With at least four of five inmates struggling with addiction, Ohio’s prisons are beginning to look more like drug treatment centers, reports Gannett Ohio. Prisoners participate in group counseling sessions, visit with prison “alumni” who have remained sober after leaving incarceration, and enroll in Medicaid to help pay for counseling and medication-assisted treatment after they are released. Money from the state budget, $27.4 million through June 30, is paying for more counselors to treat addiction inside Ohio’s prisons, said Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. People addicted to drugs commit crimes like possessing drugs, selling drugs, stealing money or property to buy drugs and hurting others because they are under the influence of drugs.
Take away the compulsion for drugs and alcohol, and these lower-level offenders might not return to prison, says state correction director Gary Mohr. “What we're attempting to do is reduce crime victims out in Ohio,” he said. Before changes in July, Ohio prisons were releasing 8,000 to 9,000 people with serious addiction problems each year without treating half of them. Staying for less than six months? You weren’t eligible. Too many inmates on the waiting list? There wasn’t not enough staff to help. Now, people who will be released in three months can start counseling in prison and have their medical records sent to a halfway house when they leave. By signing released prisoners up for Medicaid, the insurance program might pay for medication-assisted treatment and counseling — a combination considered by many physicians to be the gold standard of treatment. “I can tell you right now we are going to be treating thousands of people that we weren't treating before,” Mohr said.