BEAVER, WV (WVNS) — A Beckley attorney wants the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to ensure patients get treated for substance use disorder while they are at Southern Regional Jail.

Robert Dunlap, who has a class action civil suit pending against the jail on behalf of clients, claimed a number of inmates need the treatment.

The National Institute of Mental Health recognizes substance use disorder as a mental illness, but Dunlap said Southern Regional Jail allegedly has only two counselors to provide care to hundreds of inmates.

“To call them counselors isn’t really fair, because they don’t have an opportunity to engage in counseling,” Dunlap said on Wednesday, January 18, 2023. “At the Southern Regional Jail, there’s absolutely no program for therapy, if you’re substance abused.”

The Prison Policy Initiative reported for every 100,000 West Virginians, 731 are incarcerated in some way.

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency reported one in 10 West Virginians abuse substances, which is linked to a higher crime rate.

Dunlap alleged the jail often fails to follow treatment plans inmates’ doctors have prescribed for the disorder.

The attorney and Dr. Hassan Jafary, a Beckley psychiatrist, report substance use disorder patients who enter Southern Regional Jail are not being given their prescribed medications, like Suboxone and Methadone, which take away cravings for opioids.

“It’s a lot of suffering, when people go there, from Suboxone and Methadone, and they don’t get treatment,” said Dr. Jafary, who is a proponent of Suboxone treatment for addiction. “The treatment withdrawal is so severe the patient can have a lot of medical issues themselves. If it’s the elderly, they can have a heart issue and other things.”

Dunlap said withholding medication from substance use disorder patients during incarceration could place other inmates at risk, too.

Jafary claimed proper treatment benefits jail staff, inmates and society.

“People who go to jail and continue treatment, the cost of the jail itself drops fifty percent because their aggression will decrease,” said Jafary. “They will not have a fight there. Their mood will get better because when people have a withdrawal, they get very aggressive.”