Community

County leaders introduce new heroin program

by Robin Gee

erase addictionA new program designed to fight heroin addiction will begin at the Campbell County Detention Center. The program will engage community service programs as partners in supporting users in their efforts to kick the drug.

A new jail addition allows officials the room to try the new program that will initially target women who have been arrested for heroin-related crimes. The women will be given services while incarcerated, but these services will not stop once the sentence is served. Participants will work with the county for about six months, but will continue upon release with the Brighton Center or a similar agency for additional treatment.

Campbell County Executive Judge Steve Pendery has been visiting municipalities in the county over the past few months, stopping at Bellevue in January and Dayton in February to explain the new program.

Ending physical dependency on heroin, he explained, can take much longer than a few months of jail treatment, so the approach includes up to two years of additional services.

Cooperation is vital in dealing with the heroin issue across Northern Kentucky, Pendery said. The county jail expansion brings capacity to almost 700 beds, about half of which are filled with people there for heroin-related crimes.

Some sobering statistics shared by the county executive: Sixty to eighty percent of those in the Campbell County jail are there for drug and alcohol problems. In Northern Kentucky about 4,000 people are being medically treated for heroin, close to 9,000 are addicted to heroin and, if you include other opiate addictions, that number is closer to 25,000 people.

Despite best efforts, the problem has not been addressed, he said. Last year, St. Elizabeth Hospital reported overdoses were up by 35 percent over the previous year

The county will watch the women carefully to make adjustments as needed to the program. If success can be achieved, the goal is to increase the number of women being treated and eventually to expand to include men. Kenton County has initiated a similar program aimed at male prisoners.

The problem is widespread, even in our community, said Pendery. At a similar meeting in Fort Thomas he warned, “We’re not immune to this here. This epidemic is striking people all across the board, male and female, all ages, all income groups. This is not something that is happening some place else.”

photo credit: “addiction” by Alan Cleaver through Creative Commons license.

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