Unfortunately, no substance abuse treatment program with a 100% success rate exists. Each and every treatment facility tries its absolute best to turn drug addicts asking for help into sober people helping themselves. Plus, success in the treatment industry means long-term sobriety for patients, years and years after the program itself is over. Short of someone literally spending the rest of his or her life in a facility, the success of a treatment eventually depends on the person being treated.
Relapse rates for recovering addicts from all types of substances are sadly rather high. Addiction is a disease, a difficult one to beat, and even with top-notch professional treatment not every addict would remain sober. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the average relapse rate for recovering addicts in America is between 40% and 60%. It might be easy to hear this and think these people are just giving up because they want to do drugs. Well, consider the caption below.
The relapse rate for drug addiction, a disease, is similar to the relapse rate of diabetes and asthma. Do you think diabetics that recover choose to become diabetic again? Once you truly realize drug addiction for the disease that it is, you begin to understand how hard it can be to beat, regardless of willpower.
That’s why treatment facilities exist. They serve to combat the vicious disease of addiction using research-based methods and medicines. According to the NIH, the success rate of inpatient treatment is approximately 21% and for outpatient treatment, the rate is 18%. That doesn’t mean rehab doesn’t work. That just means addiction is one hell of a disease to fight.
Morgan County’s Residential Substance Abuse Program (RSAP)
What if I told you there was a ‘treatment facility’ in Indiana with an astounding 72% success rate? What if I added that it was located in a county with a relapse rate even higher than the national average? What if I told you it was in a jail?
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office offers a program called RSAP, (see subtitle), and has for nearly three years. Approximately 100 inmates participate each year, meaning with the success rate that approximately 72 inmates completely better their lives through the program. There is no flashy website. RSAP is entirely funded by grants – no taxpayer money. What exactly is it? Directly from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office website itself:
“RSAP is a specialized intensive therapeutic community designed to treat offenders with severe drug addictions. The program is 90 days of intensive cognitive behavioral, evidenced based best practice counseling. Clients are exposed to up to 12-15 hours each day of programming to specifically assist the client to recover from the addiction, build social skills acceptable in society as well as job interviewing skills to help with their employment. Further, the clients work on peer and personal relationship skills to better assist in their recovery when released to their respective communities.”
While all of the respect in the world goes to Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, there are some things their own description leaves out, rather modestly.
There are no deals made for reduced sentences in exchange for program participation. Spiritual advice is offered, if desired. Participants are taught conflict resolution, employment skills, and parenting skills. Perhaps best yet is what the program offers for participants after they are done with jail. In the words of Morgan County Jail Commander David Rogers: “House bill 1269 allows us to now file for Medicaid benefits before they leave jail that way we can continue care outside the facilities in hopes that they don’t go come back to jail and go back to the environment they were used to and comfortable with.”
It’s one thing to read about the raw data. It’s another thing to read about some real life situations.
Setting Out to Change Lives
Tarrant Cares is a Texas-based online service that offers free information on resolving just about any issue you could think of, from veterans to prenatal, from domestic violence to ex-offender reentry. One of the sub-sections of Tarrant Cares is called Community Corrections. Morgan County Jail partnered with Community Corrections to launch RSAP. On the Tarrant Cares website, in May of last year, an article was published honoring who were then the first RSAP graduates.
The article talks about the very first run of the program, one that only included twenty-four participants. All of the kinks were being worked out, so to speak. Still, lives were changed. Only one of the participants was named in the article, Bran Lester, who said, “It’s been a long road for me, but I made a decision to get clean and start giving back to my community. I want to make it great again.” RSAP not only sobered Bran up, it inspired him to perform charity.
Another unnamed participant thanked spirituality in part for his recovery, saying, “Thanks for sharing your spirituality with us and for teaching God’s word to us. I can say to myself that if God is against it, so am I.” He thanked the jail in his speech at the ceremony where graduates received their honors.
Still Changing Lives
A year and a half later, WTHR, an Indiana-based subsidiary of NBC, published an extensive article on the Morgan County RSAP program. This was just last month. It seems any kinks that may have existed before have definitely been worked out.
More strong (and more recent) words came from Jail Commander Rogers: “It’s the only program I have that’s a non-time cut program that I have inmates that want to be here. I would say at least 80 percent of our population wants to participate in this program.” This writer has never been to jail, but it’s likely tough to get people to participate in in-house programs, let alone want to.
To get more up close and personal, let’s take a glance at the story of Stephanie Bennett, detailed in the above-linked article. Drinking and smoking pot in high school led to doing cocaine and ecstasy in college, which led to an adulthood meth and prescription pill addiction. A couple of years ago she was arrested on felony charges and placed in Morgan County Jail. Bennett graduated from RSAP, and was a new person. She told WTHR in plain English, saying, “Getting arrested and coming to jail saved my life.”
It did even more than that. Bennett graduated from Ivy Tech and is attending Indiana Wesleyan soon, to become an addiction counselor! She also loves being able to be an active mother again. “My heart feels so full afterwards. It’s so much better than any high any drug could ever give me, being able to help other people and be here with my kids. I’m here for them. They have their mom.”
More inmates than Stephanie Bennett spoke up to WTHR. Jonathan Critser said, “I’m here and this is working.” Brooke Martin, through tears, said that her teenage child would have been motherless without the program, adding, “Had the commander not approved me for RSAP, I would have went right back out and done the same things again.” Brandon Eggers said the program gave him life. David Sturgell said, “The odds are against us when we walk out them doors, and anything that I can do to even them odds, I’m game to learn.”
Morgan County Jail inmates are perhaps blessed to have Gus Matthias as the RSAP coordinator. A previous addict with 29 years of sobriety under his belt, he defines tough love. “We don’t take any guff. We don’t allow any attitudes. Acceptance is the answer to all problems. Then we work on attitude and behaviors, thinking errors, character defects, so it’s not just about not using… it’s about what it takes to be not using.”
Maybe it’s the success rate. Maybe it’s Matthias. Maybe it’s Commander Rogers. Whatever it is, RSAP’s reach and power doesn’t stop here. Graduates of the program, after they are free from jail, tend to return to Morgan County Jail in order to help with inmates currently in the program. This is amazing. Josh Claywell and Holly Jones are just two examples of those who have graduated from RSAP only to come back as a volunteer. Claywell: “I come back in here to show these guys that there is hope out there.” Jones: “My passion is to help these women not make the mistakes I made. They have all the opportunities and all these people standing behind them, working with them, fighting for them.”
Beyond Helping Addicts
As a quick sidebar of sorts, it’s important to mention the ripple effects RSAP has had on Morgan County Jail. Both Clark County and Monroe County adopted the RSAP program once county officials noticed the success. Overcrowding at Morgan County has been helped due to the program. Also, inmates are generally behaving better, hoping for a shot at being an RSAP graduate and sobering up.
Also, because the entire program is funded by grants and not tax dollars, the jail is noticing a larger budget, ultimately meaning a better environment for all. Fighting is down. A sense of camaraderie is about. Inmates are trying to get into RSAP like kids vying for a better spot in line for a ride at Disney, doing whatever they can to be chosen for entry.
At this time, several states have adopted an RSAP program, including Georgia, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Hopefully this trend continues. One jail in central Indiana may have changed for better the way correctional facilities handle the recovery of their addicted inmates.
There’s a good chance RSAP would have started before the end of 2015 if House Bill 1006 was passed sooner than it was. In the words of Jail Commander Rogers, during the primitive stages of RSAP: “That bill basically allows the DOC [Department of Correction] to start sending F6 felons, which is the O.D. felon system, back to the county jails instead of taking them to the prison, therefore, saving the prison some money on housing. Some of those savings were diverted back to the counties local levels so we’re paying for it under grants under the DOC.”
Doesn’t it always come down to money?
Regardless, the RSAP program has been spreading. Morgan County was the first to use the program, but many other Indiana law enforcement agencies are now using it too. This is a good thing, considering the program’s success rate is more than triple that of a professional treatment center for non-inmates.
According to the previously referenced WTHR article, the reporter asked a room full of inmates if they were glad to be in jail. Apparently every hand shot up. There are countless programs within correctional facilities geared toward helping addicts recover as opposed to simply criminalizing them. However, RSAP seems to have set the bar. With a hard-to-even-believe success rate, graduates who come back after to volunteer, and the way inmates are fighting to get in, RSAP is the new golden standard of inmate addiction recovery.