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Tippecanoe Co. Law Enforcement Officials Propose Jail-Based Drug Treatment Program

Charlotte Tuggle

Tippecanoe County officials hope to start an addiction recovery program focusing on treating individuals while they’re in jail.

Inmates whose case is pending would apply to participate, then spend at least 90 days in a quarantined area where they’d receive intensive therapy, according to Dearborn County officials – who say their own such program has been a success.

West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski – who’s running for county sheriff in this year’s election -- has been an outspoken supporter of the strategy. He says the right approach to the opioid epidemic is enforcement, then treatment.

“It has to start where we have a dire audience – a dire need – and that’s in our jails, where we have people awaiting trial on drug charges and they’re detoxing, and they’re asking for solutions,” Dombkowski says. “We have to provide those programs toward those solutions.”

In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, participants receive life skills mentoring and group counseling, as well as attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Willowstone Family Services Executive Director Jenni Murtaugh says the program would be an important piece of a larger network focused on the problem.

For example, her organization works with families of offenders, who often experience recurring trauma regarding substance abuse.

“That then increases their propensity to turn to substances,” Murtaugh says. “And we could maybe prevent or intervene in some of those circumstances by helping them to process their own trauma.”

Tippecanoe County Sheriff Barry Richard -- who's running for re-election against one of his deputies and Dombkowski -- says he would be in favor of adding it to the jail’s existing programs, as a means of to reducing recidivism. 

“We would hope to get some seed resources, some seed money to allow us to be able to bring in additional counseling programs and add that to what we’ve got to be able to make all the components of the program work together,” Richard says.

Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington -- who's also seeking another term in office this fall -- says after the so-called Jail Chemical Addiction Program has been completed, an inmate’s drug charges might even be expunged or eventually dismissed – so their felony drug charge doesn’t stop them from being able to get a job when they’re released.

“There’s many ways that the prosecutor can work that out so a person does have an opportunity,” Harrington says. “Because obviously, it doesn’t make sense if they go through the program, they’re successful but now they can’t get a job because of that reason.”

Harrington says county commissioners must determine how much the county can spend on constructing a separate community corrections building to house the program.

Dearborn County’s version of the program is largely paid for by grant funding, court fees and money from the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

Details of how the program would be adapted to Tippecanoe County or how it would be paid for are still unclear.

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