People incarcerated at the Marion County Jail can now receive medication to treat opioid addiction and go through withdrawals safely while in custody.
Ideal Option, a private medication-assisted treatment center with a Salem clinic, started its treatment at the jail in early January through a contract with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
The program is paid for with a $924,000 state grant, which expires at the end of the year, according to Oregon Health Authority spokesman Tim Heider. The money comes from Measure 110 funding, the voter-approved ballot measure from 2020 which decriminalized user quantities of illegal drugs and directed part of the state’s marijuana tax revenue toward expanding addiction treatment services.
Josh Lair, the Salem-based community outreach coordinator for Ideal Option, said a mentor at his clinic works with those being treated in jail to arrange continued treatment once they are released.
Lair said the medication-assisted treatment will help prevent people addicted to opiates from seeking drugs when they are released to overcome their withdrawal symptoms. Such a move can be fatal because their tolerance for drugs diminishes while people are in jail.
“Basically, ‘Is this going to kill me or not?’ You pull the trigger, and either the bullet fires or it doesn’t, and that’s literally what people are doing. If they are in custody and go back to using the same amount of any of it, that could take their life,” Lair said.
The sheriff’s office, which must operate the jail under state law, has never had a medication-assisted treatment program for people in custody, according to Sheriff’s Sgt. Don Parise.
Ideal Option’s Salem clinic opened in April 2020. The clinic provides same-day prescriptions for medication to people transitioning off illegal drugs and uses treatment that minimizes the time people have to spend in withdrawal before getting help.
Around 30 people were participating in the jail’s medication-assisted treatment program as of Jan. 31, Parise said.
“Individuals that struggle with substance use, they’re still a part of our community,” Lair said. “They’re not outliers. They’re not this other class of people, they’re still human beings that live within our community.”
The clinic will primarily use Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addictions, for its jail treatments.
Lair said Ideal Option hired two registered nurses for the jail program, and a nurse practitioner from the Salem clinic is going to the jail “a couple of times a week.”
He said it was ultimately Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast’s decision to offer the medication-assisted treatment at the jail.
“This is cutting edge, because not everybody’s doing this,” Lair said. “He’s taking a huge leap of faith in doing this.”
Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.
SUBSCRIBE TO GET SALEM NEWS – We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more. Click I want to subscribe!
Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.