Kent County Correctional Facility achieves gold standard of medical care for opioid addiction

Kent County, Michigan, December 1, 2021

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office became the third in Michigan to be certified for making medication and treatment available to individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) incarcerated inside the jail.

The certification, awarded by the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at the Wayne State University School of Social Work, is granted to counties who successfully implement all elements of the In-Jail Medication Assisted Treatment model, which includes: 1) Administration of a standard screening for opioid use disorder implemented at jail booking, 2) Availability of all three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications for OUD (MOUD), 3) Concurrent psychosocial services for detainees receiving MOUD, and 4) Comprehensive discharge planning that includes assistance with Medicaid reactivation, a naloxone kit at release, and coordination with a community-based MOUD provider. Kent County takes this a step further, providing recovery coach support both in the facility and up to one-year post release via Red Project of Grand Rapids.

The Kent County Sheriff ‘s Office made it a priority to implement this new program in April 2020 and has demonstrated a commitment to providing essential health services to all members of the community in the face of multiple health crises during COVID-19. Kent County stakeholders have demonstrated leadership in this area not just in Michigan, but nationwide.

Kent County Sheriff
Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young

“[MOUD and recovery services] can be the make-or-break for somebody’s future, giving them the opportunity to begin to deal with substance use disorder, have tools to deal with it, and help re-introduce the individual back into the community in a way that they can be successful, happy, and thrive,” said Kent County Sheriff LaJoye-Young. 

With support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, county stakeholders – including the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Network 180, VitalCore Health Strategies, Family Outreach Center, Red Project, Cherry Health, and Spectrum Health – worked collaboratively across corrections, medical, and behavioral health disciplines to develop and implement a robust medication assisted treatment program in the Kent County Correctional Facility.

“Kent County leaders came together as champions of health, wellness and safety. They have made the Health Fund’s vision a reality by significantly improving the treatment, prevention, and early intervention ecosystem,” said Lynda Zeller, Senior Program Officer for Behavioral Health at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

People with substance use disorders often come into contact with the criminal/legal system, and those with OUD are up to 120 times more likely to have a fatal overdose following release from incarceration compared to the general population. Engaging people in treatment prior to release reduces their chance of fatal overdose, and although treating OUD with medication is documented in research as the gold standard of care for this medical condition, less than 1% of jails and prisons across the country make MOUD available to detainees. In November 2021, CBHJ staff presented certification awards to involved stakeholders to recognize this tremendous accomplishment.

Approximately 29% of people screened at Kent County Correctional Facility are at risk for opioid use disorder, and 127 individuals were enrolled during the first year of the program.

Approximately 29% of people screened at Kent County Correctional Facility are at risk for opioid use disorder and are referred to the in-jail medical team and community-based MOUD provider. Of those individuals who meet criteria for opioid use disorder and demonstrate medical need to receive MOUD treatment, 127 individuals were enrolled during the program’s first year. Theresa Simmons, the OTE Case Manager said, “People struggling with addiction have such an issue with guilt and shame, they never ask for help. If you don’t share that you are struggling, it’s hard to get help. I hope this gives people a safe way to recover.”

Group photo of Kent County stakeholders
From left to right: Ross Buitendorp (Network 180), Chuck DeWitt (Kent County Undersheriff), Josh McLenithan (Red Project), Becca Newman (CBHJ), Nikole Skipp (Family Outreach Center at KCCF), Heather Tunell (VitalCore Health Strategies at KCCF), Captain Lyndsie Cole, (Kent County Sheriff's Office); Lieutenant Emily Kalman (Kent County Sheriff's Office), Theresa Simmons (Family Outreach Center in KCCF), Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young (Kent County Sheriff Office), Matt Costello (CBHJ).


About the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice: The Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and envisions communities in which research, data, and best practices are used by multiple stakeholders to enhance the optimal well-being of individuals with mental illness and/or substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal/legal system. For more information about the CBHJ’s MOUD in Jail model or our key initiatives, please visit our website or contact us.

About the Michigan Health Endowment Fund: The Michigan Health Endowment Fund is a philanthropic foundation that works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents while reducing healthcare costs. Learn more

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