Drug court judge seeks emergency fund for participants in treatment program

July 13, 2017. Insider Louisville.

District Court Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke says her speciality drug court in Jefferson County designed to steer criminal defendants toward addiction treatment instead of jail is producing good results, but it’s only at half-capacity and in need of discretionary funds to help participants in crisis pay for housing, medication and food to increase their odds of completing the program.

Earlier this week, Burke participated in the inaugural criminal justice roundtable of city leaders created by Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together (CLOUT), a faith-based social justice group.

Interfaith group, community leaders commit to focusing on addiction treatment

April 30, 2015. The Daily Progress.

Inside the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail and the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center, 3,150 people — or 70 percent of the inmate population — suffer from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, according to statistics from Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregating Together, or IMPACT.

Women are particularly vulnerable because there are no residential treatment programs in Charlottesville or Albemarle County for them, said IMPACT Executive Secretary Sheila Herlihy.

During the latter half of 2014, approximately 70 people had to leave the community to receive substance abuse treatment at a cost of $800 to $3,000 per person, Herlihy said. About 30 women couldn’t receive treatment because centers outside the region were unable to accommodate them, she said.

“We know there are people within our community who need these services and don’t have access to them,” Herlihy said. “We’ve heard their stories. The services we have are good, but residential treatment is very necessary for people who simply can’t deal with their problems at home.”

Those statistics were among reasons why members of 27 local Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian Universalist congregations gathered at the ninth Nehemiah Action Assembly chose to make a community-wide call to support those facing drug and alcohol addiction. Marketed as the largest annual regional public meeting, leaders and members of the regional faith community also confirmed commitments from Albemarle County and Charlottesville officials.

Working in conjunction with Region Ten, city and county officials would be able to address a serious problem plaguing the community, IMPACT leaders said at the Thursday night event in John Paul Jones Arena.

“It is an issue that several members have brought to our attention,” Jan Godfrey, IMPACT executive board vice president, said.

“We hold ourselves accountable as people of faith to help our brothers and sisters that are facing injustices in regards to substance abuse treatment,” Godfrey continued.

Col. Steven Sellers, chief of Albemarle County police, said after the event that drug and alcohol abuse often plays a role in the lives of those who routinely become engaged with the criminal justice system.

“Any kind of prevention activities will certainly impact crime in the community in a positive way,” Sellers said. “It’s been proven to be effective.”

Deputy Albemarle County Executive Doug Walker, Charlottesville Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy and Region Ten Executive Director Robert Johnson all agreed to four commitments outlined by IMPACT officials:

» organizing a three-year plan to increase substance abuse treatment for men and women;

» holding a joint meeting with city, county and Region Ten officials within 30 days to develop the plan;

» sending an outline of that plan to IMPACT’s executive board by Sept. 1; and

» giving a presentation of the report at IMPACT’s scheduled annual assembly on Oct. 26.

Additionally, Region Ten could build a $2 million residential treatment center as part of the plan, Johnson said, but financial support to build it and pay for increased staffing and maintenance could cost about $200,000 annually. The facility would have rooms for eight women, eight men and two children.

“We truly believe this can be done,” Johnson said. “I believe it, and our staff believes it. That’s our plan that we hope to stick to it. We are hoping to make an impact as well.”

While Walker and Murphy agreed to the commitments, no specific amount of funding was promised due to the meeting’s location in the fiscal year.

Imam Tyler “Ali” Roach, IMPACT co-president and a worship leader with the Islamic Society of Central Virginia, said he was confident the new commitments city, county and community leaders made Thursday would also be fulfilled, “God willing.”

“I’m very grateful and happy,” he said. “With prayer and hard work from our community leaders, I expect good results.”

Douglas County leaders tour San Antonio mental health facilities

April 9, 2015. The Lawrence Journal-World.

— Various leaders from Lawrence and Douglas County toured a nationally respected mental wellness and homeless shelter campus here Thursday as stakeholders continue collecting information on a proposed project to provide better resources to some Douglas County residents who run afoul of the law.

Local government, law enforcement and health care officials, among others, spent more than nine hours learning about The Center for Health Care Services’ jail diversion program and surrounding facilities, which are based in San Antonio and serve the rest of Bexar County.

The jail diversion program helps nonviolent individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems receive proper care for their conditions, rather than being jailed. Nationwide, it is regarded as a model program of its kind and has been given a Gold Achievement Award by the American Psychiatric Association, among other accolades.

In response to rising inmate populations and a greater demand to provide mental health care services to inmates, Douglas County is currently studying how to best expand its jail and construct a separate facility to assist those with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems.

The trip was organized by Justice Matters, a group of religious leaders who focus on justice issues.

Nearly 20 officials from the Lawrence area made the trip, including Lawrence vice mayor Jeremy Farmer; police chief Tarik Khatib; municipal court judge Scott Miller; Lawrence Community Shelter CEO Brian Blevins; Lawrence Memorial Hospital CEO Gene Meyer; county commissioners Nancy Thellman and Mike Gaughan; county administrator Craig Weinaug; District Attorney Charles Branson; Capt. Eric Spurling of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department; and several members of Justice Matters. More officials, including Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern, are expected to tour the facility in the coming weeks.

They spent most of Thursday at a facility called the Restoration Center. There, law enforcement officers from all over Bexar County can drop off individuals who are either inebriated or having a mental health crisis to rest or receive varying degrees of care.

Leon Evans, the CEO of CHCS, said 2,300 people are diverted there monthly, and anyone is welcome to check themselves in at any time of day. He said the program saves the city and county governments nearly $10 million a year in jailing and emergency room costs.

According to data provided by CHCS, Bexar County had the lowest recidivism rate in Texas in 2012, at 6.6 percent. The statewide average is 17.6 percent.

The Restoration Center is also next door to a separate 37-acre campus, called the Haven for Hope, that houses a homeless shelter and offices for more than 30 agencies — also toured by the Douglas County group.

Officials listened to nearly a dozen presentations, describing how various programs function and how the local health care, judicial and law enforcement institutions all collaborated in the early 2000s to form the jail diversion program.

Weinaug said he was happy that representatives from so many Douglas County institutions were able to make the trip. He said Douglas County would “never” be able to replicate the extensive Bexar County program, but that it could influence upcoming designs and proposals for the Douglas County project.

Officials will wrap things up with another three hours of meetings Friday.

IMPACT chooses drugs, crime as next focus area

October 27, 2014. The Daily Progress.

For years, Loretta Martin said, her sister has battled drug and alcohol abuse without being able to find adequate rehabilitation programs close to her family. She has been to programs in Richmond and Roanoke, but is “incapable of finding help on her own,” Martin said. She has been turned away from a psychiatric ward and can’t find housing.

“If there was some program for women with alcohol and drug problems in the local areas, families could stay connected and then the healing could begin,” Martin said. “I pray that she is okay and that God will continue to watch after her. Am I my sister’s keeper? Yes, I am. And I and my family will fight to find the care that she needs.

Martin’s story led to the Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregating Together, IMPACT, choosing drugs and crime as its next project.

The nonprofit group, comprised of 27 Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian Universalist congregations across Charlottesville and Albemarle County, met Monday evening to direct its focus on drugs and crime, housing or education.

Along with Martin, three other members told their stories and leaders encouraged voters to think about their own experiences to make a decision.

Mallika Rodriguez, a single mother, spoke about her struggle to find affordable, convenient and high-quality childcare. She said she had a hard time finding childcare that was able to work with her job schedule, which could change weekly.

“Sometimes when I’ve found a child care center that offered this flexible coverage, I found myself disappointed by the quality of the actual programs, the facilities or even the staff,” Rodriguez said.

Statistics provided from Child Care Aware show that, in 2011, Virginians typically paid between $8,300 and $10,650 a year for full-time care for infants and toddlers. In comparison, the 2012 in-state tuition at the University of Virginia was just more than $12,000.

Stephanie and Dominique Eley told their story of homelessness, stemming from the inability for both of them to keep a job expecting their child. They went through several houses, but never had to spend a night on the streets due to help they received from churches. They are now working with Habitat for Humanity to build their own home.

According to Habitat for Humanity, about 4,000 families in Charlottesville spend more than half of their income on housing.

Of the 254 votes cast Monday, crime and drugs received 116, housing received 80 and education received the remaining 58. Members from 24 congregations voted.

The night also featured a progress report on two earlier initiatives: young adult unemployment and youth mental health.

Through working with IMPACT, UVa Health Systems has applied for a grant that would allow it to take 50 unemployed or underemployed young adults, aged 18-25, for skills training, mentoring and education to help them get employment in the healthcare field, said Patricia Cluff, associate vice president for strategic relations and marketing for UVa Health Systems.

After completion of the program, candidates will then be able to apply for entry level positions at UVa Health Systems.

As for youth mental health, both Fluvanna and Greene counties have been able to install telepsychiatry equipment to help children get psychiatric services, said Region Ten Executive Director Robert Johnson.