Kenton Co to get nation's first jail treatment for addicted inmates with Hazelden

COVINGTON, KENTUCKY (FOX19) - Inmates at the Kenton County jail are getting a new treatment program starting this fall in addition to one already is place that offers them both medication and comprehensive therapy, jail officials say.

The new program will be the first in the nation for jails: direct involvement on site of the "best of the best" for substance abuse treatment, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, according to Jason Merrick, addition services director for the Kenton County Detention Center.

Their publications are used at jails across the country, but this is the first time they will be on site providing clinical staff training, oversight and resources.

"They are the gold standard for substance use treatment in the United States," he said.

Hazelden and the detention center are partnering wtih Aetna Better Health of Kentucky for START STRONG COR-12 Treatment and Reentry Program. COR-12 stands for Comprehensive Opioid Response integrated with 12 steps.

The initiative will launch in September, but Aetna already has brought in a full-time licensed clinical social worker who is working at the jail to ensure inmates medical and treatment needs are met when they are released, according to Merrick.

"With these two partners, it adds a whole new dimension of client-centered care and credibility," he said.

The jail has 712 inmates, which is over its 600-bed capacity. The extra 112 inmates use temporary beds similar to cots.

Eighty-five percent of the total jail population is there directly or indirectly due to substance addiction, according to Merrick.

"That's pretty standard around the country, unfortunately," he said. "The problem is huge. We are licensed by the state of Kentucky to treat 125 men and women at any time. We have 34 females and 90 males now in our program."

Once the new effort rolls out, it is designed to reduce recidivism and improve health and quality of life while strengthening the workforce in an effort to end the opiate crisis in Kenton County, Northern Kentucky and throughout the state.

"Physical health, mental health, and substance-use disorders continue to cause overwhelming destruction on the citizens of Kenton County," Jailer Terry Carl said in a news release.

"Men and women reentering our communities from criminal justice settings can be healthy and productive members of society. STRONG START will strengthen the reentry process by providing much needed support to those reentering after incarceration."

Officials with Hazelden Betty Ford said they have seen the effectiveness of pairing life-saving medications with effective, evidence-based clinical treatments and peer recovery supports.

"By utilizing this comprehensive solution with individuals before and after incarceration, KCDC will help more people move beyond addiction and establish healthy, productive lives. And, because jails and prisons are the largest provider of behavioral health services in the country, this effort may also serve as a blueprint for treating addiction throughout the criminal justice system," said Jordan Hansen, Hazelden Publishing's senior manager clinical systems.

Aetna officials said they know that a positive health impact can be made when communities work together to tackle social determinants of health.

"We know that many who are released from the criminal justice systems oftentimes are faced with a host of new challenges, such as finding housing and other support services. Our investment of an on-site case manager provides a critically-needed resource at Kenton County Jail to help the formerly-incarcerated have a smoother transition back into society and reduce possible recidivism," said Jonathan Copley, Aetna Better Health of Kentucky's CEO.

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