Program offers hope for prisoners

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Any program that helps address the mental and addiction struggles of incarcerated men and women can be met with every reaction from skepticism to hope.

Hoosiers often question whether the benefits of treating prisoners are worth the costs.

But here’s a troubling fact many overlook.

Inside the general public, the prevalence rate of those who have a serious mental illness or substance use disorder is 5.4 percent and 8.8 percent respectively, according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

But in the current prison population, 16 percent of inmates have a diagnosed serious mental illness. Over half of those in state prisons have a substance use disorder.

And of those prisoners who are released and go back into their homes, those with a substance use disorder nears 75 percent.

The impact of not treating prisoners — when Indiana is best able — can lead to a failed transition back into the general population.

But a new program, Recovery Works, shifts the solution from punitive to social, from treating illness and addiction with a legal perspective to one of social value.

The program also helps judges who have previously been forced to weigh the value of treatment programs in light of whether a prisoner is uninsured or under-insured. Recovery Works allocates in its first year up to $10 million to help cover those costs. The allocation is expected to increase to $30 million in the second year.

The need for such a program is critical enough that the Indiana General Assembly saw the need and earlier this year passed House Enrolled Act 1006 establishing a grant program to provide vouchers to providers that offer specialized services to Hoosiers struggling with mental illness of substance addiction.

The program is administered by the Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction, which has set up a list of providers for most Indiana counties.

The program is yet another tool in battling drug addiction, aimed at a population that direly needs attention not only in prison but when their incarceration ends.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected].