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Pilot to help boost rehab programs

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 09:16 PM

CHARLESTON — West Virginia is preparing to launch a program that will offer community-based substance abuse treatment to people on probation, parole and supervised release.

It’s slated to begin with nine counties, including Cabell, and arises from the Justice Reinvestment Act of 2013, a law proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to reduce criminal recidivism while tackling inmate crowding in West Virginia’s prisons and jails.

Phase 1 of the pilot seeks to engage behavioral health service treatment providers in each of the counties, including Cabell, Fayette, Logan, Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia, Raleigh, Wirt and Wood.

These providers will expand their effective substance abuse treatment services to offenders in these communities. For this, there is $3 million in committed funding budgeted at the request of Tomblin for the current fiscal year, said Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. He said that as the word gets out about the pilot, the state is hoping to hear from rehabilitation centers and agencies that wish to be involved in launching the program.

The amount available for any given provider would depend on such factors as the proposed scope and level of services offered, Messina said.

All organizations planning to submit an application for an Announcement of Funding Availability (AFA) must submit a letter of intent by 5 p.m. March 3 to the email address DHHRBHHFAnnouncement@wv.gov, prior to submission of the AFA application. The AFA number is AFA -001-2014-JRI, and the application deadline is March 31.

The goal is to extend this community-based approach statewide over time.

Among numerous provisions of the Justice Reinvestment Act, is one recommending increased rehabilitation services for offenders who show a high risk for reoffending and a need for substance abuse treatment. That includes offenders with co-occurring disorders.

“Under Gov. Tomblin’s leadership, Justice Reinvestment puts West Virginia on a path to address one of the biggest issues driving prison growth: substance abuse,” Cabinet Secretary Joseph Thornton of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said in a news release. “Simply locking offenders up without offering effective rehabilitation services during incarceration, or in the community upon release, simply ignores the problem.

“The programs offered in prisons are effective, but the lack of community-based services for offenders represents a significant gap,” Thornton continued. “The establishment of community-based treatment opportunities promises to close that gap and offers offenders a better chance at being successful, law-abiding and productive members of society.”

The department has developed the pilot through its Division of Justice and Community Services, together with the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities at the Department of Health and Human Resources.

“The increased collaboration between providers and community corrections professionals will expand effective community based services and reduce recidivism among the offender population,” DHHR Cabinet Secretary Karen Bowling said in the release. “This collaborative approach to services development and coordination forges a long overdue partnership and avoids service system duplication.”

Community-based substance abuse services for offenders is among several provisions in the law that reflect data-driven, consensus-based policy options developed during a recent study of West Virginia’s criminal justice system, the release said. A group of state legislators and key leaders worked closely with the Justice Center of the nonpartisan Center for State Governments as part of that comprehensive review.

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