Using jail space to treat inmates for addictions makes sense

The Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County is the entity tasked with finding solutions to the local drug crisis that has worsened with increasing opioid use. It has produced about 50 preliminary recommendations to tackle the problem.

One in particular that we support is turning an unused 120-bed portion of the Bartholomew County Jail into a drug treatment center for inmates.

Jeff Jones, executive lead of the alliance, said using the jail section as a drug treatment center capitalizes on a period of sobriety inmates have while incarcerated, and a time when they’re more likely to be receptive to treatment.

Because opioid addiction is increasing locally, the alliance hopes that the drug treatment center could open no later than 2019.

This idea makes sense for several reasons:

More treatment options are needed to reverse the trend of increasing opioid addiction. This provides one.

Focusing treatment on inmates helps a population that is struggling with drug addiction and is in great need of assistance.

Existing space in the jail that is unused is wasted. Converting the space into a drug treatment center makes good use of a local, taxpayer-funded resource.

The treatment center would be a positive step forward in the local battle against drug addiction and the problems it creates.

The alliance’s recommendation is good and sensible, but it requires the approval of three community leaders — Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop, Bartholomew County Commissioners chairman Carl Lienhoop and Columbus Regional Health President and CEO Jim Bickel — before it can be formally presented to the community.

And if it is to receive support from the Bartholomew County Council in its 2018 budget — for which discussions have begun — it needs the council’s approval soon.

Our hope is that the three community leaders and county council support turning the unused portion of the jail into a drug treatment center so that the community can take a step forward soon in providing solutions to the local drug-addiction problem.

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