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Avoiding Jail Time Strengthens Communities

The Gaston County Drug Diversion and Treatment Program is a new community initiative, piloted by Partners Health Management, providing high-risk individuals addicted to opioids and facing criminal charges the opportunity to receive comprehensive, community-based treatment instead of a jail sentence. The program mission emphasizes rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration and helps participants become successful and productive citizens.

This Drug Diversion and Treatment Program will improve lives by reducing substance use, increasing employability and economic status, increasing mental and physical health, and improving social and family functioning. These results, combined with reducing recidivism and crime, strengthen the community as a whole.

Those in the program will receive a combination of opioid replacement therapy with enhanced substance abuse disorder services, peer support services, sober housing, and help with meaningful employment. This approach will be individualized for those referred to the program by law enforcement or the courts because of high risk for incarceration and high motivation to avoid it.

In fiscal year 2016-2017, Partners will invest over $266,000 from its Medicaid Savings and Reinvestment funds to establish the long-term, structured intensive case management program by connecting community partners with a comprehensive substance use disorder service provider, Phoenix Counseling Center.

Program collaborators include:

  • Partners Health Management
  • Gaston County Police Department
  • City of Gastonia Police Department
  • Gaston County District Attorney’s Office
  • Gaston County Workforce Development
  • Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services
  • NC Department of Public Safety
  • Reinvestment In Communities (RIC) of Gaston County, Inc.
  • Phoenix Counseling Center
  • Gaston County Sheriff’s Office

Phoenix Counseling will begin providing services for the program immediately. Initially, the program will accommodate up to 16 adults between 19 and 35 years old. Six will live in a transition shelter and 10 will live in their homes. The program plan is to serve 48 people in fiscal year 2016-2017. Those voluntarily participating must finish the program or lose any other opportunities to participate in a diversion program. Those participants referred by the courts have three chances to complete the program. Failure may result in legal consequences.

Statistics guiding the need for this program are:

  • From 1999-2013, Gaston County had the third-highest number of heroin overdose deaths in North Carolina.
  • From 2014-2015, there was a 26% increase (161 to 203) in the number of overdose calls to Gaston County Police.
  • NC opioid-related ER visits rose 27%, from 2,840 in 2010 to 3,611 in 2014.
  • From 2010-2014, the number of heroin overdose ER visits rose from 213 to 1131—a 430% increase.
  • From 2008-2013, Gaston County’s heroin overdose rate was 9.2/100,000 residents.
  • Gaston County’s death rate from unintentional overdoses was 24/100,000 residents.
  • Gaston County data collected through hospitals, correctional facilities, and the domestic violence program indicate that 86% of male inmates, 50% of those in hospitals, and 90% of spousal abusers have a substance use disorder.
  • Approximately 18% of the Gaston County population is in active addiction.
  • Twenty-five percent of the 2013 Community Health Survey respondents confirmed that they use illegal drugs.

For more information about the Gaston County Drug Diversion and Treatment Program, please contact Barbara Hallisey, Associate Clinical Services Director for Partners Health Management, at BHallisey@partnersbhm.org or 704-842-6418.

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