FREEHOLD, NJ — A new public-private partnership that offers drug counseling and treatment services to inmates battling addiction has been launched in Monmouth County.

The first program of its kind in New Jersey, Next Step was recently unveiled at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, where addicted inmates charged with nonviolent crimes will be counseled by substance abuse recovery specialists before they are released awaiting trial.

 “This is a new and progressive approach which will lead the way when it comes to addressing addiction and the high rate of recidivism from drug-related crimes,” said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden. “Next Step allows substance abuse recovery specialists and clinicians to work inside the Monmouth County Correctional Institution and provide a treatment plan and recovery for inmates upon release, who, would otherwise end up on the streets, with no direction or necessary services.”

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Golden’s comment comes in light of statewide bail reform that took effect in 2017, which has resulted in an increased number of addicted inmates being released into the community without having to post bail, but also without a plan for drug treatment.

Under the Next Step program, the sheriff’s office is partnering with Lifeline Recovery Support Services and New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC), whose certified recovery specialists will counsel inmates selected by the corrections staff. They will provide registration for Medicaid, health care, legal services, referrals to sober structure housing, workplace training and employment, and addiction treatment referrals.

If an inmate is recommended for detoxification and/or treatment, recovery specialists can have the inmate assessed and transferred to an approved treatment facility immediately, if possible.

Inmates who qualify for the Next Step program includes those who are charged with drug and drunken driving offenses. Sentenced inmates, fugitives, individuals charged with first- and second-degree offenses, child abuse and child support payments will not be considered.

According to a recent published report in the American Journal of Public Health, incarcerated individuals with substance abuse disorders are among the highest at risk populations for drug overdose deaths when released from jail without a recovery support plan. In New Jersey, an estimated 76 percent of individuals booked into New Jersey county correctional facilities have a substance abuse disorder.

“The opioid crisis is a constant battle — one that necessarily requires dedicated partners and innovative ideas,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni. “Our office’s Opioids Diversion Program — a first of its kind — has shown success in steering low-level, nonviolent offenders suffering from addiction towards life-saving treatment. 

“This Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office initiative helps further the reach of our diversion efforts by giving recovery specialists immediate access to those struggling from addiction within hours of their being detained at MCCI,” Gramiccioni said. “Being arrested and sent to jail for a crime is often a person’s lowest point, but also happens to be one of the best opportunities to convince them to accept necessary drug treatment."

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