The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Wednesday in Athens announced a $1.1 million grant, matched with regional agencies including Ohio University, to expand addiction treatment and recovery resources for women involved in the criminal justice system in Athens, Hocking, Perry, Vinton and Morgan counties.
The grant for what’s being called the Appalachian Recovery Project (ARP) is the latest step toward repurposing the former Hocking Unit of the Southeastern Correctional Complex in Nelsonville. The state closed the facility in early 2018, resulting in the loss of 100-plus jobs and transfer of over 400 inmates to other prison facilities.
However, officials made clear during a press conference Wednesday morning inside OU’s Grover Center that the ARP is expanding beyond that facility, and will be helping women snared in the criminal-justice system as soon as this fall. In total, the ARP hopes to provide addiction-recovery treatment and other health and therapy services to 300 women over the next 18 months, along with creating 31 new jobs at area health and criminal-justice agencies.
Meanwhile, the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office is involved in a separate effort to renovate the second and third floors of the former prison in Nelsonville to be available for female misdemeanants and felons. Renovation of the entire facility should be completed by sometime in spring 2020, according to materials provided by OU during the press conference (funded by $7 million from the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation).
The ARP project envisions that the first floor of the former prison will be used by the STAR Community Justice Center, which operates the SEPTA Correctional Facility in Nelsonville. STAR will receive $50,000 of the ARC’s grant toward the ARP project.
Tracy Plouck, the OU College of Health Sciences and Professions’ executive in residence on population health, explained that those services at STAR will include drug treatment, job training and other services to help rehabilitate female misdemeanants.
Plouck added that prior to the new jail/treatment facility getting online, STAR will begin providing residential-style addiction treatment for misdemeanant women who are leaving jail and/or are enrolled in a certified drug court as soon as this September, and job training will also begin to be offered by STAR in October 2019.
Meanwhile, multiple community physical and behavioral health agencies will partner with the ARP to offer primary care, outpatient addiction treatment, “opioid overdose quick response teams,” and other clinical services to women involved in the criminal-justice system later this year, according to materials from OU.
Hopewell Health Center, for example, will offer expanded health-care services as funded by ARP project money as of January 2020.
Specifically, an arts- and music-therapy program for that population of women will get under way in July 2019, as will training for the first cohort of community-health worker trainees, who will focus on connecting those women with “necessary clinical and social services supports,” according to the materials.
Tim Thomas, co-chair of the ARC, attended the press conference Wednesday. He and OU CHSP Dean Randy Leite both noted that all of these services combined are meant to help these women get reintegrated back into society, with the end goal of them becoming productive members of their communities.
“Treatment, that’s the first step of recovery, and we have to do more… Treatment and recovery is a journey,” Thomas said. “You have to have support services for these people beyond treatment. So we have started at the ARC what we call the recovery ecosystem; we have to build a recovery ecosystem within the Appalachian ecosystem to help bring these people through recovery.”
To break down the grant funding, OU received $753,904 of the ARC grant to go toward the ARP project; Hocking College received $50,000 (Hocking will help with job-training programs for the women participants); Hopewell Healthcare received $246,096; and STAR received $50,000.
Meanwhile, OU provided $205,248 in grant matching funds; Perry County Municipal Court provided $105,000; Hocking County Municipal Court provided $50,000; the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations provided $42,725; and the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services 317 Board provided $68,355.
CHSP Dean Leite said that this project is one part of OU’s attempt to address the “scourge” of the opioid epidemic regionally, a sentiment that OU Provost Chaden Djalali echoed during the meeting.
“We have a responsibility as a university to try to bring positive impact on the region,” Leite said.