Forsyth County DA creates program to help inmates fight addiction, transition without relapsing

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- After hearing from concerned community members and families of inmates, the Forsyth County District Attorney and Clerk of Superior Court sat down one year ago to figure out what can be done to fix the addiction problem in our community.

In just over a month, they are hoping to start a first of its kind program to help inmates dealing with addition to things like opioids, other drugs and alcohol at the Forsyth County Detention Center.

“Right now over at our Forsyth County Detention Center probably more than 50 percent of people over there suffer from some mental health issues or addiction issues,” District Attorney Jim O’Neill said.

“Drug and alcohol and other issues are usually in all crimes,” said Susan Frye, the clerk of superior court.

Frye has seen how addiction has impacted people inside the jail and outside of it.

“I have two friends who have lost their children to this heroin problem,” Frye said.

Frye and O’Neill teamed up with a number of organizations and departments that work with inmates or addicts. The group came up with the District Attorney’s Treatment Alternatives program, also called DATA.

DATA allows inmates, who committed low-level crimes, are seeking help and pass a drug screening, access to a non-narcotic drug called Vivitrol to block their addiction.

“We believe in this program,” O’Neill said. “We believe it gives us a chance to make a dent in a really terrible addiction, in a really terrible problem that is eating our community alive.”

O’Neill believes the program could help reduce the inmate population, decrease the amount of time first responders spend on these types of calls and create a safer community.

After receiving the monthly shot of Vivitrol and leaving jail, inmates in the program will be evaluated and sent to partnering organizations, like the Addiction Recovery Care Association Inc., for treatment.

“I think it's life-saving,” said Darrell Boyles, the special projects manger for ARCA. “I think it is imperative that we do this.”

Forsyth County commissioners already allotted $200,000 to the program. On Aug. 2, they will vote on how exactly they plan to administer that money.

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