Henrico launching new program to help keep addicts sober and out of jail

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Tonya Jones is a certified nursing assistant, a grandmother of three and a recovering addict.

“This is the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life,” Jones insists.

The 55-year-old from Highland Springs is currently locked up in the Henrico County Jail awaiting trial for possession of heroin.

A judge denied Jones bond because of her drug use.

“I feel that when a person is waiting on trial, them being incarcerated is not helping in any shape, form or fashion,” she says.

Non-violent offenders like Jones could soon be eligible for release from jail before their trial.

Henrico County is launching a new program that could help opiate addicts get clean and ease overcrowding in the jails.

Participants would be treated with an injectable medication called Vivitrol.

“The person can’t become high when they’re on this injection,” explains Leslie Stephen.

Stephen is a program manager for Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services. She says the new program takes a wrap-a-round approach to addiction. In addition to the Vivitrol, offenders would receive outpatient therapy and stringent drug testing.

They would be able to go home before trial.

Right now, judges are reluctant to let addicts out on bond because they could relapse or even overdose.

“Every one of those addicts wants to get clean,” says Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade, “When you talk to them, all of them wanht to get away from heroin but they just can’t.”

Sheriff Wade says this new program combines county resources to keep people out of jail and in recovery.

It could also help ease open up hundreds of spots in the jails. Last week, more than 500 people incarcerated in Henrico were inmates awaiting trial.

“87 percent of the people that are in our facility self-reported that they have a drug problem,” adds Wade.

The county intends to launch this new program in April. It landed a $150 thousand dollar grant to pay for it.

Vivitrol isn’t cheap. It sells for about $1300 a dose.

But for Tonya Jones, finally kicking her drug dependency is worth everything.

“I’m looking forward to anything that will help me with this addiction,” she says, “This is the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life.”