Flagler detention deputies become part of support network for addicted inmates in recovery

Deputies learn to recognize and support addiction

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – It is the missing piece in trying to help addicted inmates recover so they don’t come back to jail.

The Flagler County Jail created a separate living pod for inmates struggling with addiction and brought in counselors to work with the inmates. Now, the jail deputies are learning about addiction and how to support the addicted inmates.

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Inmates with substance abuse and alcohol abuse problems live together and learn together inside the separated “S.M.A.R.T.”, or Successful Mental Health Addiction Recovery Treatment, pod at the Flagler County Jail with counselors and teachers – all specialists in addiction.

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The missing piece was detention deputies trained in addiction treatment. Until now.

Every single deputy working inside the Flagler County Jail underwent a two-hour training session to learn how to recognize the trauma inmates with addictions have been through so they can also be supportive of the inmates’ recovery from addiction.

Steven Samra, a trainer with C4 Innovations, a Boston-based training company for the behavioral health community, taught the detention deputies.

“Just acknowledging the dignity of a human being,” Samra said. “Recognizing that an individual is really struggling with substance use disorder.”

Jail Chief Daniel Engert recognized the need to include detention deputies in the addiction recovery process and arranged the training with Samra and C4 Innovations.

“A lot of it is just more education, more understanding, more empathy for those inmates who want to be in recovery,” Engert said. “It can be as simple as just instead of using the term ‘addict,’ use the term ‘substance use disorder’, so that we help break down some of the most simple phrases and definitions that have been traditionally used that immediately have a negative connotation.”

Instead of the detention deputies potentially working against the inmates’ recovering – they’re now supporting it.

“And often times it’s inadvertent,” Engert said. “They don’t even realize it that they’re being negative. And that’s why we provide training. So they understand addiction.”

Engert said the entire idea behind the S.M.A.R.T. living pod is to get addicts as far along on the road to recovery as possible before they’re released so they don’t come back.

To achieve that goal, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said there must be a culture change inside the jail.

“The culture was pretty much lock ‘em up and there was no interaction with the inmates unless there was an issue,” Staly said. “And we want them to be better with whatever their mental health issues were and hopefully break their addiction. Because that’s what triggers most recycling back into the jail. So the culture is now our deputies are in the pods with the inmates.”

Flagler is the first jail in Florida to implement the addiction training from C4 specifically for detention deputies.

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.