Lawmakers aim to expand successful addiction program at Chesterfield Jail

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It’s an addiction program state lawmakers are hoping can help inmates across the state. Chesterfield’s sheriff says he noticed a recurring problem when addicts coming to his jail detoxed but kept coming back.

“So, in essence, we were turning out sober people who were addicts and they’d go right back to using when they’d get out,” Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard explained.

That’s when he reached out to the McShin foundation, a recovery center for addicts, who helped him create the Heroin Addiction Recovery Program or HARP. A documentary about the program gained national attention.

“He was the right guy to come along at the right time with the right message. It’s an amazing feat, a lot of credit due there. My hats off to the sheriff,” said John Shinholser, president of The McShin Foundation.

8News recently spoke with Julian Parker, who says HARP saved his life.

“It helped me with my anger, it helped me with my self-esteem,” said Parker.

The state now is aiming to pilot the program at four additional jails.

“I’m really pleased that we’re starting in four locations to get our foot in the door and really prove the effectiveness of the program,” Leonard said.

While Shinholser says it’s a step in the right direction, he says he’s been pushing for this for nearly 20 years.

“Sheriff Wade, Henrico county, he’s had a jail program 18 years,” said Shinholser.

He says a lot of lives have been lost in the meantime.

“It’s almost insulting that now they’ve finally waken up a little bit because their neighbors are beating on their doors because their kids have died,” said Shinholser.

He’s hoping for programs at every jail across the state. Meanwhile, Leonard says it’s going to take more than jails to solve the problem.

“It’s got to be a holistic approach throught the community to start turning this thing around and start saving our men and women,” said Leonard.

In addition to Henrico and Chesterfield County, Richmond has had a program to help addicts at its jail since 2009.

Never miss another Facebook post from 8News

Find 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.