Approximately 80-percent of the inmates in the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility in Flagler County, suffer from both a substance use and mental health disorder. Knowing that most inmates will eventually return to the community, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly has implemented training for his Detention Deputy’s so they can help rebuild inmates to become successful members of the community when they are released. And, it’s all done at no cost to the local taxpayer.
In partnership with the Opioid Response Network (ORN), the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) and C4 Innovations are delivering a two- phase training program to deputies working within the walls of the county jail. They are teaching a spring and fall training session to jail staff in order to provide education about addiction, its impact and to help them to be supportive to inmates in treatment programs during their recovery. The ORN was created courtesy of a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).
Overdoses in Central Florida and across the United States are at historic highs, up 190% since 2015. The most recent data from the CDC reflects 105,752 overdose deaths in the United States in a single year.
Opioids are Florida’s leading cause of overdose death. Approximately 70-percent of overdose deaths are a result of using a prescribed medication in non-prescribed ways.
Every month, the nation breaks the previous month’s record for overdoses. New synthetic drugs like street fentanyl have contributed to 78% of overdose deaths. Fentanyl, Heroin, Oxycodone, Morphine and Codeine are among the class of drugs known as opioids. Today, many of these illegal drugs are entering the United States from the southern border produced by the Mexican Cartels.
With the vast majority of county jail inmates eventually re-entering the community, Staly recognized this is a battle that impacts everyone. Recently approving C4 Innovations to provide the first phase of training to Detention Facility employees in a county jail classroom. Chief of Court and Detention Services Division Chief Dan Engert enlisted 44 Detention Deputies assigned to the county jail to participate in the two-and-a-half-hour training session.
“Training everyone who works with those facing addiction and recovery is a pivotal step in making a change for the individual and the community,” C4 Innovations Senior Advisor Allie Hunter said. C4 is one of more than 40 organizations that are part of the Opioid Response Network, working in all 50 states providing training and technical assistance in prevention, treatment and recovery on the local level.
Hunter, who has spent more than six years directly educating law enforcement in working with people with substance use disorders made the trip from her New England office to Northeast Florida to share the latest knowledge in this field with FCSO deputies and staff. “The trend seems to be towards programs like this, because this approach will reduce recidivism and reduce overdose deaths,” Hunter added. “Addiction is a disease that impacts everyone in some way, and the key is learning to approach it as more of a public health issue, giving officers and staff the tools to support people through recovery. The first step is understanding addiction and addressing stigma. This can no longer be an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality.”
Inside the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility, FCSO Court and Detention Services Chief Dan Engert says it’s all about putting a focus on the real problem. “Those of us working in detention settings are often right in the middle of an inmate’s intoxicated or withdrawal state,” Engert said. “They can be rude, aggressive and even violent. We are dealing with them face-to-face around the clock. Hopefully, they are willing and want to take the difficult road to recovery.”
As COVID saw addiction numbers climb to record levels over the past two years, Engert is working hard to make sure everyone under his command at the county jail realizes exactly what they are dealing with in 2022.
“Unique from many previous illicit drug problems in the U.S., the opioid crisis saw a large percentage of addictions born out of legitimate pain management strategies that were prescribed to them,” Engert said. “Training deputies to manage inmate behavior requires training them to know and understand the population they are entrusted to keep safe and secure. And they can’t do that if they don’t understand where those inmates are mentally and physically and how they got there. In many cases, these are individuals who’ve made bad choices and they have an addiction problem now.”
A second phase of this training is scheduled for this fall at the Detention Facility. This is a continuation of Sheriff Staly’s “S.M.A.R.T.” inmate program, Successful Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Treatment, which launched earlier this year. S.M.A.R.T. is funded by a $530,000 grant provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance Criminal Justice Mental Health Collaboration Program to fund an in-custody treatment program for inmates in the detention facility in Bunnell.
The ultimate goal of S.M.A.R.T. is to provide treatment services so they will improve their lives, the lives of their families, reduce recidivism, reduce overdoses and overdose deaths.
“The job of a deputy is difficult every day of the year,” Hunter added. “Working all day in such a challenging profession can emotionally impact you. However, with these kinds of programs in place, we find it often helps re-energize those who are directly impacted. It makes them feel even stronger about just how much the job they do truly matters.”
“When I was elected Sheriff in 2017, I quickly discovered there was virtually no rehabilitative programs in the county jail,” Sheriff Staly said. “While I believe in law and order and catching and locking-up the offenders, I also know that many have mental health and addiction issues and would just be repeat offenders without intervention so we went after state and federal grants to bring tax dollars back to Flagler County and offer our inmates the opportunity to change their life. I appreciate our various partners not only working to change inmate lives but also educating our Detention Deputies on the important roll they play in the overall process.”
Since 2017 Sheriff Staly has implemented numerous programs in the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility to provide inmates an opportunity to become productive citizens and not return to the jail. These programs include Homeward Bound, various technical certificate programs in partnership with Flagler Technical College, Inside-Out Dad, S.T.R.I.D.E., GED, AA, NA, Anger Management and numerous faith-based programs.