TO IS
THERE PROBATION INTERIM OR ARE
THEY PLACED IN INTERIM
PROBATION.
SO BASICALLY WHAT COMES DOWN TO
IS THEY MAY BE PLACED ON ONE
YEAR INTERIM PROBATION, WHICH IN
THAT TIME FRAME OUR ADVENTURE
BASE PORTION OF IT IS FOUR
MONTHS OF THAT YEAR.
I START WITH THEM FROM THE
BEGINNING, WHETHER IT BE
PRE-CYCLE.
I START WITH THEM ON ONE ON
ONES.
I IDENTIFY GROUPS THAT WILL HELP
THEM IN THE RECOVERY AND
TREATMENT PROCESS.
THEN WHEN WE HIT THE FOUR-MONTH
CYCLE, THAT'S WHEN WE START WITH
THE OUTINGS.
>> SPENCER MORRIS IS THE
DIVERSION PROGRAM COORDINATOR AT
THE COUNCIL FOR PREVENTION.
>> THE IDEA WITH THE ADVENTURE
BASE PORTION OF THE PROGRAM IS
THAT NOT ONLY IS IT A VIABLE
MODEL FOR TREATMENT, THIS
EXPERIENCIAL LEARNING, GETTING
PEOPLE OUTSIDE THEIR COMFORT
ZONE TRYING THINGS, IT'S ALSO
ABOUT RECONNECTING PEOPLE WITH
THEIR PLACE, THEIR COMMUNITY.
SO BEING IN THE SOUTHERN
ADIRONDACKS FOR AN ADVENTURE
BASE TREATMENT, WE HAVE THIS
WONDERFUL PLAYGROUND THAT MOST
PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO
KNOW THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO
LIVE HERE DON'T NECESSARILY
UTILIZE IT.
>> THE OUTINGS INCLUDE, AMONG
OTHER THINGS, HIKING, KAYAKING,
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING, APPLE
PICKING, AND ONE OVERNIGHT
CAMPING TRIP.
>> YOU HAVE THIS GREAT BIG
BACKYARD AND YOU HAVE A WAY TO
RECREATE IN A SOBER WAY THAT
COSTS NEXT TO NOTHING.
SO SOMETHING LIKE HIKING,
THERE'S A THOUSAND HIKES YOU CAN
GO AND DO.
IF YOU HAVE TRANSPORTATION,
WHICH IS A BARRIER FOR PEOPLE,
BUT IF YOU'VE GOT A MEANS TO GET
THERE, YOU CAN GO HIKING.
IT DOESN'T COST YOU A DIME.
SO THAT'S REALLY KIND OF THE
CORE OF WHY WE ARE TAKING PEOPLE
OUT INTO THE COMMUNITY.
IT'S NOT JUST TO ENGAGE THEM
PHYSICALLY OR TO CHALLENGE THEM
MENTALLY.
BUT IT'S REALLY ABOUT HELPING
PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THAT YOU
HAVE OPTIONS AS FAR AS, YOU
KNOW, A WAY TO SPEND YOUR TIME.
A WAY TO DEVELOP NEW HOBBIES
THAT AREN'T RELATED TO SUBSTANCE
USE.
AND THEY'RE RIGHT HERE IN YOUR
BACKYARD.
>> CARRIE'S FATHER WHO OFTEN
DRIVES HER TO AND FROM HER
MEETINGS HAS SEEN A BIG
DIFFERENCE SINCE SHE ENTERED THE
PROGRAM THIS SPRING.
>> LIGHT YEARS.
HER PHYSICAL WELL-BEING, HER
MENTAL STATE, SHE'S FOCUSED ON
HER JOBS, SHE'S PUTTING MONEY
AWAYS WHERE THERE WAS NONE
BEFORE, EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS
MAKING A LOT.
I JUST SEE SHE'S HEADED THE
RIGHT DIRECTION.
I JUST THINKS CARRIE WAS
STRUGGLING FOR A TIME, AND SHE
FOUND THE WILL AND THE STRENGTH
TO ADDRESS IT.
AND THIS PROGRAM REACHED OUT,
AND WHAT IT HAS IN THE PROGRAM,
IT'S COMMUNICATION, IT'S
COLLABORATION.
AND THE THING THAT IS BUILT HERE
IS CONNECTIONS, POSITIVE
CONNECTIONS THROUGH ACTIVITIES,
WHERE WHEN I WAS A PROBATION
OFFICER, THE REFERRAL WAS TO ONE
AGENCY, ONE PERSON.
AND IF THEY WENT ONCE A WEEK AND
TALKED ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY'RE
NOT DOING IT AND DRUG TESTED,
THAT WAS IT.
BUT IT WAS EYE OPENING FOR ME
BECAUSE I REALIZED I'M NOT
DEALING WITH CARRIE, I'M DEALING
WITH ADDICTION, AND IT WAS HARD
TO SEPARATE THAT AT TIMES.
SHE WAS KIND.
WE HAD SOME CLASHES.
BUT THE MORE I GOT EDUCATED
ABOUT THE ADDICTION ISSUE, I
REALIZE I'M NOT -- I'M BATTLING
THAT.
AND SHE FOUND THE INNER
STRENGTH.
>> IN ADDITION TO THE ADVENTURE
OUTINGS, CARRIE ATTENDS
OUTPATIENT GROUPS EACH MORNING,
GOES TO REPORT WORK, AND REPORTS
TO COURT EVERY FRIDAY.
LIKE ANYONE BATTLING AN
ADDICTION, SHE KNOWS THESE ARE
THE EARLY STAGES OF WHAT WILL
HOPEFULLY BE A CLEAN AND SOBER
FUTURE.
>> JUST EVERY DAY IS A CONSTANT
REMINDER.
YOU SEE WHERE YOU WERE, WHERE I
WAS SIX MONTHS AGO, I DON'T WANT
TO BE THAT PERSON ANY MORE.
ANY TIME I HAVE DOUBT, I DO NOT
WANT TO GO BACK.
>> THE GRANT THAT SUPPORTS THIS
PROGRAM CAME FROM OASIS, THE
OFFICE OF ALCOHOLISM AND
SUBSTANCE ABUSE SERVICES, AND
WAS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR
YOUNG ADULTS BETWEEN THE AGES OF
18 AND 35.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND HOW TO
COMBAT ADDICTION, THEIR WEBSITE
IS OASIS.NY.GOV.
IN ALBANY FOR "METROFOCUS," I'M
MATT RYAN.§

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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