LIMA — Crime and heroin addiction go hand in hand.
So naturally, the recent explosion of its use has caused an increased workload on local county jails.
“It is as bad as anything we have seen,” said Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon. “There are some things that we can do that appear to be working, but it is still a major issue. We are not beating the problem yet.”
Heroin addicts coming to the Auglaize County Jail will be given every chance to be comfortable as possible. At the same time, their addiction will have to forego some other more conventional ways of treatment.
“We will try to help them come down from it,” Solomon said, “but we do not give them anything as an alternative.”
New inmates are screened for their health and well-being. They are assessed for the possibility of having overdosed.
“Our first concern is the health of the inmate,” said Auglaize County Jail Administrator Lisa Wright.
Solomon said sometimes they will know the history of the inmate, which helps in treatment. If needed, inmates will be administered vivitrol to help. Bismuth subsalicylates, such as Pepto-Bismol, can be given to the inmate to help with an upset stomach.
“We try to make them as comfortable as we possibly can,” Wright said.
In Allen County, Sheriff Sam Crish said that any treatment of an inmate for heroin or other opiate addiction will be decided by its staff of one doctor, three full-time nurses and several part-time nurses.
“If they are too ill, they go to the hospital first,” Crish said. “Any treatment that needs to be done has to come from the doctor, and we go by whatever he says, whatever it may be.”
In both counties, the safety of other inmates is taken into account as well. Adjustments are made to keep an inmate isolated if there is a potential for danger from withdrawal or other addiction-related problems. While incarcerated, both offer support groups, educational sessions and counseling.
“They often will tell us right away that there are going to be problems,” Crish said. “They tell us they are addicted and that they will get sick.”
There are still at times problems identifying the need. Wright said the problem has no common markers.
“They are 13 to 62, so there is no age to identify,” Wright said. “They come from all walks of life.”
Crish said that services are extended beyond an inmate’s time of incarceration. Inmates can ask for help getting a GED diploma in classrooms available while incarcerated. They are hooked up with any social services that may be available to them when they get out.
“A lot of that goes on behind the scenes,” Crish said. “We try to connect them with any resources that will make them successful on the outside.”
However, Crish said the addict has to want the help. Sometimes, they will not want help. Other times, they seek help until they are released and then don’t follow through.
“If they are not willing, there isn’t much we can do,” Crish said.
In a time of tightening budgets, jails also face financial constraints in helping inmates detoxify from heroin addiction. Solomon said they will continue to arrest both users and dealers, but said legislators need to take a closer look.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem,” Solomon said. “I don’t think a lot of people were listening as well as they should have when we first began discussing this problem five or six years ago. They are starting to now. They need to look at what can be done to address the problem.”
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter @LanceMihm.