The opioid crisis in correctional facilities – How connected treatment can help

by American City & County Contributor
Jan 03, 2018

By Daniel Stewart

Across the country, city and county leaders and law enforcement officials are leading the charge to discuss the opioid crisis and brainstorm how they can deliver appropriate services to inmates with addictions prior to their release to society. While correctional facilities around the country are trying to stem this epidemic by enhancing existing drug treatment services, high costs and remote locations deter all correctional facilities to physically bring a professional face-to-face on the enhanced basis some feel necessary. Yet, with new, advanced technology, inmates can receive treatment via video conferences.

Telehealth solution– Connected treatment technology

While the introduction of technology in the public safety sector has been around for years, the continued advancements allow for more insights than ever before. Specifically, technology gives police officers new analytics and data systems that offer a more in-depth view of where the majority of arrests are coming from based on a specific crime. When focusing on crime stemming from opioids and other drugs, agencies can direct their efforts to those targeted locations. And, as almost 50 percent of federal inmates are serving time for drug offenses, there is a large amount of data on drug-related crimes. This data allows for a better focus on how to create a smooth transition back into society that will better position inmate re-entry into these areas.

Part of creating a successful transition program for inmates leaving a correctional facility is using a telehealth solution known as connected treatment technology. Connected treatment technology can help correctional facilities offer services to inmates battling addiction from afar. By using secure video collaboration tools and video conferencing technology, incarceration facilities can provide inmates a secure connection to health professionals to help them through addiction treatments. As the topics are sensitive in nature, an embedded secure cloud-based call manager (CUCM) ensures private conversations remain secure.

The ease of use, ease of configuration and expected success of connected treatment services supports a more successful re-entry program. In fact, The National Sheriffs’ Association already has implemented their own secure network and made the service available to sheriffs nationwide.

Why connected treatment technology works

Connected treatment technology is changing how addicts receive treatment. While mandated medical services are delivered in correctional facilities, many worry that using another drug to help with addiction control can be harmful if not properly supported through the correct counseling. With connected treatment technology, correctional officers and inmates can be sure those who need support are receiving full treatment with enhanced counseling to provide a better therapeutic impact.

According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), 95 percent of incarcerated individuals that used drugs pre-incarceration are projected return to drug abuse after release from a correctional facility. With the offered technology, inmates can receive a more complete addiction treatment and education protocol about the disease, including how to maintain sobriety. The technology gives addiction-impacted inmates the benefit of working directly with professionals to help them understand their disease of addiction. It offers positive programming while cutting overall costs for the correctional facility, giving inmates a better chance to start fresh when released.

A step in the right direction

The introduction of connected treatment technology is a step in the right direction for other issues, such as psychiatric services for inmates. Using the same videoconferencing solutions, correctional facilities are now able to offer counseling for incarcerated individuals prior to re-entry into society to help lower recidivism rates. For example, two counties in upstate New York are already expanding their telehealth technology to include psychiatry and counseling services and re-entry programming, as sheriffs see success with the connected treatment solutions.

Connected treatment opens doors to conversations on how technology can continue to be implemented in additional correctional facilities to help incarcerated individuals nationwide.


Daniel Stewart is the senior justice advisor for Cisco.



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