Cost. Scale. Staffing.
The usual — practical — reasons are given for not instituting medication-assisted treatment programs in local jails for inmates addicted to opioids.
But there’s more to it than simple math or hiring struggles.
And that’s what’s bothering us.
Time for crime is what we sign up for in our country — not the willful pile-on of extra-punishing measures, depending on where you land in jail.
Inmates in Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Antrim county jails do not have access to MAT. Leelanau County Jail inmates will, and Benzie County Jail inmates, do.
There is no overriding federal mandate to provide MAT; Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy prohibits using federal funds for services provided to inmates of a public institution.
How you detox depends on where you’re jailed, and the underlying philosophies held by decision-makers. Not science. Not best practice. Not even widely-held notions of humane treatment.
We grant that MAT isn’t the best choice for everyone. People need the addiction treatment tools that suit them best. We understand law enforcement’s concerns about drug misuse and believe that any MAT program — like the pilot program in St. Clair with 12 inmates — needs to be closely regulated with these issues in mind.
We also grant that time often changes our perspectives, and we leave the door open for science to discover a better way.
But right now MAT is a humane and effective way to wean people off of opioids.
Humane treatment does not magically transform a jail into a Westin Hotel. Cold turkey detox is a far cry from mints on a pillow.
The practical realities are these:
The opioid epidemic has reached drastic proportions, as has the mental health crisis. Both issues are highways into the penal system, especially when systemic help and speed bumps are few and far between.
While we may not want the jails to be addiction treatment hospitals or mental health institutions, practical realities say something else.
Progress has been made on the mental health front. Let’s not stop there, especially as addictions and mental illness often co-exist, and Harm Reduction experts believe it will impact the number of suicide attempts in our jails.
We can’t use practical arguments to explain irrational hang-ups. Especially when science over time shows something else.
Let’s take a practical look at MAT.