Maries County Jail begins new drug treatment program

By Colin Willard, Advocate Staff Writer
Posted 2/7/24

VIENNA — Chief Deputy Scott John came to the Jan. 29 Maries County Commission meeting to tell the commission that the sheriff’s office had received its first shipment of medication from …

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Maries County Jail begins new drug treatment program


VIENNA — Chief Deputy Scott John came to the Jan. 29 Maries County Commission meeting to tell the commission that the sheriff’s office had received its first shipment of medication from Four Rivers Community Health Center as part of a new support program in the jail.

Last year, the county began receiving payments following a settlement between Missouri and several opioid manufacturers. The payments stipulate that at least 85 percent of the funds that counties receive from the settlement must go toward programs or projects related to the opioid crisis. Some of Maries County’s settlement money went toward purchasing a tent and educational materials that the sheriff’s office sets up at public events. Other funds from the settlement help fund the program with Four Rivers.

The county signed a memorandum of understanding with Four Rivers to support the program. Under the agreement, the sheriff’s office keeps seven medications on hand with standing orders from a doctor. The sheriff’s office keeps the medication locked away in a secure place.

When the sheriff’s office intakes new inmates to the jail, the inmates receive a questionnaire. If inmates respond that they have been using illicit street drugs that could cause withdrawals, then the sheriff’s office will send the survey to a doctor at Four Rivers. After the doctors review the surveys, they will send an order back to the sheriff’s office to provide medication to the inmates. Each of the medications available will help inmates going through withdrawals.

Once the doctor sends a medication order, the sheriff’s office will set up an appointment for the inmate with a doctor at Four Rivers. The doctor may recommend inmates for medically assisted treatment to help them recover from addiction. If the inmates remain in the jail when their monthly appointments occur, then the sheriff’s office will transport them to and from appointments. After an inmate is released from jail, it will be that person’s responsibility to continue going to monthly appointments.

John said another part of the program helps inmates apply for Medicaid so they have insurance in place to continue treatment after their release. The most common reason for released inmates to not follow up on treatment is a lack of health insurance.

Presiding Commissioner Victor Stratman asked if medically assisted treatment was standard within other jails.

John said the program is different from what many other jails do to handle inmates dealing with addictions. Many places use a drug court program that diverts people with drug use from jail and into close supervision by the court, but he said drug courts often have a high washout rate.

Stratman asked if inmates are forthcoming about their drug use during the intake process.

John said the medications the sheriff’s office has to treat withdrawals are non-narcotics. They serve a medical benefit and help inmates avoid symptoms such as shakes, anxiety and vomiting. The medication available to them after release will help them curb cravings. Even if an inmate is dishonest about taking illicit drugs, taking the medication available through the sheriff’s office would be unlikely to have any harmful effects on the person.

In a Facebook post published on Sheriff Chris Heitman’s page on Jan. 31, John added that inmates with underlying mental health issues related to substance abuse will have those addressed during weekly visits with Four Rivers and Compass Health peer support specialists. The health professionals can make appointments for the inmates to begin necessary counseling.

“Most of the inmates initially brought in to our jail with substance abuse issues are housed in our jail facility for at least two weeks before being furloughed or posting bond,” the post says. “This provides us ample time to make these initial appointments and assist the individual suffering from substance abuse addiction with getting onto a path of recovery before leaving our jail.”

“Recovering from substance abuse addiction takes determination, time and most importantly support from those who care about seeing you make it to sobriety,” the post continues. “We have a job to do when you break the law, but I assure you we care about helping you achieve that goal of sobriety.”

Ambulance Annexation

In a 2-0 decision, the commission voted to put an annexation question on the April 2 ballot following a hearing on Jan. 29.

The question asks voters to consider allowing residents of the Meta area to join the Maries-Osage Ambulance District’s (MOAD) coverage area. For the annexation to occur, the measure must pass with both voters in the area in question and voters in MOAD’s existing boundary. A similar question will be on ballots in Osage County.

Parts of the Meta area have existed outside the boundary of an ambulance district since the volunteer-based COMM-Unity Ambulance service dissolved last June. Both MOAD and Osage Ambulance District (OAD) have covered the unaffiliated area in the time since the dissolution. Voters in part of the area in Osage County passed a measure last year to join OAD.

Stratman abstained from the vote because he is also a member of the MOAD Board of Directors.

Vehicle Revenue

Treasurer Angie Stricklan reported the county’s revenue from motor vehicle taxes and fees. The two road districts split the revenue with 55 percent going to Road One and 45 percent going to Road Two.

Motor fuel taxes totaled $41,207.32 in January for a 7 percent increase from January 2023.

Motor vehicle taxes totaled $8,120.36 in January for a 10 percent decrease from January 2023.

Motor vehicle fees totaled $4,685.85 for a 14 percent decrease from January 2023.


At the Jan. 29 meeting, Stratman said he had received a call on the afternoon of Jan. 25 about the power going out at the courthouse. The generator turned on, but he found that the starter had burnt. About a year ago, the commission discussed issues with the generator’s starter, and technicians looked at the generator a couple of times last year.

Western District Commissioner Ed Fagre wondered if the generator put too much of a load onto the starter. Some of the courthouse lights flickered when the generator started.

Stratman suggested the generator might need a special kind of starter that would not burn up like previous starters the county had put on the courthouse generator. Otherwise, the county might consider keeping an extra starter on hand in case another one burns.

John told the commission that the beginning of the year is when many new grant opportunities open. He suggested looking at grants to cover the cost of a new generator.

The commission agreed that pursuing a grant for a generator could benefit the county. Stratman said he could contact the Meramec Regional Planning Commission to see about using some of the county’s grant writing hours for the project.

Office Phones

The commission met with representatives from communication company RingCentral to discuss a new plan for county office phones. The company partnered with Mitel, the county’s current phone provider. The current plan expires later this year.

One priority of the commission when choosing a new service was ensuring that the new phones could enable an auto-attendant feature that presents a menu where callers can select a number for the offices they need. Many calls intended for other offices transfer through the county clerk’s office, which interferes with that office’s daily procedures. The representatives said auto-attendant is one of several features available with the phone plan.

The commission agreed to enroll in a plan with RingCentral. The representatives estimated the switch will save the county about $200 monthly compared to the $1,667 it pays for phone service now. The price includes the cost of renting 56 phones. The contract, once signed, will be a three-year commitment with the first two months included for free while the transition between plans occurs.

Restroom  Renovations

The commissioners chose floor samples for one of the courthouse restrooms during the Feb. 1 meeting. In January, the commission hired Tom Campbell Floor Covering and Construction for a renovation project on one of the restrooms. They plan to renovate the other three restrooms at a later date.

Purple Heart County

The commissioners received another letter from the Military Order of the Purple Heart that informed them that the commission could issue a proclamation to designate the county as a Purple Heart County.

The commission previously received a letter about the topic last July. The commissioners had agreed to issue a proclamation, but that information never reached the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The commission plans to issue the proclamation and purchase four “Purple Heart County” signs for $125 each. The plan is to attach the sign to existing posts on Highway 28, Highway 89 and Highway 63 (north and south).

The Purple Heart medal, from which the organization takes its name, is presented to wounded members of the United States military or the families of service members killed in action. Missouri has 84 counties with Purple Heart designation.

Vegetation Activity

The commission received a letter stating that Ameren is conducting vegetation activity in the county.