Methadone treatments at Bernalillo County jails to continue

Posted at: 12/11/2012 10:09 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Treatment for substance abuse addictions at the Metropolitan Detention Center will continue into 2013 after the Bernalillo County Commission decided to extend the contract until it can vote on the matter.

Community activists flooded the public comment portion of the meeting, blasting the county for discontinuing the program.

"Denying methadone patients their medication in jail raises several concerns. It increases the risk of needle sharing in jail and the risk of a HIV outbreak in our jail," said one activist.

"This is not the time to cease a standard of care that has been endorsed by the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization," said Emily Kaltenbach, Director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance.

Dozens of people approached the podium to tell their elected officials that depriving drug addicts’ methadone to kick the habit is inhumane

MDC Chief Ramon Rustin said he wanted to get rid of the methadone treatment program because programs like these are uncommon for jails.

"It's unheard of,” Rustin said. “There are 3,400 jails across the country. Why is MDC one of two jails that has this program?"

Rustin said he believes the community should look to non-profits to provide this kind of treatment, not the jail system.

"To make it a jail based program doesn't really work because eventually you have to go back into the community," Rustin argued.

The commission made it clear Tuesday evening that ending the program is not for the jail director to decide. Methadone treatment will continue at the MDC unless the commission votes otherwise.

The current contract with the methadone provider expires on December 31. The commission instructed MDC staff to extend the contract to ensure it covers treatment until the commission can vote on the policy.