Virginia Inmates Requesting To Return To Jail For Heroin Recovery Program

By McCarton Ackerman 05/12/16

The program offers long-term strategies to maintain sobriety after their sentences end but side-stepping temptation in old environments can be difficult.

Virginia Inmates Requesting To Return To Jail For Heroin Recovery Program
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A new heroin recovery program at a Virginia jail had such an impact on Brian Coddington, that he asked the court if he can return to finish the program once he is released. The Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (HARP) was launched this year by the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office at the county jail; the six-month program offers mental health, clinical and peer-to-peer services, WTVR reports. 

The program also prepares inmates with long-term coping strategies to help them avoid relapse once they leave the program, and helps inmates get professional aftercare after they leave the jail. “I can detox somebody all day long, but when they get out of here, they’re going back to the same environment,” said Dr. Mantovani Gay, medical director for the sheriff's office. 

More than 850 people died this year from heroin overdose in Virginia. In Chesterfield County, there have been 50 heroin overdoses and 14 deaths since January. HARP was created to address the problem among jail inmates. So far, the program is operating on minimal funding and community volunteers, from places like the McShin Foundation, a local recovery resource foundation based in Richmond. But Major Ben Craft, who helps oversee the program, told WTVR the sheriff plans to ask the Board of Supervisors for funding next year. “You can’t arrest your way out of this. More people will die,” said Craft.

But even the modest pilot program has had a big impact on inmates like Coddington, who asked the court if he could finish out the program after he is released. The 29-year-old got hooked on opiates at age 17, and began using heroin three years ago, bouncing in and out of jail since then. He said he got so engulfed in his disease that the thought of returning to jail was never enough to deter him from using. He would get out and get high immediately, he told WTVR. Now, after being introduced to HARP, he says he's ready for a change. "Like they say, chase your recovery like you chased your drug, and I chased my drug hard," he said. "You can get through anything if you have your mind in the right place."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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