Sheriffs Call for State Funding of Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Jails

NY Sheriffs Association







(l to r) Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, Senator Robert Ortt, Senator George Amedore, Jr., Albany County SHARP Program Graduate Chris, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, Assemblymember John McDonald, and Kelly Hansen, Executive Director of the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors at joint Press Conference with County Mental Health Commissioners, Sheriffs, and NYS Association of Counties Calling for State Funding of Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Jails

Video Footage of Press Conference

New York’s Sheriffs joined County Mental Health Commissioners and the NYS Association of Counties to urge State leaders to include $12.8 million in the State budget for jail-based substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and post-release transition services. Advocates for the funding were joined by a bipartisan group of Legislators from the Senate and Assembly.

While aggressive steps have been taken in New York to address the heroin/opioid epidemic, there remains a gap in the treatment and support continuum: the local jail.  People suffering from addiction frequently come into contact with the criminal justice system. Incarceration provides a unique opportunity to offer treatment supports during periods when people are clean and sober.

However, more than half (51%) of New York State jails report that they have no funding for SUD treatment services, despite strong evidence that these services reduce crime, save money, and save lives.

Barry Virts, Wayne County Sheriff and President, New York State Sheriffs’ Association, stated, “Sheriffs have increasingly found that individuals who are being entrusted to their care and custody are coming to their jail facilities with serious medical, mental health, and substance abuse issues. While all Sheriffs strive to do as much as possible to help those in their jails—including offering comprehensive addiction treatment and transition services—we are often constrained by limited budgets and scarcity of appropriate mental healthcare providers and substance abuse counselors. We are missing an opportunity to intervene in a profoundly positive way in these individuals lives.  With help from the State, Sheriffs have the potential to break the cycle of both addiction and recidivism.”

Kelly A. Hansen, Executive Director of the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors, stated, “The County Mental Health Commissioners have long known that people with substance use disorder often cycle in and out of jail. The heroin and opioid epidemic has exacerbated the situation. Counties that have cobbled together funding to bring treatment into the jail are seeing significant reductions in recidivism which improves public safety and saves taxpayer dollars.  More importantly, we are missing a unique and time-limited opportunity to offer treatment when a person is clean and sober and more likely to have insight into their addiction.  New York State has the opportunity have a tremendous positive impact for New Yorkers who are affected by addiction. For people in jail battling addiction, starting treatment in jail could be lifesaving.”

Localities in New York State that have the funding to provide these services are seeing significant benefits. In Albany County the jail-based Sheriff’s Heroin Addiction Recovery Program (SHARP) has reduced re-incarceration by 28 percent among program participants. New York State’s own analysis by DCJS of the costs and benefits of jail-based SUD treatment found that communities realize a savings of $2,846 per person served and that there are 13 fewer victimizations per 100 people served.

According to a report conducted by Policy Research Associates (PRA) on behalf of the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors, County Sheriffs indicated that, 68% of inmates with an SUD had been in jail before.  The report details the scope of the problem and benefits of the measures discussed today. To read the full report, “Completing the Recovery Treatment Continuum: Jail-Based Substance Use Disorder Services,” visit   

Localities across the state rely heavily on county budgets and pharmaceutical donations to sustain what little services are currently offered. Fifty-one percent of jails have no funding for substance use treatment services. Additionally, 53 percent of jails do not have the capacity to directly transition addicted inmates to community treatment programs upon re-entry to the community.  These services minimize the possibility of recidivism and overdosing. Even for jails with treatment programs, the escalating need outpaces the services available.

Now is the time for New York State to address the remaining gap in the treatment continuum. A relatively small, but functionally impactful investment in jail-based SUD treatment and transition services will save lives, reduce crime, reap cost savings, and help people suffering from addiction to move along the pathway to recovery.

Senator George A. Amedore, Jr., Chair, Senate Alcohol & Drug Abuse Standing Committee, Co-Chair, Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, said, “While we have made great progress as a state when it comes to increasing access to treatment for those who suffer from addiction, there is a large gap when it comes to jail-based services. Investing in comprehensive treatment programs in our jails will lead to reduced recidivism and ultimately save taxpayer dollars, and I am proud to fully support the effort to secure this critical funding in this year’s budget.”

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Chair of the State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, stated, “New York State’s jails and prisons contain our second highest concentration of people dealing with substance use disorder, and it is absolutely imperative that we meet these individuals where they are with robustly funded treatment and recovery services. If we are serious about providing an unbroken continuum of care across our state to attack the epidemic of opioids and cocaine, this must extend to jails and prisons. If we have any expectation of incarcerated individuals breaking the grip of addiction and smoothly transitioning back into society, we cannot simply lock the doors and throw away the key. I am the sponsor of legislation to require Medication Assisted Treatment programming be made available in all state correctional facilities and local jails, which would represent a historic change in approach from our failed ‘war on drugs’, and could save countless lives.”

Senator Robert G. Ortt, Chair, Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, Member, Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, said, “In order to properly address the substance abuse epidemic that is so prevalent in today’s society, we must ensure that we are utilizing every tool possible – in all settings possible – to help those suffering from addiction. Substance abuse is an epidemic that affects far too many New Yorkers. It makes sense – from a clinical and law enforcement standpoint – to treat individuals while they’re in these facilities so that we can curb addiction and reduce recidivism. After the resounding success in the state’s pilot program, I will continue to firmly support expansion of these services statewide so we can ensure every county in the state has access to jail-based SUD treatment services.”

Assemblymember Aileen M. Gunther, Chair, Committee on Mental Health, stated, “When people who suffer from addiction find themselves in county jail, it’s often a turning point.  It’s imperative that we make treatment options available immediately.  The cost of missing that opportunity is simply too great to accept.  Sheriff Apple has shown this program to be a success in Albany County, and it is something we should be emulating statewide. The opioid crisis in New York State will only retreat if we make sure everyone on the front lines—including staff in county jails—has the tools they need. That’s why we absolutely must include funding in the budget for jail-based substance use disorder treatment.”

Assemblymember John T. McDonald, III, Member, Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said, “As we continue our work to address the Heroin and opioid crisis it is critical we look at this crisis from all aspects and that includes our county jails. As a healthcare provider I am geared towards investments that lead to positive outcomes.   My experience with the programs Sheriff Apple has put in place in Albany County has encouraged me to support investment in substance use disorder in county jails as it is an investment that makes a difference in the lives of those transitioning back into the community and the community at large.”

Senator Fred Akshar, Co-Chair of the Senate Majority Coalition’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, said, “In the 52nd Senate District, 70-80% of all inmates are suffering from a form of substance abuse disorder, and my 15 years in law enforcement has taught me that incarceration is not enough to battle the heroin and opioid epidemic. It takes a multifaceted approach that includes treatment and prevention. Jail-based treatment for a captive audience makes sense because it helps tackle the root the of problems that lead to arrest and incarceration. It’s an effective tool to help break the cycle that’s gripped those struggling with addiction in communities across our state.”

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan, Chair, Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, stated, “More must be done to provide effective drug treatment programs for individuals being held in county jails.  The state’s investment in SUD treatment and transition programs will not only help these men and women overcome their addiction, it will provide them an opportunity to become productive members of society.  By reducing recidivism, we reduce crime and save taxpayers money in the long run.”

Stephen J. Acquario, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Counties, stated, “Most of the jails in New York State have no funding for substance use disorder treatment (SUD) services, despite strong evidence that these services help to save lives, reduce crime and save taxpayer money.  Counties urge the State to provide mental health local government units with $12.8 million in funding, annually, to address this gap in treatment and support in our jails. This modest investment would reduce costs to taxpayers, and offer the opportunity for recovery to a critical population struggling with addiction.”