As the opioid epidemic has swept NC, the proportion of women at Horizons for whom opioids are the primary substance of abuse has increased steadily – to around 70%. The majority have legal system involvement and are at very high risk of relapse and overdose post-incarceration.
One such woman was Jenna, a Horizons graduate. After completing treatment, Jenna was incarcerated related to charges pre-dating her time at Horizons. On her first day out of prison, Jenna’s dealer gave her opioid pills as a “welcome home” gift. Jenna took a few pills, entered a courtroom to appear before the judge, and saw a Horizons staff member with another woman.
As Jenna became more intoxicated, she slipped the staff member a note that read: “I need help – call me.” By the time Jenna’s former therapist called later that afternoon, it was too late. Jenna was already dead from an opioid overdose.
Horizons recently received $429,000 from FORE (Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts) for Jenna’s Project: Supporting Women’s Re-entry to Society from Prison and Reconnection with Children, which aims to prevent such tragic deaths by immediately connecting women who are leaving the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women with support and treatment resources. Based on the success of this pilot project, it has great promise to serve as a national and international model.