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Manatee County jail holds graduation for inmates in drug recovery program

Drug Pod Program Graduation
Posted at 7:23 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 20:33:03-04

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla.  — For years, addiction has landed Mattie Long in and out of jail.

"The K-2, I’ve been using for 10 years straight. Crack, I’ve been using it for almost 20 years," said Long. "I lost my kids. I lost my baby daddy. I was homeless."

Last August, Long found herself behind bars yet again.

"I had prayed a month before and I asked God to take me out of the situation that I was in. So this is him taking me out of it. God took everything from me so that I could listen to him," said Long

This time Long said she listened. Long joined the Recovery Pod Program at the Manatee County Jail and graduated with three others this week.

"I’ve never finished anything in my life and I finished this. With God, I finished this," said Long.

She’s one of more than 700 people who have finished the 90-day faith-based twelve-step program since it began in 2016.

"The overdose rate in Florida is astronomical," said Dr. David Sutton who helped start the program at the Manatee County jail after overseeing the Sarasota County Jail's Recovery Pad program.

Manatee Drug Pod Graduation

Sutton said jails are the perfect place for recovery pods.

"They’re already housed. They’re already fed, they’re already supervised. There’s really none of that part that you pay most of the money for in treatment programs. And they can’t leave and the drug dealers can’t get access to sell them drugs. A jail is a perfect place for a recovery program," said Sutton

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said it also helps stop people from becoming repeat offenders.

"Once they’re back there on the streets it's almost impossible to get them into recovery but here we know that they’re addicted and they want help, and that's the key. They have to want the help," said Wells.

Wells said there is no funding for the program. But it works because counselors and pastors from the community volunteer their time to help the people who are struggling.

"I struggled so hard but I overcame it with the volunteers, by leaning more on God, with the help of my peers. This is a life-changing program," said Long.