WRAP, REALM programs finding success helping those with substance use disorder

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Brad Barnes, court services director, address participants in the Women Recovering with a Purpose (WRAP) program during their graduation ceremony in the Cal Brand Meeting Room at Columbus City Hall in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

Newly-released statistics suggest that two comprehensive, evidence-based residential treatment programs for addicted offenders are working.

Of the 233 Bartholomew County females who have successfully completed the Women Recovering with a Purpose (WRAP) program, their risk to reoffend went down by 35%, Bartholomew County Director of Community Corrections Rob Gaskill said.

While WRAP has been graduating female offenders for the past 13 years, a similar program for male offenders called Recovery Enables a Life For Men (REALM) didn’t become operational until 2019.

Preliminary data shows the 87 men who have successfully graduated from REALM cut their risk to reoffend down to 50%, Gaskill said.

“Most of the men who come into the REALM program are sincerely ready to change their lives,” Gaskill said. “But addiction is such a struggle. They are dealing with the trauma they’ve had in the lives, and we’re still trying to work through it with them.”

Statistics provided by Gaskill also show 69% of the women who have gone through WRAP are considered successful or are still active in maintaining their sobriety, while 31% are considered unsuccessful. For the men, 63% are considered successful or still active and 37% determined to be unsuccessful.

“Now, the numbers may be a little lower with the guys than the girls, but not as much as we might have earlier thought,” Gaskill said.

Risk-factors cited are based on measurements established for the Indiana Risk Assessment System. The system is made up of five separate instruments used as specific points to identify an individual’s risk of committing another offense, as well as review causes tlikely to result in future criminal behavior.

Since WRAP has been in existence more than twice as long than REALM, conclusions about the women’s program are likely to be more valid than the treatment for men.

But no matter the gender, measuring the success of a addiction treatment program takes several years. While 75% of those seeking recovery from a substance abuse problem achieve their goal, they are likely to experience a relapse multiple times before achieving permanent sobriety, according to Dr. David Eddie of the Recovery Research Institute and Center for Addiction Medicine.

When WRAP was introduced to the community in 2011, Gaskill estimated that for every dollar spent on the program, taxpayers would save $7 in child services or juvenile detention costs.

After heroin and methamphetamine use escalated in Bartholomew County, the savings became closer to $12 for every dollar spent, he said.

The following is a year-by-year comparison of the 233 women who were accepted into the “Women Recovering with a Purpose” (WRAP) program.

2011: 24

2012: 25

2013: 24

2014: 16

2015: 20

2016: 19

2017: 29

2018: 24

2019: 18

2020: 11

2021: 12

2022: 6

2023: 5

Within three years, Bartholomew County’s “WRAP” program was being lauded across the country. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice selected it as one of only three mentoring sites nationally for other communities to learn from.

But for addicted male inmates, there was little to no court-ordered residential treatment available for seven years. The treatment disappeared in 2012 after a Clark County facility for male offenders that served 17 counties, including Bartholomew, was closed after the state eliminated its funding.

Before REALM was created, some local government leaders argued women are likely to be more responsive to drug treatment because over 90% of female participants have children, grandchildren or family members adversely affected by their addictions, Gaskill said.

As the number of criminal offenders addicted to narcotics continued to rise, one of several community responses was to establish a court-ordered men’s program. On Monday, Oct. 16, 2018, REALM became fully-funded and started treatments in early 2019.

Like WRAP, the men’s program was created to provide comprehensive, evidence-based residential treatment focusing on an individual’s substance abuse needs.

The following is a year-by-year comparison of how many men were accepted into REALM.

2019: 30

2020: 14

2021: 17

2022: 16

2023: 10

The lower numbers in 2020 and 2021 were the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaskill said. During the past few years, lower numbers were the result of alternatives available through problem-solving courts such as Adult Drug Court, he said.

From about four to six months, participants in the two programs are housed away from the general jail population. The program is part of Bartholomew County Community Corrections, rather than the jail, so participants are not considered inmates, Gaskill said.

If the addicted individual responds to the in-house treatment, he or she may be released. However, they will receive six to eight additional months of intensive supervision with continuing care.

While it’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions regarding addiction treatments, Gaskill is content that the two programs have remained relatively stable.

For those who feel court-ordered addiction treatments should have better results, the Community Corrections director used a baseball analogy.

“If we can get it right 61% of the time on a baseball field, we’d be making millions of dollars,” Gaskill said. “If you get it right 30% of the time, you are a star in major league baseball. It’s best to keep things in perspective.”