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New treatment program aims to help inmates

The Otsego County Sheriff’s Department is now helping inmates with mental illness and drug addictions.

Posted: May 1, 2019 6:12 PM

The Otsego County Sheriff’s Department received a $60 thousand grant through the Sheriff’s Association and the Department of Mental Health to treat inmates with drug addiction and mental health problems. Inmate Derek Zigon has been through the system before, and talked about his former experiences fighting addiction.

"There’s no real corrections in your actions by just sitting in a cell. I don’t know what… how that can help anybody, I mean I’ve done that. Mostly I just think about getting out and getting high you know. There’s no working on myself because I don’t know what to work on. Where do I begin?"

It’s a struggle he knows he can’t deal with himself.

"One thing leads to another and then like I said, my decision making gets distorted as time goes on and I wind up back here. This is what ends up for me every time."

Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin believes this program can make a difference if the inmates want it.

"Some of our inmates have mental health issues, some of them have chemical dependency issues, so that has to be treated, and I believe we’re giving them a better chance to be a productive member of society other than just letting them sit here and when they’re done we throw them out the door."

Derek Zigon’s been thrown out the door, but he believes this might be his chance to change.

"Generally people just come into jail, sit in their cell and do nothing. Read books and watch television or whatever and you don’t really work on any of those sort of problems, but now there’s an opportunity for people like me."

Otsego County Forensic Clinician Paul Thomas runs the program and tells us getting these inmates to talk about solutions is the first step.

"I’m pretty hopeful that they’ll leave with at least a little bit of knowledge. It’s hard to change somebody that doesn’t want to change in the first place, but if you give them that little grain of information that maybe they never knew before… maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the day after they leave here, but at some point it will germinate I guess, and help them in one way of their life or not to either stop or change a behavior that they’re doing."

Funding for the program will only last for about a year, but the Sheriff is hopeful the success of these inmates will ensure future funding, and productive citizens for the community.

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