Kentucky Work Matters Task Force Visits Drug Rehabilitation Program in County Jail

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the Kentucky work matters task force held its monthly meeting at the Kenton County Detention Center, or KCDC, in Covington. The visit included a tour of the drug rehabilitation program, featured in the New York Times for its breakthroughs in combating both addiction and incarceration issues in Kentucky.

83 percent of KCDC’s inmates have charges that are drug related, justifying a need for a comprehensive drug rehabilitation program. The program goes beyond “arresting the problem away” to treating the whole individual including, physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual and vocational. KCDC’s substance abuse program is voluntary and embraces the true concept of corrections by focusing on human behavioral patterns that lead to incarceration.

The drug rehabilitation program director, Jason Merrick, forms a unique bond with every participant, employing behavioral patterns ranging from military style cleaning of personal spaces, to nurturing and open communications. Most participants share their personal struggles while embracing one another’s feelings and support, a behavior that is often missing within the corrections environment but critical to rehabilitation.

KCDC’s program uses a grassroot, yet systematic approach, connecting incarcerated individuals with local employers and addiction recovery networks prior to leaving the facility. In addition, the facility is offering Vivitrol injections within 24 hours of an inmate’s departure, giving them a 30 day opioid blocker.

A joint report conducted by the Kentucky Department of Corrections and the University of Kentucky on drug and alcohol research found some encouraging trends for the 339 participants interviewed 12 months after completing corrections based programs:

  • Corrections based substance abuse program slots more than doubled from FY2006 to FY2015
  • 49 percent of participants reported a decrease in illicit drug use
  • 68 percent were employed at least part time
  • 70 percent did not recidivate
  • Instances of suicidal ideation decreased from 10 percent to 3 percent
  • 83 percent of participants feel better about themselves
  • ROI of $4.49 for every dollar spent

“This program should be a model for all correctional facilities in the state” Van Ingram, Executive Director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy said during the task force meeting. He went on to say that the issues with implementing these types of programs state wide supersedes political and financial hurdles. It is simply a logistical hurdle in that most prisons do not have the capacity to separate participants of substance abuse programs from the regular inmate population.  This separation is critical to change the behavioral patterns of individuals.