Commissioners discuss recovery housing effort

BROWNSTOWN — The Jackson County Commissioners recently received some information about the pursuit of a grant designed to reduce the number of county residents with substance use and mental health disorders who have repeat encounters with law enforcement.

“As we went through that process in pulling that grant application together, it became clear that perhaps there was not information out, certainly among commissioners and among the community around recovery residences, and what they might need to know,” Sherri Jewett said during a commissioners meeting March 7 at the courthouse.

Jewett, executive director of Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County, said her goal was to give commissioners that information and talk about what will potentially happen and what process the state is putting in place with recovery residences.

Recovery housing is just one of many components of the $3 million grant application Healthy Jackson County recently submitted to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration to set up an Integrated Reentry and Correction Support program.

The state has set aside $25 million to allow any of the state’s 92 counties to put IRACS in place. The state is funding the program, which also provides support for those who have encounters with police even if they are not arrested, with its opioid settlement monies.

Healthy Jackson County’s grant application includes requests for funding to help about 15 governmental agencies and other organizations in the county who deal with those who have substance use and mental health issues.

As part of the grant process, the state is looking for counties, cities and towns to use some of their opioid settlement funds to support the state funding, and there are three priorities, Jewett said.

“Jail treatment, recovery residences and harm reduction,” she said. “So they have already signaled that recovery residences are one of the highest priorities.”

That’s where Jewett and ASAP became involved in the Healthy Jackson County grant application process, she said.

Part of the application calls for $610,000 for three recovery residences in Jackson County that would have about 30 beds.

Jewett told commissioners one of ASAP’s partners, Thrive Alliance, would purchase and operate two recovery residences and Centerstone would operate the third.

She also said the state will assure that only reputable, experienced providers willing to make long-term commitments to a community and its needs are funded. Thrive Alliance and Centerstone are good partners and organizations that are going to be around and do things right, she said.

Centerstone operates a number of recovery residences across southern Indiana, including Columbus, she said.

“… and they do a really good job,” Jewett said.

She said Centerstone also does a good job of looking for grant opportunities.

“So they have been able to provide financial support to get people into recovery residences from their grants,” she said. “The last and probably the most important connection, people also can get access to mental health treatment services.”

Jewett said substance use and mental health often go hand in hand.

“So by having Centerstone, it’s comprehensive for what people need,” she said. “So I just want commissioners to feel comfortable with those partners.”

Thrive Alliance would provide 80% of the $400,000 funding for its two recovery residences, while the cost of the Centerstone recovery residence was $210,000.

Thrive Alliance and the city of Seymour have committed about half of the local match for the recovery housing portion of the grant.

The group also had asked the Jackson County Commissioners and Jackson County Council to provide an additional $133,750 in opioid settlement funds in support for that part of the overall grant.

That’s on top of the $100,000 in opioid settlement funds commissioners and the council agreed to go toward the overall grant if approved. The county received its first payment of $335,539.31 in opioid settlement funds in December and is slated to receive a total of $1,666,863.76 in opioid settlement through 2038.

The county council approved the additional $133,705 in opioid settlement funds for the recovery housing portion of the grant contingent on commissioners approving the request. Commissioners, however, did not receive information about approving funding for the recovery housing grant in time to discuss it before the deadline to apply had passed.

Jewett told The Tribune on Wednesday the grant was submitted without the county’s commitment for the $133,750 for recovery housing, but she wanted commissioners to be aware of the issue in case the state eventually approved that part of the grant.

“I just wanted to get back to them (commissioners) and say, ‘OK, it sounds like you have questions, and it might get approved, so what do we need to do ensure that you as commissioners have the answers you need to support this?’” she said.

During the grant review process, Jewett said the state might come back and tell Healthy Jackson County that they want to support the recovery housing portion and ask the county for its support since the people to be helped are the ones who tend to use opioids, and that’s really what the opioid settlement money is for.

“But the first thing from my perspective, the county commissioners have to feel comfortable that it’s the right thing to do,” Jewett said.

She told commissioners one of the reasons they did not have enough information about what was in the grant application was the shortness of time needed because of the deadline.

“We rushed it,” Jewett said.

Local officials had about 28 days to put together the application, which was due to the state by Feb. 28. Jewett said there also were key answers to grant questions that weren’t published until Feb. 13, which made the schedule even tighter since both the county commissioners and council had to commit to approving all or some of the county’s opioid settlement funds.

A decision from the state is expected May 1 with the grant to start July 1.

Commissioners President Drew Markel said he 100% supported recovery housing but wanted to make sure the county services are there for people once they leave the system.

He also said commissioners want to have as much information as possible so they can understand the thought processes.

Markel said he also had some concerns about other organizations, such as The Alley and Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry, that having been supporting people in recovery for years and don’t receive any opioid settlement funds.

“I don’t want to see them left out just because they don’t have the staff to ask,” he said.