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Funding uncertainty surrounding Ind. diversion program reflects widespread trend

October 19, 2011
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Few would deny that initiatives combining the hammer of criminal sanction with the helping hand of addiction treatment stand a better chance of success for offenders than business as usual. Yet innovative criminal justice partnership programs such as one in southern Indiana face an uncertain future amid widespread state budget constraints across the country.

The Forensic Diversion Program, based in Clark County, Ind., and serving individuals from 18 counties in the region, has been in operation for four years but does not yet have an identified source of continuation funding beyond its initial multi-year state grant.

The director of addiction and forensic services at Centerstone, the behavioral health organization that provides offender treatment services under the program, tries to highlight the importance of maintaining collaborative partnerships as leaders look at any options that could maintain the diversion program.

“The future of addictions is in partnering with criminal justice,” says Centerstone’s Linda Grove-Paul. “That’s where our folks are.”

The Forensic Diversion Program, funded during its four-year history by the state Division of Mental Health and Addictions, targets nonviolent offenders whose substance use history has made them “the revolving-door folks,” says Grove-Paul. Violent offenders and most individuals convicted of drug-dealing crimes are ineligible under the initiative.

The program implements an intensive evidence-based curriculum called “A New Direction” at a jail work-release facility for 15 male offenders at a time, with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as the clinical foundation. “We do a lot of cognitive restructuring,” Grove-Paul says. “A lot of these clients have spent more time behind bars than in the community.”

The residential portion of the program in Clark County lasts for 90 days, but Centerstone also receives state funding to extend nine months of aftercare to participants. Grove-Paul says the effort is proving its worth in reducing recidivism in the targeted population, even in individual cases where a judge might assume based on a client’s past history that nothing carries much hope of making a difference.

Notwithstanding the eventual outcome for the initiative at the end of the current state fiscal year next June, Grove-Paul says it will be important to maintain the relationships that are being built between treatment professionals and justice system staff. Centerstone is presently involved with a total of four programs that partner with corrections officials.

“There’s a recognition that each side of our respective silos has value,” Grove-Paul says. Comparing the success of the diversion program equally with that of drug courts in general, she adds, “The partnership programs are the most likely to be successful, but are often the last ones to be funded.”

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