Fighting Opioid Addiction Inside the Denver Jail

January 22, 2020

Denver Health inmate drug treatment
Jails historically have not been known as places where people rehabilitate from drugs. But a program at the Denver County Jail run by Denver Health is slowly working to change that.

Dr. Sasha Rai is a psychiatrist at Denver Health and the director of behavioral health services at the jail. He launched a Medicated Assisted Treatment (MAT) program in Denver jails a couple of years ago with a small team of nurses and case managers from Denver Health.

The goal of the program is to get inmates off drugs and keep them out of jail.

9News spoke to one of those former inmates who went through the program and is now out of jail and working, while he continues treatment and counseling for his opioid addiction.

"When I got help from Dr. Rai, the MAT program, that was definitely the light at the end of the tunnel that let me see my future as what it could be, what it should be,” said Nathan Evans. Evans said he believes the MAT program saved his life.
Watch: 9News report on how Denver Health is helping inmates with opioid addiction get treatment.

“If you have a drug offense, and the reason you have a drug offense is because you have an illness, and if you provide treatment to that illness and they don’t come back to the jail, that is gratifying in itself,” said Dr. Rai.

Seven full-time employees work on the MAT program inside the jail, funded for each of the next three years through a grant written by the Denver Health Foundation and funded by the Denver Foundation. There are plans to expand and help even more inmates.

Dr. Rai said roughly one-third of patients in the program leave jail and continue treatment on the outside.

Dr. Rai pointed out that you don’t have to be an inmate to get help. Through our Center for Addiction Medicine, there are no wrong doors to getting the help you need. Our emergency departments also offer addiction treatment services 24 hours a day.