Jail initiative helps inmates end addiction

Grant boosts drug battle

A new pilot program in the Bartholomew County Jail, which helps inmates deal with substance-abuse problems, is being extended to provide mental-health services for the first 90 days after their release.

Recovery Works is supported through a state-funded, fee-for-service grant to Centerstone, members of the county Evidence Based Decision Making policy team have announced.

Male inmates who are serving their sentence in the county jail and are within the final 90 days of their sentence are asked if they wish to participate in Recovery Works, Sheriff Matt Myers said.

Five jail inmates are currently in the program, which is designed to help individuals successfully re-enter the community.

Centerstone employees work to build relationships with jail inmates during the final 90 days of their sentence, and offer to continue providing treatment services, or refer the participant to another resource, for another 90 days after their release.

The program is designed to intervene early in an individual’s transition out of the jail environment to connect them to community services and keep them connected once they are released, said Shirley Arney, Centerstone chief administrative officer in Columbus.

The better connection that is formed by Recovery Works participants with agencies that can help them obtain housing, employment, transportation and substance-abuse treatment, the better chance for success for the individual, Arney said.

Although it’s not a specific requirement, the program is geared toward people who have a substance-abuse issue, Arney said. Since substance abuse is often accompanied by mental health issues, Centerstone staff evaluate participants for both and work with the individuals to set up a recovery plan.

During their interaction with people who have been incarcerated, Centerstone employees will work on housing, employment, transportation, increasing coping skills, developing and utilizing a support system and evaluating their overall ability to manage re-entering the community.

Myers said he would prefer that people who sign up for Recovery Works be housed within a separate area of the jail, away from general jail population, giving them a better opportunity to interact with others who are focused on turning their lives around after they leave jail.

However, the jail is nearing its 230-inmate capacity and doesn’t have enough room to separate inmates now, Myers said.

Instead, the five men currently in the program go to a separate classroom for about an hour and a half in the morning, and again in the afternoon, to work with Centerstone staff members leading the program.

The aim of Recovery Works is to reduce the risk of a released inmate resuming substance abuse and to decrease the likelihood the person commits another crime, which correlates with the policy team’s goal to reduce repetitive criminal behavior to maintain public safety.

There is no specified amount for the state’s fee-for-services grant, with Centerstone applying and receiving reimbursement from a pool of grant money the state has available for the program. Centerstone is one of the largest users of the state-funded program, Arney said.

Eventually, working with the Bartholomew County judges — including Circuit Court Judge Kelly Benjamin, who is on the decision-making team — the program hopes to include Recovery Works as a sentencing option for some defendants, channeling them toward recovery programming as a part of their sentence, Arney said. When individuals leave jail, they would spend the first 90 days after being released on probation and working with the Recovery Works program.

The Evidence-Based Decision Making policy team was formed from representatives from the county’s criminal justice system after Bartholomew County was selected as one of 18 counties nationwide to participate in a federally-funded initiative to use data and research to guide decision-making about criminal justice processes.

Centerstone received the Recovery Works grant from the state Jan. 6, and details about the program were presented to local attorneys and judges in March, with the program beginning in April.

Recovery Works has been mentioned by the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County as a program that could be expanded to increase treatment options for people seeking to recover from addiction.

About the program

Recovery Works is a state-funded, fee-for-service program being offered in the Bartholomew County Jail for male inmates who are within 90 days of completing their sentence. Individuals may elect to participate in the program, which provides treatment and referral services to help individuals successfully navigate re-entry into the community in the 90 days after being released from jail. The ultimate goal of the program is to decrease the likelihood that a person would commit another crime or resume substance abuse.

For more on the state-funded program, visit in.gov/fssa/dmha/2929.htm

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.