WASHINGTON, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Daviess County was one of five counties selected by the Governor’s Office for a new pilot program that helps provide resources and help for those incarcerated.

Data from the state’s department of corrections said that one out of every three individuals released from jail in Indiana in 2018 were arrested again within three years. The program, called integrated reentry or correctional support, or IRACS, is meant is to address mental health or substance use problems that lead to reincarceration. 

“The purpose of this program and the message coming from the Governor’s Office, is to rethink re-entry, and looking at ways that we can creatively problem solve persons that are incarcerated for mental health and drug addiction issues,” Vanessa Phillips, the forensic supervisor for the program, said.

The program started last month. Peer recovery coach Brian Peek said work to provide inmates with resources for whatever their next steps are, whether it’s going back to the community or to another correctional facility.

Phillips said they work with the inmates to determine what they need most.

“The program is directed based on client needs. The client identifies barriers in their life, things that they have difficulties with and then we help walk alongside them while they’re incarcerated, either providing them one on one peer recovery support services, group services, developing wellness recovery plans,” she said.

Peek said one of the strengths of the program is that all the employees are certified peer recovery specialists.

“That means they have lived experience with substance use or mental health disorder, so they’ve been there, they’ve done that, they’ve been there in their life at one point,” Peek said.

Phillips said lived experience is important when dealing with these issues.

“We are living proof that people do recover and that you can be successful when you face incarceration, you have a criminal history, you have a substance use disorder, you have a mental health disorder, you can go on to live productive lives,” she said

Phillips said funding came from Mental Health America of Indiana. That money will fund the pilot phase, which will go through May of 2023, but the program should be sustainable for Daviess beyond then. If results from the pilot are good, IRACS will be implemented across the state.

For Peek, who was hired as the first peer recovery coach in Daviess county in 2019, watching the program expand over time has been rewarding, but also speaks to the need to address substance use.

 “When we started it was just me, I was the only one in our county. It went from that to having a full program in our hospital system… now having five in our county jail, it also shows you the need that we have in our county,” he said.

“Substance abuse disorder is not going away, but it’s something that we have to address. We’ve seen steady rises in our referral rates through our community peers. We’re up to 40 plus referrals every month. All three of our peers in our community are seeing 30 to 40 clients a piece.”

Peek said the program is available to anyone in the Daviess county jail.