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Checkups mean ‘I’m more likely to stay sober’

Inmate: Program’s accountability makes the difference

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Wearing an orange T-shirt and pants, Samuel Cardona sat at a round table in a small glass-walled room of the Douglas County jail, as he talked to a reporter. It was an afternoon in January. He had just finished his shift at the jail’s bakery.

Making desserts for inmates helps him get through his sentencing, the 31-year-old said candidly. He is in jail on drug charges. That day was his 100th, with 90 more to go.

It’s not his first time behind bars — Cardona said he has been in and out of trouble since he was 21 years old.

But this time looks promising, thanks to the services offered in the Douglas County jail.

Cardona is in the state-funded Jail Based Behavioral Health Services (JBBS) Program, which supports county sheriffs in providing resources for inmates with substance-use disorders and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. The program provides two clinicians from AllHealth Network, who lead one-on-one and group therapy in the jail.

Inmates have to apply for JBBS and be accepted into the program. There is almost always a waitlist for the 30 spots.  

Cardona meets with the group every Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. They review worksheets, reflect on weekly issues, think through processes and exchange feedback. He has learned how to manage his behavior, he said, and developed healthy coping skills.

When he is released from jail, he knows that a JBBS clinician will check in with him periodically for a year.

Which may make the biggest difference of all.

“Checkups after I get out provide accountability,” Cardona said. “If I know someone is going to come to my front door and make sure I’m sober, I’m more likely to stay sober.”

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