Ohio makes changes to help prisoners with drug addictions

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) Ohio’s new 71 billion dollar budget includes a change aimed at helping prisoners get clean from drugs.

It’s no surprise; alcohol and drugs lead to crime and crime leads to people going to prison. But the state wants to put a big kink in that chain and the new budget has measures in place to do that.

“Every single one of these individuals is somebody’s son or daughter,” said Ohio’s Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Tracy Plouck.

Thousands of people behind prison walls in Ohio got there with the help of one thing.. Addiction.

Alcohol and drugs such as heroin and opiates plague the state and now Ohio leaders are doing more to help get them clean starting inside the prisons.

“We’ll be able to connect more offenders with treatment…particularly people who are non-violent and serving sentences of about 18 months or less,” said Plouck.

Tracy Plouck is the director of MHAS. She tells us as of this month, The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections will no longer be running the addiction recovery services in state prisons. Mental Health and Addictions Services is taking over.

“We are really trying to focus on how we can make more consistent, the individuals experience as they are moving from treatment inside the walls to treatment in the community,” said Plouck.

It’s a project that is expected to cost 61 million dollars over the next two years, but even thought that might be sticker shock to some, Plouck says the project will end up saving tax payers by keeping prisoners from re-offending.

“By reducing the state’s overall recidivism rate, we are actually reducing cost to the taxpayer in the long term, because we are seeing fewer people who are incarcerated for crimes that could be avoided because the root cause..their addiction..why they might have committed the property crime or drug offense in the first place is no longer occurring,” said Plouck.

She adds another big issue they hope to help with is getting these prisoners jobs once they are released. She said it can be difficult with felonies on their records, but a portion of this project is going to help fund more resources.

From Ohio’s Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services and Rehabilitation and Corrections:

– Goal is a seamless continuum of care that includes treating more people behind the prison walls, as well as connections to care upon release, use of medication assisted treatment when appropriate, and access to housing and other recovery supports.

-The change includes a transfer of responsibility to OhioMHAS from DRC for the treatment and supports of inmates with substance disorders both in correctional setting and following release.

Budget details:

-Transfer current $12.5 million addiction treatment budget from DRC to MHAS. This budget largely consists of personnel who will become employees of OhioMHAS.

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