Reentry program combats parolee mental health, drug abuse problems
By MELANIE TRUSTY
Capital News Service
LANSING – A convicted robber and drug user from Detroit has stayed clean for two years with the help of the state’s prison reentry program.
His success story was cited by Diana Young, a team leader and therapist at Detroit Central City Community Health Inc., which serves parolees who have mental illnesses and substance abuse problems.
Young said the ex-con was initially against receiving help at her community health center.
He failed to follow program guidelines and went back to prison for using drugs, she said,
But his second prison sentence changed his outlook on life, Young said. While in prison he realized the impact drugs have on peoples’ lives and those around them.
“He took advantage of every treatment option that was available to him, which proved to be very successful,” Young said.
Young said he stopped using drugs, found a job, rented an apartment and successfully completed parole and the reentry program.
Anthony King, a social work professor at Wayne State University, said “Reentry programs for released prisoners with mental health or substance abuse problems are essential because mental illness or substance abuse place offenders at greater risk for re-offending.”
King said nearly half of state inmates have a history of mental illness, and almost two-thirds have a history of using or abusing drugs or alcohol.
Young said most parolees have both mental illness and substance abuse problems.
The most common forms of mental illness among prisoners are schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and major depression, she said. The most prevalent type of substance abuse is cocaine use, followed by marijuana, crack and alcohol.
King said, “There is growing evidence re-entry programs can be effective if they are well organized, properly staffed and funded, and firmly established in local communities.”
Each year about 70 percent of parolees need substance abuse treatment, said Lori Farmer, a communications officer for the Department of Corrections.
The Prisoners ReEntry Initiative and the Mental Health Corrections Outreach Intensive Treatment programs provide community resources to parolees.
Farmer said, statistics for the Prisoners ReEntry Initiative show a 23 percent decrease in returns to prison.
Young’s mental health center offers psychiatric treatment, medication, therapy groups and case managers.
Case managers are part of the center’s treatment team who link reentering offenders to agencies for meeting needs such as employment and housing, she said.
Young said support of family and friends helps make reentry programs effective and is a mandatory part of treatment.
“Some people don’t have that natural support system of family and friends,” she said.
And Young said sometimes it is difficult to find such support because family members don’t want anything to do with ex-offenders.
Young said reentry programs are a condition of parole. A prisoner can voluntarily seek mental health or substance abuse treatment behind bars, but must continue treatment when released.
Parolees usually stay in treatment for 18 to 24 months, working with team members to develop a comprehensive treatment plan based on their specific goals.
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© 2007, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism