A few months ago, my husband and I spoke at a community opiate task force meeting in our hometown. The meeting was attended by the many officials including Mayor Weinberger , Police Chief del Pozo, Jackie Corbally- opioid policy coordinator; representatives from the Health Department, University Medical Center..
It was difficult to share some of the details of Sean’s history, especially his incarceration. However, it is part of his story. In fact, he was not given the care he needed in the prison system. He was sentenced for several misdemeanor offenses. Luckily, he never injured anyone. We are forever grateful that, while he definitely did wrong, his offenses didn’t cause significant harm. He was pretty good at petty theft and a bit of a con. How much was due to addiction vs. his bipolar disorder, I am not sure.
I do know, he failed attempts at “Mental health Court”. His PO tried, in vain, to get him treatment and Psychiatric care. Unfortunately, while sentenced at a “work camp” (prison for non violent offenders) he didn’t receive his medication for bipolar disorder. He never had a psychiatric evaluation and was never offered any medication for addiction. In the past he had good success with Abilfy for mood stabilization and Naltrexone (Vivitrol) for alcoholism. I don’t know if he would have identified himself as an opiate addict or not. I do think if he had received better mental health care he might have survived.
I feel pretty strongly that mental health should be part of care for our prisoners. You wouldn’t stop someone’s insulin if they were diabetic??
Our town’s mayor spoke about Sean in his “State of the City” address. Specially, to advocate for treatment of incarcerated individuals for opiate addiction. How much this would have impacted Sean, I don’t know. Sean overdosed just 38 days after his release. We don’t know if he knew he was taking an opiate.
I do think medication assisted treatment in the jails it is a very good idea. This was one of many suggestions to reduce overdose deaths. In Rhode Island, where medication assisted treatment is offered in prison, overdose deaths were reduced by over one half in recently released prisoners. (JAMA Psychiatry Feb 2017)
Reluctantly, my husband and I agreed to share Sean’s story to hope for better treatment. Not easy !! I don’t think I slept for a few days knowing the paper would print the story. Indeed, the paper got some of the facts wrong but, overall not too far off base. The actual mayor’s address was correct but the paper’s report wasn’t completely accurate. Kim Blake (Sean’s mom)