July 13, 2021
BATH, NY – Statement From Steube County Manager Jack Wheeler:
Efforts at the Steuben County Jail to assist inmates’ recovery from addictions received a serious setback during the past 1.5 years, county Sheriff Jim Allard said Monday. During Allard’s report to the county Legislature’s Public Safety and Corrections Committee on his department’s goals, he said the jail’s program had successfully aimed at evaluation, daily counseling and recovery follow-throughs. However, the state’s pre-bail reform law and COVID-19 restrictions put many of the recovery efforts on hold, he said. And a new unfunded bill shifting the cost of medical treatment onto county jails could only add more challenges to an already-hobbled effort at the jail, he warned.
The jail’s recovery program consisted of low-level and often first-time narcotics offenders receiving inmate assessments, and group and individual addiction counseling sessions, Allard said. A multi-disciplinary team evaluated all inmate releases to create a success plan for the inmate in which they received continued treatment and housing necessary to maintain recovery, he said. “Now, post-bail reform means all drug charges except an A1 Felony of trafficking over $75,000 are mandatorily arraigned and released.” Allard told the committee. “The population we were treating before bail reform no longer has that opportunity.”
Restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic meant the jail was closed to all visitors and non-mandatory programs, such as the jail’s addiction treatment program, he added. Since the state has lifted the restrictions, a vaccinated treatment provider has resumed group counseling, he said. Allard warned the committee a bill awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature will require county jails to assist in the medical treatment of persons addicted to opiates. Annual estimated costs to the county could go as high as $75,000 in prescriptions alone, he said. So far the bill does not contain any financial assistance, he said. Despite the setbacks in combatting opioid addiction in the county, Allard gave high praise to the county Mental Health team working with inmates. “The team has delivered outstanding treatment and counseling to our inmates,” he told the committee. “We remain committed to teaming with them to provide our best chance at helping our addicted inmates achieve recovery.”