By Nicole Leonard
MAYS LANDING — One by one, inmates at the Atlantic County jail made their way outside in a secured area on a recent Wednesday and stepped into a bus from the John Brooks Recovery Center for their daily dose of methadone.
The inmates are the first in the state to get methadone, a medication to assist treatment for opioid addiction, from a mobile service while behind bars. The jail and recovery center teamed up for the state’s pilot program to bridge the gap in services for incarcerated addicts.
“This is a cause near and dear to my heart,” said Geraldine Cohen, jail warden. “My son has been in recovery for 13 years with help from methadone. He’s now got a really good job, bought a house and is getting married. Hopefully, we can help more people like my son with this program.”
The mobile methadone clinic, managed by the John Brooks center and staffed with experts from the center, county jail and Jewish Family Service, is intended to treat pregnant women abusing opioids or on methadone, any inmate already using methadone, and addicted people at high risk of recidivism.
The program currently provides medication treatment for about 11 people. Alan Oberman, center director, expects to enroll as many as 50 inmates at a time in the program in the near future.
“We know the program will reduce the chance of an overdose once they get out,” Oberman said. “One of the most at-risk populations for overdoses is recently incarcerated people. Their tolerance for the drug drops after they are clean in jail for a period of time, so if they use when they get out, they are likely to overdose.”