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Breaking the cycle of addiction: The remarkable success of the STAR Program

Breaking the cycle of addiction: The remarkable success of the STAR Program
Posted at 7:03 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 12:13:10-04
  • A groundbreaking drug rehabilitation program offers hope in the face of addiction. It’s free, it’s effective, and it’s changing lives
  • STAR Program boasts a 46% success rate for those who graduate and continue the program
  • Meet the woman whose body camera video of her near-fatal overdose inspired the program

Breaking free from the grip of addiction often feels like an insurmountable challenge. However there is a drug rehabilitation program with an astonishing recovery rate. It’s free and right in our own backyard.


(the following is a transcript from the broadcast script of this story)


[Video package begins with body camera footage of an overdose incident in Winnebago County in 2017, emphasizing the severity of the opioid crisis.]

Sheriff’s Deputy: "Christina, wake up."

[Cut to interview with Kristina Farina-Riel, a recovered addict, reflecting on her past struggles with heroin addiction.]

"My kids almost lost me. Everybody almost lost me right there."

Christina Farina-Riel shares the moment she suffered a near-fatal opioid overdose. Sheriff’s deputies were able to revive her with two doses of Narcan but this was her fifth overdose. "How many more times can you keep going?" she says.

Winnebago County Sheriff John Matz recognized the need for a different approach to combat addiction.

Sheriff Matz: "It was the first time that we didn't think like normal law enforcement."

Sheriff Matz reached out to Kristina, urging her to watch the body camera footage of her overdose.

"Anything that's going to change anybody's future behavior is to see themselves in that, right? You don't get to do that," he says.

And it worked.

Sheriff Matz helped Kristina enter a 90-day treatment program that helped her get sober. Kristina’s story inspired Sheriff Matz to create the Sobriety Treatment Assisted Recovery Program or STAR Program that takes a different approach to treatment.

The STAR Program offers intensive recovery support for inmates at the Winnebago County Jail, including counseling, individual therapy, interactive sessions, recovery coaches from Solutions Recovery, and access to medication like Vivitrol, which blocks opioid and alcohol effects.

Former inmate Caleb Wilson shares his transformative experience with the STAR Program.

“Previously when I had gone to jail, it's your surrounded by negativity. All you're doing is meeting new criminals and thinking of new ways to do illegal things,” he says.

Caleb says, the STAR Program was different.

“Coming here and being in a positive environment, for the first time ever been in jail was definitely a really big stepping stone, and I think that's kind of like the epitome of what that program is,” he adds.

Caleb is now 2.5 months sober and has joined the 636 inmates who have gone through the program since it began in September of 2022.

“46% are still sober. That is astronomical compared to any other program in the United States so it's drawing a lot of attention,” Sheriff Matz says.

The creation of this successful recovery program all began with a young woman’s near-fatal overdose, who was able to turn her life around.

“I want to show whoever this video so they can see I'm proof. You can change,” she says. “I'm here right now, and I've been sober for over six years, and I'm doing it.”

... and the Sheriff who knew addiction recovery needed to be different.

“It's not to say that we stumbled on it. And when I gotta say Christina was like them, we saw that we were connected to success. We were personally connected to his success and that really made a difference.”

The STAR Program is funded through state grants.
For more information about the STAR Program contact the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office

If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction

Solutions Recovery 24/7 Help Hotline
866 465 0010

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