A year after the Buncombe County Detention Facility expanded its medication-assisted treatment program, Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller says it’s time to put the successful service “in four-wheel drive.”
At the Tuesday, Feb. 16, meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, members will vote to accept an additional $1.75 million grant for the Safety and Justice Challenge from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
A statewide mandate has prompted COVID-19 testing for all incarcerated individuals in state prisons, but local jails — Buncombe’s included — aren’t obligated to test everyone in custody. Instead, facilities have been directed to mitigate spread of the coronavirus through screening, isolation and social distancing.
“We’ve tried to arrest our way out of the drug epidemic for decades, and it hasn’t worked,” says Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller. Now, a new program at the Buncombe County Detention Facility is providing medication-assisted treatment to incarcerated people with substance-use disorder. Studies show MAT is an effective treatment for addiction, which can reduce recidivism and lower the risk of overdose.
Over the past month, local criminal justice officials have collaborated to reduce the number of people held at the Buncombe County Detention Facility by nearly 40%. Those efforts are aimed at helping limit the potential spread of COVID-19 among incarcerated people and community members.
Board chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferarra and member Amanda Edwards have placed a resolution endorsing the Sheriff’s Office’s use of MAT on the commission’s agenda for Tuesday, Aug. 20. The treatment is currently offered to the jail’s pregnant female inmates, but Buncombe officials hope to expand its availability to all incarcerated individuals.
Through medication-assisted treatment, inmates with opioid addiction could receive drugs such as naltrexone or buprenorphine, in conjunction with counseling and therapy, to help them avoid returning to dangerous substances such as heroin or fentanyl.
Buncombe County commissioners will vote during their regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 30, on a fund to boost access to early childhood education.
Female inmates at the Buncombe County Detention Facility are starting to outpace the space available for them. The trend could cost the county in fees associated with transferring prisoners if action isn’t taken.