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Atlantic County jail, pioneer of NJ inmate treatment, earns best in US award

Atlantic County jail, pioneer of NJ inmate treatment, earns best in US award

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We’ve praised the Atlantic County Justice Facility in Mays Landing and its addiction and reentry services partner, the John Brooks Recovery Center in Pleasantville, a couple of times the past few years for their innovations in helping inmates.

New Jersey recognized their development of an effective program to help addicted inmates while incarcerated and continuing after their release. The state built on that with similar efforts in other counties.

Last week, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care — which accredits prisons, jails and juvenile facilities across America — named the county jail the winner of its R. Scott Chavez Facility of the Year award. That honors one facility among several hundred accredited by the commission for its “outstanding quality, innovation and dedication.”

Among the criteria surveyed for the award were the jail’s group help on mental health, suicide prevention program, and access by all inmates to medical and mental health providers.

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care singled out the Atlantic County jail’s partnership that “provides on-site medication-assisted treatment, along with counseling and linkage to continued treatment upon release” for addicted inmates, while the “comprehensive reentry program provides assistance with housing, health insurance and case management services.”

The Brooks Center and the jail set up the state’s first program to provide medicated-assisted treatment to inmates. That provides addicts with medications that reduce the symptoms of drug withdrawal and block the euphoria of opioids.

In 2018, then-state Commissioner of Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal visited the Brooks Center and the mobile treatment center used to take services to inmates. He said the medication-assisted treatment had “a striking 91%” completion rate, compared to about half for other methods. Then 80% to 90% of the program’s inmates are linked to outpatient treatment and support services upon release.

The county jail program provided a model for a $1.7 million New Jersey pilot program to bring medication-assisted treatment to multiple counties. Then last year, state Commissioner of Human Services Carole Johnson came to the Pleasantville center to announce $8 million in funding to provide such treatment at all county jails.

It’s great to see Warden David Kelsey and his staff at the Atlantic County Justice Facility, and their partners at the John Brooks Recovery Center, getting national recognition for their efforts. It’s even better to see them advance methods to help counter some of the damages of the opioid crisis.

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