SUNBURY — Grant money received from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) for treatment and assimilation of inmates with opioid addictions back into society were a topic of discussion at the Northumberland County Jail’s monthly board meeting Wednesday.
The Vivitrol and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) grant money provides a combined total of about $400,000 worth of state funding toward the cost of administering the drug Vivitrol, which reduces opioid dependencies by suppressing the highs associated with them, and related community-based treatment and support mechanisms for non-Medicaid eligible offenders who are diagnosed as opioid-dependent and under court jurisdiction.
The funds may be used to initiate treatment of inmates prior to release from incarceration in order to ensure engagement and continuity of care upon release back into the community.
The Vivitrol grant encompasses counseling for inmates through a voluntary program, in which they receive an injection of the drug Vivitrol prior to leaving the facility and one thereafter every 28 days, according to Tim Heitzman, chief probation officer at the prison.
“Our Vivitrol program has been rolling for three months now and we’ve provided education to our inmates. Currently we have two individuals who are being monitored in the community,” Heitzman said. “This is a stepped process and we’d like to get them to have one injection 30 days prior to their release and a second two days prior. A case manager coordinates their continued injections as part of their re-entry process.”
Both Heitzman and prison Warden Bruce Kovach cited ongoing efforts by the county to improve communications and knowledge-sharing between departments, which they believe has helped solve problems collectively and more thoroughly.
“Before, everything was highly compartmentalized,” Kovach said. “Today, we’re working together to help them (the inmates) make a successful transition.”
Heitzman agreed: “Our county managers now work more closely together in helping each other to provide solutions. The better our re-entry program is, the better off they’re going to be in assimilating back into the community.”
Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano spoke optimistically of the coordinated effort.
“Hopefully, with the addition of this money to the program, it will help relieve some of the recurrence of having them return back to jail, which helps reduce our overall inmate population. We really appreciate all the hard work of our courts, probation office, COs and warden in obtaining the money, which is being put to good use,” he said.
Northumberland County president judge and chairman of the prison board, Charles H. Saylor, said he is in favor of keeping the jail running efficiently and not exceeding its maximum capacity.
“The warden informed me that our maximum capacity at (the jail) is currently 284 and there were a few days when he said that there were 289 inmates. Right now, we’re housing 29 inmates from other counties — 20 from Schuylkill County, seven from Union County and two from Snyder County,” he said.
The current inmate population at the jail is 279. Over the course of the past month, the highest population was 296 on Oct. 29 and the lowest was 273 on Oct. 15.
Fran Ruzicka, of Sunbury, expressed her concerns over an alleged incident that occurred on Oct. 22 involving one prison employee carrying out an unprovoked attack upon another.
“What is the county’s policy toward employee misconduct and what is being done about this incident?” she asked.
NCJ generated a total of $42,022.54 in revenue for the month of October, with two new hires and four resignations. A total of $36,103.85 was paid in overtime for the last pay period ending Oct. 31.