TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Mark O'Neil works with many jail inmates who are addicted to opiates and heroin. But to his surprise, many of them say jail was the best thing that happened to them.
"What surprised me was just how much they were grateful that they were in jail, because it saved their lives and gave them pause," said O'Neill.
What saved their lives was being forced to get through the dreaded withdrawal from heroin, and to think about what to do next.
"They're no longer using, they have a place to stay and they're starting to reflect on their parents, their children and they're ready to get back to normal. They're done with the withdrawal," O'Neil adds.
That's why he said jail is the perfect place for a program like TRAC.
The Treatment Reentry Awareness Community is one of the first drug treatment programs in a jail. It brings addiction counselors and sober addicts, like Jacob Spellis, into the Lucas County Jail.
Spellis is a former inmate and Toledo drug dealer who not only got clean, but went on to get a Masters degree at University of Michigan. He now is in social work, and challenges others to get their lives back on track.
He said one of the biggest challenges in the addiction crisis is continued care for inmates who are addicted, once they are released.
"My goal would be is when the guys get out of jail, he would have my number," said Spellis. "I would pick them up at the doorsteps so they wouldn't have that urge to use the moment they leave jail."
That's why Spellis gives out his personal cell phone number to inmates, to help get them connected with the help they need the minute they leave.
"But I know that there's somebody out there who needs these services, who are willing to listen that if they got the right chance, the right tools, they'd be successful," added Spellis.
The TRAC program is featured in this month's issue of Corrections Today, which is read by Correctional leaders across the country.