(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – A pilot program designed to help individuals with mental health and substance use disorders is up and running in Dearborn County.
The Integrated Reentry and Correctional Support program (IRACS) brings forensic peer teams into jails to provide support for inmates. The peer team consists of a certified program supervisor, certified peer support, resource peer navigator, reentry peer and peer engagement coordinator, who are employed by the Indiana Recovery Network’s regional recovery hubs.
Their aim is to divert inmates away from the justice system into treatment.
On Wednesday, Sheriff Shane McHenry was joined by representatives from the Governor’s Office, Mental Health America of Indiana, and the Choices IRACS Project Coordinator to give an update on the program.
Since the launch of the program on July 1, more than 1,400 inmates have been served at the five pilot sites in Dearborn, Blackford, Daviess, Delaware, and Scott counties.
“The IRACS gives inmates the opportunity to help themselves out without time cuts,” said Sheriff McHenry. “I want to stress that because a lot of times the public perception is people are doing things for the wrong reasons and they are only doing it because they are getting time cuts and they are not doing it for themselves. I think this program’s different and because of that they have to want to do this.”
One of the most important parts of the IRACS program in Sheriff McHenry’s opinion is the preparation for release from incarceration. He says the goal for inmates when they are released is to have a photo ID, a job, a place to live and scheduled appointments for treatment.
“This is huge because it gives the inmates, who usually don’t have any those things when they are released from jail, especially if they have been here for very long, really a head start on recovery,” added Sheriff McHenry.
Although Sheriff McHenry has only seen a small sample size of the program, he believes it is going to be a big success.
“Inmate behavior has been better since we started the program, and the inmate population numbers have decreased,” said McHenry. “There is positive atmosphere in the jail and more and more inmates that learn about the program are excited to be apart of the program and be part of that positive change.”
Aaron Spaulding, Choices IRACS Project Coordinator, stated that the IRACS program has met with and provided resources and support to 241 participants within the Dearborn County Jail.
“We get to utilize our personal recovery experience to support others from the justice center population on their first steps to recovery,” said Spaulding. “The IRACS program through choices and help with 1Voice is another additional to the systems of care we have in the community. Its another opportunity to bridge more gaps and remove more barriers. This is the next step towards change in our community, the next level of recovery here in Dearborn County.”
The IRACS program is a collaboration between the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Indiana Recovery Network, and programs of Mental Health America of Indiana, and supported by 1 Voice. The organizations looked at about 20 counties across the state to determine the best places to pilot the program.
Jayme Whitaker, of Mental Health America of Indiana, said the factors in choosing a particular county included finding a sheriff that was supportive of recovery and visionary around the idea to help people by doing innovative things; a community that had judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and mental health providers all interested in a new opportunity to help with substance abuse disorders; and a strong recovery community.