RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Washoe County Sheriff's Office says it's trying to boost the state's efforts to reduce deaths from opioid overdoes by providing jail inmates with drug education and anti-overdose drugs as they are released.
Sheriff Darren Balaam says the program, announced Wednesday, also supports the office's goals of reducing recidivism and increasing public safety by attempting to treat drug abuse as one of the core causes of crime.
“Individuals involved in the criminal justice system are one population that has an increased rate of opioid overdose deaths," said Dr. Stephanie Woodard, a senior advisor on behavioral health for the Nevada Department of Health. "And they often times don’t have the same rate of treatment available to them that would be necessary for recovery.”
The Sheriff's Office says it is paying for the program with federal funding from the Nevada State Opioid Targeted Response Grant.
The program includes education for selected inmates, as well as Naloxone kits upon release, which are safe, non-addictive treatments for opioid overdose.
A poor response to the opioid crisis can actually cost the state more money in crime related costs, according to Sheriff Balaam.
"What we see is the low misdemeanor crimes, non-violent individuals – the addicts - that are going out and just doing vehicle burglaries and other minor offenses," said Sheriff Balaam. "It causes a financial burden to those victims and our community.”
Authorities are also starting to notice that incarceration isn't enough to fully rehabilitate offenders.
"Straightforward incarceration does not work because what you’re not getting at are the driving factors that lead sometime to a lot of the crimes they’re committing as a result of poverty or a substance abuse disorder," said Dr. Stephanie Woodward.
Over 400 individuals died of an opioid overdose in 2017, according to statistics provided by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Heroin in particular was deadly, as the number of overdose deaths from heroin have increased from 19 in 2010 to 92 in 2017.