HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico's sheriff is finding success with a program to help inmates struggling with addiction to heroin and opioids. Not only are inmates treated for the physical and mental signs of addiction, they also get the tools necessary to avoid returning to prison.
That means being put to work.
Behind bars, there are hundreds of Henrico inmates addicted to heroin or opioid painkillers. One of them is Breanna Ash, a military wife and mother of three children.
"I was taking pills every three hours, just to be able to function," says Ash. "Nobody knew. That's how well I kept it a secret."
Ash says after she was diagnosed with Lupus, a doctor prescribed percocet. She says when the prescription ran out, she turned to buying pills on the street to feed her addiction. She was arrested for the first time when she was 26 years old.
"It comes, and it kills and it destroys and it tears families apart," she said about her addiction.
John Novak has been in and out of jail since he was a teenager. He's been battling a heroin addiction for more than 10 years.
"I was 19 the first time I tried it, and it became a daily thing when I was like 21, 22," says Novak.
Two very different paths to addiction for an epidemic plaguing every community. Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade says so far this year, 500 inmates have been put through detox. He predicts that number will rise to 1,600 by the end of the year.
That's why he started an rehabilitation program called ORBIT, or Opiate Recovery by Intensive Tracking.
"I really believe we're saving people's lives," says Sheriff Wade.
There are four phases, starting with an intense recovery program. Then the inmate are put to work.
Novak works with a crew to repaint a stage. He hopes to get a full-time job doing this when he goes on work release. Other jobs include landscaping or cleaning.
"This gradually gives them stepping-down ability, through the different phases, to gain control back in their life," says Wade.
The inmates in the ORBIT program work towards a life outside the jail, which includes getting a job. The sheriff says they must be on electronic monitoring, take random drug tests, report to mandatory recovery meetings and even attend church.
The inmates we spoke to say it's working.
"I've gotten more out of this ORBIT program than I have than the three times I went to rehab," says Ash.
The sheriff says 130 people have gone through the program so far. He says 12 people have finished successfully, while three failed and were put back in jail.
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