Monroe County part of national criminal justice project

By Bob Pieper for Chronicle Media

Monroe County is one of three prototype protects around the country hoping to reduce reincarceration rates of mostly repeat nonviolent offenders.

New Monroe County Criminal Justice Collaborative targets addiction, recidivism

Monroe County Jail inmates with addiction or behavioral problems will soon benefit from a well-coordinated, comprehensive program of treatment and services, designed to help fight recidivism, according to the new Monroe County Criminal Justice Collaborative.

A joint initiative of Human Support Services (HHS) — Waterloo’s community mental health center — and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, the collaborative is one of three prototype protects, now being facilitated around the nation by the Washington, D.C.-based National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH).

If demonstrated successful, the NCBH hopes to see the effort duplicated at jails and prisons across the nation.

Under the new program, the Waterloo behavioral health center will work closely with the sheriff’s department to assess jail inmates for behavioral and substance abuse problem and then provide any services they may need —from counseling or cognitive therapy to housing or employment assistance — to minimize the chances for reincarceration, according to Anne King, HSS executive director.

“The initiative, which will be coordinated locally in a joint effort between our organization and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, will focus on early identification and treatment of mental health and substance abuse disorders of incarcerated individuals at the Monroe County Jail. I believe this collaboration is an outstanding opportunity for Monroe County to make great strides forward in addressing mental health and substance abuse disorders in our justice system,” Anne King, HSS executive director, wrote in the HSS newsletter, announcing the program.

“We want to address these issues the second the individuals come into the jail, and hopefully start the rehabilitation process much sooner so we can stop the cycle of recidivism. While incarcerated, jails can spend two to three times more on individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders than on people without, but often do not see improvements in recidivism or recovery,” King continued. “By improving the continuity of care during and after incarceration and promoting the overall health of a justice-involved individual, we are increasing the chances of a positive outcome.”

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing believes the program could be effective in closing a “revolving door” of reincarceration.

The program is targeted primarily, but not exclusively, to repeat nonviolent offenders, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice, with rare bi-partisan support, is actively encouraging such innovative projects to reduce the nation’s incarceration rate — considered one of the highest in the world — and the total $80 billion annual cost of imprisonment across America.

Neal Rohlfing, Monroe County sheriff

Recidivism is a major reason the nation’s jails and prisons often remain consistently full, often to the point of overcrowding, according to a 2014 report by National Institute of Justice.

Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners are rearrested, according to the study. Of those rearrested, more than half (56.7 percent) were arrested by the end of the first year.


SUBHED: The addiction factor


Substance abuse or outright addiction are major factors in that recidivism, according to the National Council.

Nationwide 75 percent of incarcerated individuals suffer from a substance use disorder, complicating successful re-integration into community life, according to Tom Hill, the council’s vice president for practice improvement.

Yet, on average, only about 11 percent of inmates across the nation receive any type of addiction treatment, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

Illinois, with third largest prison population in America behind only Texas and New Jersey, is a good location for a collaborative inmate treatment program, some close the project quietly note.  State administrators would like to reduce prison costs as they struggle to bring down Illinois’ $3 billion long-term debt.

Metro East is widely considered a hot spot in the nation’s opioid epidemic. Jail expansion amid increasing prisoner populations has been an issue in Madison and St. Clair counties for years.

Anne King, HSS executive director

“In Monroe County, we have seen a real change over the past two years, with probably 75 percent of the incarcerated having either behavioral or addiction problems,” said Sheriff Rohlfing.

After rising to record levels in the 1990s, nation’s total incarcerated population has been slowly declining over recent years; along with recidivism rates, the National Council notes. However, those reductions are not uniform across all states and several studies note that recidivism rates remain higher in rural areas than in urban or suburban population centers.

While not publicly announced until last month, the National Council’s national Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Collaborative (CJBHC) project has been under development since early this year, when the council began soliciting joint applications from behavioral health centers and law enforcement agencies around the nation.

In addition to HSS and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, the National Council selected Chestnut Health Systems in Bloomington, and Berks Counseling Center in Reading, Pa. for pilot projects.

Laying the groundwork

Representatives of the three successful applicants met with National Council staff for an initial overview of the anti-recidivism initiative, April 25, at the council’s 2018 annual behavioral health conference, NatCon18, in Washington.

The Monroe County project began to take shape in July when the Delmar, NY-based consultancy Policy Research Associates (PRA) provided a two-day detailed training session for HSS and sheriff’s department staff in Waterloo.

Much of the project is centered around a “sequential intercept mapping” strategy, developed by PRA to facilitate early identification and appropriate referral of identification and proper handling of individual with substance or behavior problems

Anne King, HSS executive director

The Monroe County Criminal Justice Behavioral Health Task Force was officially launched Oct. 19 with a meeting for various stakeholders in project including HSS staff; sheriff’s deputies and correctional offices including Lt. Jim Lansing; the county’s chief correctional officer; Monroe County State’s Attorney Christopher Hitzemann; county Probation Officer Courtney Schweickhardt; Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul; Waterloo Police Chief Jerry Trelka; emergency medical technicians from Monroe County EMS; jail physician Amy Rohlfing, M.D., of Red Bud Regional Medical Center, at least two area ministers, and members of the Monroe County Board.

Designated perhaps the top priority for the new project is a smooth, established system for a “warm handoff” of inmates with substance abuse problems from the sheriff’s department to HSS staff, King said.  Cross training of all personnel involved in the project – from EMTs to deputies to counselors – is another.   Plans call for all law enforcement offices in the county to undergo state-certified Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training.

King hopes to have to have the collaborative up and operational with those “phase one” elements in place by April of next year. Additional services will be added with time, she says.

The task force will hold monthly meetings on development and administration of the program, with a hopefully growing roster of program stakeholders, King said.


HHS role in the county

The new initiative will complement the existing Adult Redeploy Illinois (ARI) program, which is currently facilitated by Human Services Support in Monroe County.

Through ARI, non-violent offenders, with court approval, are given the opportunity to engage in intensive treatment and case management services in lieu of a prison sentence.

HSS is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, was founded in 1973 with a part-time medical director in Waterloo’s “old milk company building” to provide a community counseling program in Monroe County on a sliding-fee scale.

For more than 45 years, the organization has become the primary provider of behavioral healthcare in the county, a full range of outpatient mental health services, an affordable housing program for persons with disabilities, and both day and work services program for persons needing assistance in acquiring vocational and independent living skills and experience, as well as DUI/DWI services and prevention services.

Bolstered by tax funding provided under the 1978 Monroe County Community Mental Health Funding Act, and now headquarters at 988 North Illinois in Waterloo, the HHS today offers Sheltered Workshop Program (incorporating the county’s former Developmental Disabilities Program), a Community Support Network (CSN) to provide Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILA) for developmentally disabled adults, updated Supportive Employment Program, adult day care, and workshop facilities, a client transportation van, nine rent-subsidized apartment buildings, with a total of 60 units, including in Waterloo and Columbia, two four-bed group homes in Hecker, and  a three-bed group home in Waterloo.

In addition to dedicated tax funding administered through the county’s mental health board, the HHS is supported by its own Human Support Services Foundation, an annual gala and community outreach drive, as well as United Way funding.

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Instagram

Connect with us on LinkedIn