Camden County Jail Selected for National Initiative to Expand Opioid Treatment for Inmates

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(Camden, NJ) – In recognition of Camden County’s dedicated mission to fight the opioid crisis, the Camden County Jail has been selected to participate in a national initiative to expand opioid treatment in jails.

Camden County was selected to be one of just 15 jurisdictions across the country to participate in the Planning Initiative to Build Bridges Between Jail and Community-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder, administered by the Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR), Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and Arnold Ventures, a national philanthropy.

“More than any other population, we’re seeing offenders’ need for substance abuse treatment increase at alarming rates. This puts jails at the center of the opioid crisis and puts the onus to act squarely on these facilities,” said Freeholder Jonathan Young, liaison to the Camden County Jail. “Many of the reentry services this population needs already exist in the city, but too few of our returning offenders know how to reach them. Our goal is to create a single continuum of care that captures all those in need of treatment.”

As an initiative participant, Camden County will receive expert guidance on how to overcome barriers to providing opioid treatment and scholarships for five staff members to attend trainings in Washington, D.C. Experts will work with jail officials to create treatment guidelines, manage administration of the medications, and educate jail staff about addiction.

Participation in the initiative will immediately enhance Camden County Jail’s already strong efforts to assist offenders suffering from opioid use and addiction.

In 2018, the Camden County Jail first announced the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program to help inmates with a drug or alcohol addiction. The MAT program evaluates every inmate upon entry to the facility for a range of mental health and substance abuse disorders including opioid and alcohol addictions. Inmates who test positively for addiction-related ailments can then choose to participate in the MAT program, where they’ll begin receiving treatment inside the jail and continue to receive treatment at one of multiple community treatment agencies.

“When offenders return to a community with existing structural weaknesses, like lower than average median incomes, and high unemployment, they are immediately at a higher risk of relapse and overdose,” said Sharon Bean, Camden County Jail Population Manager. “This makes early education and intervention critical. The expertise that our staff will gain from working with Arnold Ventures will be invaluable in those first stages of treatment.”

Camden County plans to ultimately culminate its efforts in a multi-faceted framework for local organizations in the community to coordinate and link criminal justice, public health, social services, private entities, and previously incarcerated individuals.

“We could change the trajectory of the opioid crisis by treating people in jails. Our goal is to create a model for local leaders who want to tackle this problem head on,” said Kelli Rhee, president and chief executive officer of Arnold Ventures. 

More information about the Planning Initiative to Build Bridges Between Jail and Community-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder is available by visiting https://www.arnoldventures.org/work/the-opioid-epidemic.