Pilot program offers support for inmates struggling with mental health and addiction issues – WRBI Radio


Statewide – A prison in southeastern Indiana has been chosen to participate in a state-run pilot program designed to help people struggling with mental health and addictions issues.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Mental Health and Addictions Division has launched a pilot program designed to engage incarcerated people with mental health and addictions issues with certified professional peers and wraparound services .

The Integrated Reintegration and Correctional Support Program (IRACS) provides peer support, a Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) to inmates with mental and substance abuse disorders upon arrival at one of five pilot prison sites of Indiana County. SIM provides a comprehensive picture of how people with mental health and addictions issues encounter and move through the criminal justice system, with the goal of diverting them from the justice system to treatment.

The IRACS program is a collaboration between DMHA, Indiana Forensic Services and Indiana Recovery Network, programs of Mental Health America of Indiana, and is launched at Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center, as well as Blackford, Daviess, Delaware and Scott County jails .

Inmates incarcerated in each of the five prisons will be assessed as potential IRACS support clients, resulting in formal treatment and support for identified clients.

Forensic Peer Teams are stationed at each prison and consist of a Certified Program Supervisor, Certified Peer Support, Peer Resource Navigator, Re-entry Peer and a Peer Engagement Coordinator, all employed by Indiana Recovery Network Regional Recovery Centers. These teams work in prison settings and work with correctional, pre-trial and nursing staff and all community providers to support incarcerated individuals during their time in the program. Prison staff will receive special training to support IRACS staff and incarcerated clients.

“The first three steps an individual takes upon exiting the justice system are often the most important steps they will take on their recovery journey,” said Douglas Huntsinger, executive director of prevention, treatment and recovery. Drug Enforcement for the State of Indiana. “Regardless of how a person ended up in the justice system, how they progress matters. By providing access to peers and complementary services while individuals are incarcerated, we intend to reduce recidivism and future participation in the justice system.

Using the IRACS recovery engagement pathways, peers will accompany each identified client and provide responsive support and resources tailored to their needs. These pathways are focused on reintegration and may change as their legal process develops and the sentence is established.

“Engagement pathways allow forensic teams to meet individuals as soon as they walk through the prison door and provide one-on-one support at a critical time when meeting someone, wherever they are, can make all the difference,” said Jayme Whitaker, vice president of medical-legal services at Mental Health America of Indiana. “With the vision and funding provided by state leaders and strong local collaborations across the five pilot counties, IRACS forensic peer teams meet people at some of their most difficult times and ensure they have someone to be with them, every step of the way.”

The IRACS program is funded through June 2023 by Recovery Works, Indiana’s voucher-based system to support partnerships between the justice system and mental health and addiction treatment providers. Each of the five pilot sites has received a grant of up to $500,000 to build their teams and infrastructure to support a comprehensive reintegration process that works with community partners outside of prison to ensure continuity of care at the exit.

At the end of the pilot program, the data collected will be reported by participating sheriffs to the FSSA for evaluation. If successful, the State of Indiana is committed to expanding the IRACS program to more Indiana County jails over the next three years.


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