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Virginia Sheriffs' Institute
Supporting Virginia’s Sheriffs & Deputies

For the past 26 years, September has been recognized nationally as Recovery Month. SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) lead on the nationally recognized observance strives to educate Americans and bring understanding that those living with a mental and/or substance use disorder can live a healthy and rewarding life. With a $600,000 billion price tag, the Effects of addiction truly ripple into all pockets of our society, to include not only the addict, but children, families, victims, employers, and the community.

To support national efforts during Recovery Month, Sheriff C.T. Woody, Jr. is spearheading many efforts to highlight recovery, change, and rehabilitation, while also providing education and information on addiction.

These include group activities, writing assignments, and structured lessons in a classroom setting designed to enhance continuing recovery by encouraging them to honestly face the specific behavior which led to their addiction.  Additionally, daily Facebook* posts during the month, written by the men and women in our REAL (Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles) Program, will focus on all aspects of recovery. Each week we will introduce a specific drug and each day we will highlight areas such as signs and symptoms, medical uses, cravings and triggers, behavioral characteristics, and testimonials. Toward the end of the month, the REAL men and women will host a recovery month celebration for special guests and staff of the Sheriff’s Office.

Addiction in the Richmond City Justice Center (RCJC):

In the RCJC, 78% of our population battles drug and/or alcohol abuse. As such, we have a strong focus on addiction recovery within Sheriff Woody’s Internal Program Department. However, we realize that there is a portion of the population that does not battle addiction. Yet for those that do battle addiction, the drug is only part of the problem. There are still a multitude of behaviors associated with the addiction and the actions that led to their criminality and subsequent incarceration. Because of these factors, we take a holistic approach to prepare individuals desiring change and participating in our program by using a behavior modification model.

This is accomplished by assisting program participants to positively and comprehensively address their addictions and behaviors, while appropriately modifying their thinking.  Social learning models and cognitive-behavioral interventions are utilized to help participants restructure and reframe destructive thought patterns while developing healthy coping skills. The focus on behavioral modification inspires members to face their problems and overcome their addictive lifestyles, whether it is to drugs, alcohol, dealing drugs, women, cars, etc. – namely, whatever placed them in their current situation, and so often kept them incarcerated time and time again.

Rehabilitation is by no means an easy path.  As we so often hear, the first step towards rehabilitation is recognizing and admitting that there is a problem to rehabilitate.  While many of the residents initially enter our flag ship REAL program simply to remove themselves from the general population, many quickly begin to understand the benefits to be gained by working through the PAC (phase exercises) given to them upon their arrival.  As each resident goes through each structured lesson, several begin to understand that their addiction is a response to behavioral patterns that were formed long before they ever picked up a drug.  They come to realize that the drug is their method of treatment to deal with certain trauma’s dealt with over the years.  Many want to turn over a leaf and become fully rehabilitated, and while some may scoff at the behavioral modification, one resident, named A.J., stated best the need for such a program: “If you don’t deal with what happened in your past, it will haunt your future.”

We hear routinely that people who go through addiction recovery programs wind up staying clean after they’ve left that recovery program.  But there is more to conquering addiction than simply staying sober – the journey is just as important as the destination, and that could not be more true when it comes to recovery.  The coping behaviors of the addict must be identified, broken down, and then appropriately modified, and going through that process is not easy.

Addiction Nationally:

The U.S. Senate Committee on Heath, Education, Labor, and Pensions found that in 2012, 5,500 people each day reported using prescription opioids for non-medical purposes for the first time – that is 2 million people annually.

A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2013 and 2014 revealed a staggering realization: As of 2014, with the latest information available, 10.2% of the nation’s population consisting of those aged 12 or older had tried some kind of illicit drug within 30 days of taking the survey.  In Virginia, that number is less than the national average – 6.75%.  Nationally, 2.5% of respondents also reported the nonmedical (non-prescribed and/or un-needed) use of psychotherapeutic drugs. We know that those who are mentally ill are more vulnerable to abusing illicit drugs.  In the most recent study by SAMHSA in 2012, a staggering 26.7% – 1 in 4 – of those with mental health issues abused illicit and/or illegal drugs.  This is more than double the national general population measurement of 13.2%.  Finally, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has found that 78% of violent crime involved a perpetrator under the influence of drugs and/alcohol, 83% of property offenses, and 77% of other offenses.