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Westmoreland County Prison to offer drug relapse program for inmates

| Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

With about 40 percent of new inmates at Westmoreland County Prison needing detoxification treatment for drug addiction, officials this summer will start a program to help them stay clean once they leave detention.

The jail will begin an inmate relapse prevention program in July. It is designed to educate and help prisoners refrain from resuming drug use once they are released. Some inmates are treated for alcohol addiction.

“This is an effort by us to try to deal with the overwhelming drug problem,” said Warden John Walton.

The county's growing drug problem is clearly defined by what is occurring at the jail, officials said.

In April, 40 percent of inmates who entered the facility needed treatment for drug addiction. That number was a slight decrease from March, when 42 percent of incoming inmates needed services to wean them off drugs.

The county put 114 inmates through detox last month.

“We're trying to give them guidelines to try to stop and not relapse,” Walton said.

Westmoreland County Community Action will conduct voluntary classes for inmates.

Cost estimates for the program have not been finalized, but a grant from the Westmoreland County Drug and Alcohol Commission will be used.

Tim Phillips, director of prevention at Community Action, will teach the classes.

“We want to stop the revolving door. Once they get out on the street, hopefully they'll be more prepared,” Phillips said. “We have a captive audience, so why not do something with them.”

The nine-step program will teach inmates to recognize their addiction and teach them to recognize warning signs for drug relapses, according to a class outline.

Initially, a class will include about 20 inmates who will meet two days a week, according to Phillips.

“We'll give them a skill set so they can learn how to manage themselves in a helpful manner,” Phillips said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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