GRAND FORKS — The Grand Forks County Correctional Center has been working with local public health officials to combat addiction problems among its inmates.

Jail administrator Bret Burkholder says more than 50% of the jail population suffers from addiction issues, and it's a big reason so many inmates keep re-offending after they are released.

"Approximately two-thirds of the people that are incarcerated here have been here before," Burkholder said.

To fight that problem, the jail has partnered with the Grand Forks Opioid Response Project to create a new program to get inmates into treatment.

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"It's a starting point, at least for some of them," Burkholder said.

For nine hours each week an inmate meets with addiction counselors in a group of five to 10 other inmates.

Jail officials say it's working. In the last three months, the program has helped 40 inmates at the jail.

Once inmates leave jail, they can be referred to mental health professionals in their hometown to continue the program.

"They can have that first appointment when they get out . . . to continue treatment and help achieve their goals,” said Michael Dulitz, the opioid response coordinator for the city of Grand Forks.

The jail and health officials are treating their efforts in Grand Forks as a pilot-program that could be implemented across the state.