By Georges Mombrun, LCSW, LCADC, ACS, Senior Director
The devastating effects of fentanyl are one of the most pressing issues currently facing New Jersey. Adequately addressing this public health challenge requires that the justice system be a part of the solution. However, all too often, the response to substance misuse and substance use disorder is a punitive rather than a rehabilitative one. If you simply arrest someone struggling with substance use, incarcerate them, and then release them into the same environment or circumstance from which they came, the chances of that person reoffending are high. According to the Health and Prisoner Reentry research report from the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, one-fifth of men and one-quarter of women with substance use disorders were back in state prisons one year after being released. Additionally, individuals with substance use disorder reported higher criminal activity within the first eight to ten months post-release, more arrests, and, most unfortunately, a higher rate of post-release substance use, often leading to overdose and/or death. This penal approach does not aid in reducing recidivism or improving the quality of life for those plagued by the disease of addiction.
Yet, this is the cyclical and sometimes misguided approach that correctional facilities have implemented for years. But what if, when someone is incarcerated, the facility offers programs that help them address their harmful substance use to assist them in becoming successful, contributing members of society?
That is the purpose of Integrity House’s residential substance use disorder treatment program in the Hudson County Corrections and Rehabilitation Center. Hudson County administration understood the need to address substance use disorder within the corrections community. It partnered with Integrity House to provide this impactful service for its residents rather than punish those who need support the most.
A strong collaboration exists among all members of this macrosystem, including Integrity House as a treatment provider, county administration, Department of Corrections personnel, law enforcement, the Hudson Department of Housing and Community Reintegration, re-entry advocates, judges, Recovery Courts, and other partners, to provide unique opportunities for those incarcerated. These opportunities include substance use treatment, the ability to pursue higher education at Hudson County Community College, vocational training, peer support, primary medical care, housing assistance, general assistance (also known as WorkFirst NJ), insurance, and much more.
Integrity House is one of a few New Jersey licensed treatment providers operating inside a county correctional facility. As such, we guarantee a definitive level and quality of care. Integrity House is proud to bring robust, clinically managed, high-intensity services to individuals otherwise rendered invisible or inconsequential to society. In addition to the ancillary services provided by the County, those enrolled in the Integrity House program receive a minimum of ten hours of group counseling per week, weekly individual counseling, ongoing assessment and evaluation, and most importantly, they benefit from the therapeutic environment. This unique aspect of our treatment model teaches our clients the skills needed to successfully live a life of recovery. It emphasizes peer support and self-reflection. It encourages humility and self-advocacy. It teaches our clients to recognize when they need help, get comfortable with asking for help, and, most importantly, pay it forward by supporting peers. Each client is assigned a primary counselor from the point of admission who assesses the client’s needs and develops a person-centered treatment plan to address substance use and other areas of life impacted, most often mental health. In addition to clinical services, we recognize various recovery pathways. To orient our clients to this, we bring in partners to facilitate mutual aid meetings, not just for narcotics and alcohol, but to address other common addictions such as gambling. We support wellness through education, mindfulness meditation, yoga, professional nutrition, and physical activity.
Integrity House seeks to help people rebuild and transform their lives through a measurable comprehensive system of integrated mental health, physical health, and addiction services that bring about positive, long-term lifestyle change. Establishing an effective system that allows incarcerated individuals to undergo proper rehabilitation adds value to their lives by teaching them new skills, competencies, and increased awareness. Having these services available from day one to the day of release significantly reduces the chances of individuals reoffending and more dire outcomes like overdose and death. This isn’t just from a psychological or theoretical perspective –as the Senior Director of Integrity House’s residential program at Hudson County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center, I’ve witnessed firsthand our program’s impact. This approach works, and the statistics bear this out.