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Project CARE targets recidivism

February 3, 2010
by Lindsay Barba, Associate Editor
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Reach-in offers game plan for offenders before release

In October 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) set aside $28.7 million in grant funding for 24 behavioral health organizations to plan, develop, and implement various three-year programs to prevent criminal recidivism in their communities. Centerstone of Indiana, one of the largest community behavioral health providers in the nation, was selected to receive $1.2 million of those funds to establish an integrated, early action program for offenders re-entering the community, which it launched as Project CARE in January.

Project CARE serves six counties in southern Indiana, providing re-entering individuals with substance abuse disorders a year of vocational services, housing support, HIV testing, case management, substance abuse treatment, and other community services.

“Project CARE is the first of its kind in Indiana,” says Linda Grove-Paul, director of addiction and forensic services for Centerstone, who pursued the grant along with Jennifer Fillmore of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA). Program services begin with a “reach in” to the individual prior to release. Issues that may influence the individual to return to crime or drug use—such as “finding suitable employment, loss of benefits (food stamps, Medicaid/Medicare, housing), and returning to old stomping grounds,” according to Grove-Paul—can be resolved in advance and, therefore, avoided.

Because the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) has determined that 37.4 percent of offenders will re-enter the criminal justice system within three years, both offenders and the state need and value the program. “Individuals in the program are not violent offenders, and the expense of keeping them in jail long-term is far greater than providing support so they can become productive citizens in the community,” Grove-Paul says.

Aside from the high rate of recidivism, Grove-Paul points out the ever-present issue of drug abuse among Indiana’s offenders. “In Indiana, 79 percent of adult parolees and offenders have been identified as having a chronic addiction,” she says. “Of drug abusing offenders, 85 percent return to drug use within one year of release and 95 percent within three years.” Grove-Paul believes that a large number of these addicted offenders have co-occurring disorders.

With addiction so prevalent among Indiana’s offenders, Centerstone’s 120 locations make it well situated to serve Project CARE participants. In addition, Centerstone is integrating Project CARE by aligning itself with other state and community organizations and professionals.

“We form wrap-around teams for each client that include the client’s community corrections/parole/probation officer, treatment provider, grant case manager, vocational rehabilitation counselor, family members, friends, sponsors, and mentors,” Grove-Paul says. “Another unique feature is the collaboration between [the state] Department of Mental Health and Addiction, Indiana Department of Corrections, and community treatment providers.”

This integrated approach is designed to address every facet of the individual’s life, from the home to the criminal justice setting to the treatment environment. “It is well-documented that individuals released from state and federal prisons face barriers to successful re-entry into society,” Grove-Paul says. “The program is one way to support individuals released from jail in an effort to reduce their risk of re-offending and improve their quality of life while positively impacting their communities and related costs.”

With the support of the Centerstone Research Institute, Project CARE expects to provide forward-thinking and effective treatments to each individual and gain valuable data to advance future research. “Treatment results and recidivism among participants will be carefully documented and reviewed,” Grove-Paul says. Tracking the outcomes of Project CARE’s three-year endeavor will add to the array of proven approaches for reducing recidivism and substance abuse among individuals re-entering the community.