Treating the Problem Part II: Mohave County needs options for treating addictions

With a Phoenix-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization looking to reach out to Mohave County, what treatment options are there for addicts, especially for those recently released from jail or prison?

In 2016, Mohave Area General Narcotic Enforcement Team comprised of the, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, Lake Havasu and Bullhead city police departments and Kingman Police Department – considered the lead agency – tallied 348 drug related arrests. They seized more than 5,000 grams (11 pounds) of heroin and more than 34,000 grams (75 pounds) of methamphetamine, two of the most addictive and destructive drugs.

In 2016, the average daily population of the Mohave County jail was 454 inmates with about 83 percent of them charged with felony offenses, according to Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Detention Division Capt. Don Bischoff. He did not have a statistical breakdown for drug violation offenses.

“It is very common for those incarcerated to be charged with not only misdemeanor and felony violations, but other offenses with the drug violations,” Bischoff said in an email.

The Arizona Department of Corrections current inmate population as of July 31 was 42,184. Of those, 1,637 were convicted in Mohave County, with 385 having drug offenses as their most serious current conviction. There are currently 3,304 inmates housed at the state prison in Golden Valley, but numbers of those convicted in Mohave County and drug-related convictions were not available, according to Andrew Wilder, ADC Director of Communications and Media Relations.

Treatment and Employment Options

The 348 drug-related arrests equate to almost one for every day of the year, and total almost the size of a local graduating high school class. It’s not so much the drugs themselves that do damage, but the thefts, assaults and emotional toll on families and neighbors that send ripples through the community.

There are treatment options for drug and alcohol offenders, both in and out of imprisonment.

Bischoff said the Mohave County jail provides Alcoholics Anonymous programs and has recently regenerated a Narcotics Anonymous program, but the effectiveness of those programs depend on the length of an inmates stay.

An average stay in the Mohave County jail is 22 days. Many prisoners are in and out in less than 48 hours, but others are in for years working through more complex cases, generally involving capital offenses. A two- to three-week stay makes treatment programing difficult. Prison populations are more geared to month- or year-long programs as opposed to days and weeks.

“After transitioning to a new inmate health care provider a couple years back, we have looked to try to improve the continuity of care for inmates as they cycle through the custody process,” Bischoff said. “We are working with our community providers and stakeholders and hope to improve our ability to provide a better continuum of care.”

The jail is working with community stakeholders in instituting a substance abuse program targeting opioid abuse with a medication assisted treatment plan.

In August, ADC began using the anti-opioid addiction drug Vivitrol, which is supposed to help inmates kick their cravings and ultimately lower recidivism. ADC will select 100 inmates throughout Arizona to part of a Vivitrol program. As of yet, no inmates from the Golden Valley facility have been selected, but Bischoff is working with the Yavapai County jail and their staff to gain insight on their program. Yavapai County jail is the first county jail in Arizona to implement the use of Vivitrol.

“We hope to have our program in place very soon,” he said.

Wilder said Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has put tremendous effort into preparing inmates for reentry into society and preventing recidivism. Pima and Maricopa Counties now have reentry centers with the goal of assisting offenders in successfully completing their term of supervision by providing treatment alternatives to sending community corrections violators back to prison.

ADC offers pre-and-post-release counseling and treatment services for inmates that have substance abuse issues including addiction treatment services, self-help/mutual help support groups, anger management, the Regaining Honor program for incarcerated veterans and financial planning.

“ADC also offers a wide range of religious services, providing an opportunity for inmates to engage in activities toward self-improvement, and reduce negative thinking and behaviors,” Wilder said.

Next to treatment, employment is another step in breaking the cycle of incarceration.

“Employment is one of the most critical keys to an offender’s successful reentry,” Wilder said.

ADC has focused on providing a wide array of work opportunities and career training education. As of July, nearly 3,000 Career and Technical Education programs had been completed. Nearly 2,000 inmates were employed in Arizona Correctional Industries jobs where they learn and practice daily real-world work skills. Another 2,000 inmates were employed through intergovernmental agreements, 4,926 inmates have completed reentry classes and another 1,761 were still enrolled.

ADC has partnered with the Arizona Department of Economic Security and other state agencies to open Employment Centers at three of their prisons (Arizona State Prison Complexes Lewis, Perryville and Tucson). The centers provide intensive reentry preparation for inmates who are at a higher risk to recidivate. Inmates transferred to these units are within 60 days of release and learn interview skills and resume writing.

“We have DES staff embedded at these units to work directly with the inmates to find jobs and develop other skills,” Wilder said.

DES Division of Employment and Rehabilitation Services provides workforce readiness skills including establishing an email address, using the internet for job searches, job interview skills, how to explain a conviction to an employer, tattoo cover-ups, work clothes vouchers, on-site job-specific training and access to educational opportunities such as GED and apprenticeship programs.

The Mohave County jail does not provide job assistance.

“It doesn’t appear to be a need for our inmates,” Bischoff said.

Local treatment options exist, but not to the effect that TLC Recovery Services would like as mentioned in Friday’s article.

Southwest Behavioral Health and Services offers drug and alcohol treatment programs and employment services, mostly in the form of outpatient services. Most of their clients are court referred and depending on the nature of the addiction, costs are covered by private insurance, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or out-of-pocket.

Their intensive outpatient program provides a series of assessments to determine the level of care. Community specialists such as physicians, EMT’s Alcoholics Anonymous and even Kingman Regional Medical Center residents are brought in to host group discussions.

“They’re education based, but also therapeutic,” said SBHS Program Director Larry Townsley.

The response to TLC’s propositions has been mostly positive. The Daily Miner has been in contact with TLC Client Services Floor Supervisor David Sanchez, who has been clean and sober for nine months. He explained the non-profit organization’s funding.

“We do not get grants. We are fully self-supporting,” he said. “Our treatment costs $120 a week. If someone doesn’t have the ability to pay, we give them a job with us so that they can work on their recovery and have job experience for when they look for outside work.”

Those jobs include air conditioning and refrigeration, towing and roofing and a chain of small stores run by TLC clients, almost all of which are managed by or employ former addicts helped by TLC.

For more information on the ADC Inmate and Reentry Programs, visit https://corrections.az.gov/programs-services/inmate-programs-reentry.

For information on DES rehabilitation services, go to https://des.az.gov/services/employment/arizona-rehabilitation-services.