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Reentry program involving AdCare targets dually diagnosed

October 31, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The specialized justice services division of AdCare Hospital is playing a key role in the November launch of an offender reentry initiative that targets a particularly underserved subgroup: individuals with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

Eighty-eight sentenced male inmates at the Essex County Sheriff's Department's Middleton House of Corrections in Massachusetts will be targeted for up to 12 months of services and support, in many cases with that time split between in-jail and post-release services. Volunteers of America Massachusetts will coordinate the post-release follow-up under the effort. A total of $600,000 in federal money under the Second Chance Act administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance is making the Massachusetts initiative possible.

AdCare Criminal Justice Services will deliver treatment services at a county jail setting in which participating inmates are largely segregated from the rest of the jail population. The initiative under the Second Chance Act Reentry Program for Adult Offenders with Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders will operate as a modified therapeutic community (TC) and will offer a high-need population a variety of therapeutic interventions and case management services.

“Within the justice system in general, there has been more availability of substance abuse treatment alone than treatment for co-occurring disorders,” says Lisa Talbot Lundrigan, vice president of operations at AdCare Criminal Justice Services.

Depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are among the most prevalent co-occurring mental health issues seen in the offender population this initiative is targeting, Lundrigan says. Offenders in the Essex County jail setting are either being held while awaiting trial or are serving a sentence of 30 months or less, but this particular Second Chance Act program is reserved for already sentenced inmates.

Maintaining engagement

A crucial component to working with offenders, one that Lundrigan says county corrections officials espouse, involves facilitating inmates' return to the treatment program even if they have to leave it temporarily because of a program violation or other issue. She says AdCare learned early on from research into its criminal justice programming that program completion matters. An evaluation conducted many years ago found that offenders who left a treatment program early actually fared worse than those who never enrolled in treatment at all.

Therapeutic services in the program that officially starts Nov. 1 will offer a mix of cognitive-behavioral and experiential techniques, Lundrigan says. Aftercare support will touch on a range of areas from stable housing to medical services to vocational training.

The population on which the initiative is focuses is deemed at risk for recidivism based on unmet healthcare and support needs. The University of Massachusetts Lowell's criminology department will evaluate the two-year initiative's results.

Lundrigan says the treatment program being coordinated by AdCare is one of only three programs nationally to receive funding in this year's Second Chance Act funding cycle for reentry initiatives.

AdCare began its criminal justice-related programming in the early 1990s, deciding that the highly specialized nature of this patient population merited creating a separately operating division within the company.