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Jails are putting the solutions to the opioid epidemic in addicts’ hands

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BY SHAH AHMAD, KRNV

RENO, Nev. (CIRCA via KRNV) — The Washoe County Sheriff's Office says it's trying to boost Nevada's efforts to reduce deaths from opioid overdoes by providing jail inmates with drug education and anti-overdose drugs as they are released.

Sheriff Darin Balaam says the program, announced Wednesday, also supports the office's goals of reducing recidivism and increasing public safety by attempting to treat drug abuse as one of the core causes of crime.

“Individuals involved in the criminal justice system are one population that has an increased rate of opioid overdose deaths," said Dr. Stephanie Woodard, a senior advisor on behavioral health for the Nevada Department of Health. "And they often times don’t have the same rate of treatment available to them that would be necessary for recovery.”

The sheriff's office says it is paying for the program with federal funding funneled through the Nevada State Opioid Targeted Response Grant.

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The program includes education for selected inmates, as well as Naloxone kits upon release, which are safe, non-addictive treatments for opioid overdose.

A poor response to the opioid crisis can actually cost the state more money in crime-related costs, Balaam said.

"What we see is the low misdemeanor crimes, nonviolent individuals — the addicts — that are going out and just doing vehicle burglaries and other minor offenses," Balaam said. "It causes a financial burden to those victims and our community.”

Authorities are also starting to notice that incarceration isn't enough to fully rehabilitate offenders.

"Straightforward incarceration does not work because what you’re not getting at are the driving factors that lead someone to a lot of the crimes they’re committing as a result of poverty or a substance-abuse disorder," Woodard said.

More than 400 individuals died of an opioid overdose in 2017, according to statistics provided by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Heroin in particular was deadly, as the number of overdose deaths from heroin have increased from 19 in 2010 to 92 in 2017.

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