It’s a continuing irony: the Flagler County jail is the only residential treatment facility in Flagler County for drug-addicted men, and a rare location where they may get medically-assisted treatment, though that may be expanding soon through outpatient services in the county.
The Department of Justice may be noticing. After trying unsuccessfully in 2020 and 2021–though each time getting good advice in return for the next round–the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has secured a three-year, $1.3 million federal grant to widen the drug-treatment operation at the county jail called Successful Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Treatment, or “Smart.”
The grant, in its words, “provides necessary resources that allow communities to respond to illicit substance use and misuse to reduce overdose deaths; promote public safety; and support access to prevention, harm-reduction, treatment, and recovery services in the community and justice system. The program also promotes cross-system planning and coordination to deliver a broad range of evidence-based, culturally relevant interventions.”
Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5 percent from the 78,056 deaths reported during the same period the year before. There were 12 overdose deaths in Flagler in the first six months of this year.
The After two years of applications and coming close to receiving an award each time, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) has awarded FCSO almost $1,300,000 over the next three years to build upon its program to address substance abuse and mental illness among inmates in Flagler County.
The grant is issued by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. It will enable the Sheriff’s Office to hire an additional deputy sheriff specifically to support the treatment and addiction pod at the jail (and to provide transportation for individuals to support services once released), plus a clinician for re-entry therapy and a peer specialist for coordination and follow-up and funding to assist in obtaining housing for inmates after their stay in jail. The provider will be Epic Behavioral Services. “They have done a phenomenal job with us in the current operation at the jail,” Staly said.
The grant also provides for follow-ups after the inmates leave the jail, when it is at times more critical that supportive interventions ensure that the person does not fall back into using. A three-person team of doctoral-level researchers from the University of North Florida and Clemson University will evaluate how the Sheriff’s Office uses the grant money over the next three years.
Of medically-assisted treatment, he said: “It appears to be working. I know there’s pros and cons with it, but I can tell you with our Smart program–which he sees as the seed of what’s ahead—“our inmates that have either been in Smart currently or graduated and are out, we have a 70 percent success rate. It’s very high for offenders that tend to always repeat. The recidivism rate in a prison is huge, it’s probably opposite of what I just told you. So far, it’s tracking well.”
“Historically these types of grants go to bigger communities that have bigger problems, which to me is like throwing the money away because you can’t treat the volumes in these big counties and cities that you need to,” Staly said, “whereas in this county we believe we’re going to have a much greater impact overall.” Securing the grant is “an absolute testament to the innovative work we’re doing to provide evidence-based best practice solutions to improve inmate outcomes which, in turn, improves our community and helps inmates become productive citizens by kicking their addictions and addressing the mental health issues that got them in jail in the first place.”
Staly doesn’t see the jail’s Smart program as a substitute for needed treatment programs in the community, let alone as a reason for community leaders to lessen the pressure on fostering more treatment options, especially an in-patient facility. The only such facility in Flagler County is a small SMA Healthcare operation, Project Warm, at the Vince Carter Sanctuary near the jail. It’s only for young mothers.
At the Public Safety Coordinating Council meeting he chairs quarterly, Staly this morning announced that what had only in July been projected as a soon-to-be in-patient treatment facility in Bunnell will no longer be reality. That deal fell through. (See: “Hyped by Joe Mullins in July, Sale of Ex-Sheriff’s Building for Drug-Treatment Facility Collapses.”) The county, the Flagler Health Department, Flagler Cares and SMA Healthcare are all developing treatment options.
The jail “isn’t a place anyone wants to stay on a regular basis,” the sheriff’s Court and Detention Services Chief Dan Engert said. “Many of the people who cycle in and out of there battle serious demons which are often linked with drug addiction. This grant will help us help any inmate who wants to break the vicious cycle for good and get their life back on track. It should also lead to lower recidivism rates, which translates to a safer community for all who live, work or play in Flagler County.”