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Jackson applies for medication-assisted treatment grant

Jackson applies for medication-assisted treatment grant

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has applied for a grant to fund a Medication Assisted Treatment program in the county’s detention center. This comes after the Jackson County Detention Center has had five deaths in less than eight years, two of which occurred in 2022.

“The grant we have applied for is for a limited pilot MAT program,” said Sheriff Doug Farmer. “It would help our detention facility out by allowing us to offer a program for those wanting to make a lifestyle change. Inmates who have a substance abuse disorder and choose to start a journey to recovery, can voluntarily start this program while incarcerated.”

The sheriff’s office and county administration requested the board grant authorization to apply for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety MAT program. This is the second round of such funding available from NCDPS. 

“This program is a limited medication assisted treatment program to be made available to inmates incarcerated in our jail,” said County Manager Don Adams. “I say limited because this is limited to a particular drug, Vivitrol, so this isn’t a full-blown MAT program, it is limited to a particular drug.”

Medication Assisted Treatment is a treatment for alcohol and opioid dependance that combines the use of prescription medication with counseling, peer support and education. While the Food and Drug Administration has approved different medications to treat Alcohol and Opioid Use Disorders, the grant program is approved only for Vivitrol. 

Vivitrol, a brand of Naltrexone, is a non-opioid medication which safely treats alcohol and opioid use disorders as an opioid antagonist. It is non-addictive, non-narcotic, blocks the subjective effects of exogenous opioids and reduces cravings for people with alcohol use disorder. It is administered once a month via intramuscular injection. According to Farmer there will be a series of six shots available to those who opt in. 

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“What this program does is provide funding for the sheriff to offer this treatment in the jail setting, but it also requires follow up treatment once the incarcerated person is released,” said Adams. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety is administering this grant to Sheriff’s Offices. The first round of funding awarded five grants to sheriff’s offices in the state. There is $1,481,364 available in this round of funding. With the cost of the medication, this will likely result in one additional site receiving funds. Additional funds may be available in the future to maintain existing programs. 

Grant funds must be used for employee expenses, services, contract expenses, goods and administrative fees. Funds may not be used to pay for vehicles, fund constructions, purchase weapons or any other law enforcement related equipment. 

“It would employ an employee for the sheriff that works in the jail setting,” said Adams. “This grant can be expended over a three-year period. So what is being requested is for an additional employee to be added to the sheriff’s office for operations in the jail. It would be a jail-based coordinator, at a grade 24. What you have included here is a three-year salary.”

If the county is awarded funds, which would total about $1.3 million, it will likely partner with Project Lazarus, a nonprofit organization based in Wilkes County, North Carolina, for the peer support specialist to help connect people who opt into the program get connected with services following their release. The group has experience with medication-assisted treatment programs. 

The grant will be awarded based on the rate of opioid-related deaths, rate of opioid-related hospital admissions, the rate of violations of probation/parole and accessibility of mental and physical health care. 

Five people have died while incarcerated in the Jackson County Detention Center over the past eight years, the most recent occurring in November of last year. Autopsy results for Eddie Columbus Taylor, who died while incarcerated in June of last year show that he died as a result of an overdose. 

“Based on postmortem examination and investigative results, my opinion is that the cause of death is acute fentanyl and methamphetamine toxicity,” the report of the Medical Examiner’s autopsy reads. 

Further information in the report suggests that Taylor may have been dealing drugs within the detention center. 

“According to his cellmate, the decedent had been dealing drugs and storing them in his mouth,” the report states. “The cellmate had similar material in his mouth. Postmortem examination is significant for severe hypertensive-type cardiovascular disease. No foreign material is identified in the mouth, airway, esophagus or stomach.”

In 2021, Jackson County paid $725,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit after Melissa Middleton Rice died by suicide while left alone in the jail’s booking room in 2019. There have been two other suicide deaths inside the Jackson County Detention Center in the past eight years. Charles “Chuckie” Moose died on Nov. 21, 2014, and Steve Ross on March 13, 2015. 

“[This program] offers hope to those who want to begin their journey to recovery,” said Farmer. “We hope to be chosen for this grant. Participation in the program will always be voluntary.” 

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