EAGLE RIVER - In jails across Wisconsin you'll find more Native Americans inmates than anywhere else in the United States.
The Vilas County Jail partnered with the Lac du Flambeau tribe in 2018 to create a program targeting the heart of that issue: drugs and alcohol abuse.
The Jail Recovery Program helps fight the "revolving door" of drug and alcohol related incarceration by helping willing inmates get clean and avoid future arrests.
"We're seeing that the same individuals come back to the jail and we know them by first names," said Vilas Co. Jail Administrator Bill Weiss.
Nearly a third of all inmates in Wisconsin return
to jail on new charges within three years of release.
Weiss believes drugs and alcohol are to blame for much of the recidivism he sees.
"Our profession has come to realize we're not going to arrest our way out of the substance abuse issues that exist in our county," said Weiss.
Through a partnership with the county and the Lac du Flambeau tribe the Jail Recovery Program began last year. The program requires a minimum 4-week commitment, treating 14 men and 11 women at a time.
A more than $130,00 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services now funds the program through 2020.
"We look forward to developing new and innovative recovery support services in partnership with Vilas County," says Lac du Flambeau Tribal President Joseph G. Wildcat, Sr. in a media release.
Weiss says there is now a waiting list among inmates for the program.
"Lots of them [inmates] are quite motivated, they talk about the things that they're looking forward to changing in their lives," said county jail nurse Linda Thayer, R.N.
Thayer provides medically assisted treatment to inmates in the program. She hopes the grant will allow the jail to purchase greater quantities of injection called Vivitrol which inmates receive seven days before release.
"Is [sic] an injection that is given once every 28 days and it helps to reduce cravings for alcohol and opiates," said Thayer.
Along with the Vivtrol injection, inmates who elect to join the program receive recovery training from Marshfield Clinic's AmeriCorps Recovery Coach Program. The self-managed recovery training course also helps inmates plan for employment, housing, transportation and more upon release.
Moral resonation therapy is also offered to address the social, emotional and spiritual needs of inmates.
Inmates in the program can even apply to spend the last 90 to 120 days before release outside of jail in Gookomis Endaad, an outpatient treatment facility operated by the Lac du Flambeau tribe.