To better address a growing problem among New Jersey's nearly 20,000 incarcerated adults, hundreds of corrections officers and prison management staff are in the process of getting trained on addiction and the treatment available to combat the disorder.

The goal, professionals say, is to equip these individuals with the skills and information they need when regularly interacting with inmates who may need help but don't receive it or keep up with it.

Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care started providing the three-day training program to prison staff in January, and it'll continue until June.

"There really was this understanding that we haven't done much education with corrections officers on really understanding that addiction is a disease," Dr. Stephanie Marcello, UBHC chief psychologist, told Townsquare Media New Jersey. "The Department of Corrections in New Jersey — they're addressing the things that need to be addressed."

Herbert Kaldany, DOC statewide psychiatric director, said the training targets staff at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and Mid-State Correctional Facility.

"The training helps to reduce misconceptions around addiction, and that in turn would help officers encourage offenders to stay in treatment," Kaldany said.

He said the training is specifically geared toward the "down-time" conversations that occur between inmates and staff.

Training also helps officers identify when someone may be in withdrawal or using a substance.

Similar to CPR and suicide training, Kaldany said, prison staff can use their new addiction knowledge outside of the workplace as well — to assist colleagues, family, friends and even themselves.

Research has shown that corrections officers are at heightened risk for issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which could lead to substance abuse.

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