A new report says fatal drug overdoses are on the rise for the eleventh straight year.
While this is bad news, Thursday morning several inmates at the Atlantic County Justice Facility graduated from a relatively new program that will help them avoid further addiction and stay out of jail.
"I'm moving on to the next step in my life and I'm going to learn from my mistakes," inmate Anthony Dremow said.
Anthony hit rock bottom twice, he's been to jail three different times, he's 26 years old, and was addicted to heroin. He says this program changed his life.
"It gave me a positive light at a very dark time in my life and it was unexpected, but I'm glad god offered me this opportunity," Anthony said.
While state officials talk about keeping drug users out of prison and offering them help instead, the staff at the Atlantic County Justice Facility is following through-- with a treatment program that is turning heads.
"We do a blending of interventions now. R.M.B.T. Rational moto behavior therapy. Motivational interviewing and cognitive behavior, so were combining those four components to give them choice in terms of what they think would be best for them," Director of Social Services John McLernon said.
Drugs and substance abuse are what drive more than 81 percent of inmates to this jail, according to officials at the jail. An astronomical number for non–violent offenders. Many of the men say they have been in out of this facility over a dozen times. After completing this program they hope it will be their last.
"Thirty-seven years old, father of four children whom I haven't seen in 12 years, I have a lot of purpose later on in life," Graduate Richard Ambrose said.
For 60 days these men work in groups and with counselors outside of the prisons general population. For people like Anthony's mom-- this is a big day.
"I know it's been a very long journey for him. Being a parent watching your child struggle the way he has, it's been a very heart breaking sometimes. We lose hope, but I think today is a mile stone," Stephanie Dremow said.
A milestone that jail officials hope many more addicts will soon be able to celebrate.
This program began in 2011 with an $11,000 grant. Officials say the success of the program is driving its growth.