Indiana Capital Chronicle: FSSA launches pilot mental health program in jails

<p>Newly elected Sheriff Tony Skinner poses in his uniform. Skinner's victory in this past midterm election marked the first time a Delaware County sheriff incumbent was unseated since 1944. <strong>Tony Skinner, Photo Courtesy</strong></p>

Newly elected Sheriff Tony Skinner poses in his uniform. Skinner's victory in this past midterm election marked the first time a Delaware County sheriff incumbent was unseated since 1944. Tony Skinner, Photo Courtesy

By: Whitney Downard- Indiana Capital Chronicle

The Division of Mental Health and Addiction, part of the Family and Social Services Administration, on Thursday announced a pilot program to address mental health and substance use disorders for Hoosiers incarcerated while awaiting trial.

The program, called the Integrated Reentry and Correctional Support program (IRACS), will operate in five Indiana county jails and aims to redirect Hoosiers from the criminal justice system into treatment using peers and support services in a Sequential Intercept Model.

“The first three steps an individual takes upon exiting the justice system are often the most important steps they will take in their recovery journey,” said Douglas Huntsinger, executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement for the state of Indiana, in a release. “Regardless of how an individual ended up in the justice system, how they move forward matters. By providing access to peers and wraparound services while individuals are incarcerated, we intend to reduce recidivism and future involvement in the justice system.”

Programs will operate in Blackford, Daviess, Dearborn, Delaware and Scott County jails. Upon arrival to the jail, Hoosiers will be screened for the program and those selected will receive treatment or support.

Indiana Recovery Network’s regional recovery hubs will employ the teams overseeing the program, which includes a certified program supervisor, certified peer support, a resource peer navigator, a reentry peer and a peer engagement coordinator. Participating jail staff will be trained to support the team and its clients.

The program uses reentry-focused “engagement pathways,” to provide relevant resources and flexible support, depending on the Hoosier’s legal process and potential sentence.

“The engagement pathways allow forensic peer teams to meet individuals as soon as they enter through the door of the jail and provide one-on-one support at a critical moment when meeting someone, where they’re at, can make all the difference,” said Jayme Whitaker, vice president of forensic services at Mental Health America of Indiana, in a statement. “With the vision and funding provided by state leadership and the strong local collaborations in all five pilot counties, the IRACS forensic peer teams are meeting people at some of their hardest moments and ensuring they have someone to walk alongside them, every step of the way.”

The program, funded by state dollars through June 2023, will grant each participating jail $500,000 to build their teams and infrastructure while collaborating with the outside community to ensure a continuity of care for those released.

Following the yearlong pilot program, data will be gathered and analyzed. If successful, the program could expand to more county jails.

“I want to thank the state of Indiana, local government and health officials, and all the volunteers who have made the IRACS program possible in Delaware County,” Delaware County Sheriff Tony Skinner said in a statement. “We have been hit especially hard with substance use and untreated mental illness for the past several years and this program is exactly what our community needs to help us stem the tide and begin recovering.”


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