TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sixteen people die each day in Florida from opioids. To combat the problem, the state has been increasing funding for drug-assisted treatments for addicted prisoners.
The treatments are aimed at keeping addicts out of prison and giving them a second shot at life.
Opioid addicts often turn to crime to support their habit. Chief Kimberley Petersen, of the Leon County Sheriff's Office, estimates that eight out of 10 prisoners are addicted.
"It may not be a charge they currently have, but they're dealing or they're using some some type of illegal drug," she said.
One new method being used by jails and prisons to combat the problem is a drug called Vivitrol.
"It's strictly an opioid blocker. It reduces cravings and, also, if you use you don't get high because the medication itself has a higher affinity to your opioid receptor," said Patrick Lane, a nurse and counselor at DISC Village.
Taxpayers are spending more than $1,600 a month to keep someone in prison. Treating that same person with Vivitrol costs just $900 a month and could keep them clean and out of the prison system.
To receive treatment, addicts also have to agree to receive counseling. Former addict turned advocate Freda King said that Vivitrol can help an addict through the first stages of getting off opioids, but counseling is what will help them stay clean.
"When my son was killed in Afghanistan, I was 10 years sober. If I didn't still work the plan that was implemented in 2000, I could have relapsed," King said.
While the Vivitrol program is just getting started in the state capital, Petersen is hoping other facilities around the state will follow the lead of those looking for alternative ways to combat the opioid crisis.
"You know we're no longer just throwing people behind bars and locking the doors and walking away from them," Petersen said. "We're trying to help them to take the next step in the right direction to better themselves."
State funding for drug-assisted treatment of opioid addicts got a $3 million boost this past session, making it possible for more correctional facilities to implement similar programs.
The state first began funding drug-assisted treatment for opioid addicts in 2014. The budget this year was more than $10 million.