Michigan health department works with county jails to combat opioid overdoses

“It can save lives”
Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT
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Charlotte, Mich. (WILX) - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is working with county jails to help those in need. They’re looking to expand medications across Michigan in hopes of reducing opioid overdoses.

Research shows that people who are incarcerated are at a higher risk of experiencing overdose or even overdose-related death after being released from jail. Eaton County Undersheriff Jeffrey Cook said after inmates are released they tend to use substances at the same level they did before jail, something their body can’t handle after being cut off for so long.

“Across our country, inmates were being released from jails and then immediately dying from opioid overdose,” said Cook.

It’s a problem Cook said Eaton County Jail recognized in 2016.

“Through intervention while people are in our jail we can take some decisive action to treat this disease of substance use disorder while they’re in our custody and return them to the community in a much stronger state,” said Cook.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services wants to help reduce the risk of overdoses by expanding opioid use disorder programs in Michigan county jails, using opioid settlement funding.

“We know that treatment can help and it can save lives and medications in particular can save lives,” said Dr. Debra Pinals.

Reducing the risk of death upon an inmate’s release.

“The more resources and the more tools that we can provide for them while they’re here while they’re incarcerated the better they’re going to be leaving,” said Alina Branscombe, a clinical therapist.

“Substance use disorders have historically been very stigmatized. It is very hard for people to get to a place where they are ready for change and ready for recovery and we want to encourage that recovery,” said Pinals.

Cook said this voluntary program is very ambitious and aggressive.

“We’re able to make a huge difference in their lives and the whole community,” said Cook.

Allowing inmates to focus on their recovery and not relapse.

The Eaton County Jail is one of the leading facilities in Michigan for offering opioid treatment in a jail setting. The county’s undersheriff also said they do extensive discharge planning to continue helping inmates once they’re released.

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