BLOOMINGTON -- A new Indiana program is trying to help low-level drug offenders access rehabilitation services instead of jail time, but the program’s success is dependent upon more treatment providers getting on board.
The Recovery Works program is aimed at improving offenders’ recovery rates and reducing recidivism.
Rather than just ordering offenders to serve jail time, justice officials can instead refer low-level felony offenders with addiction problems, or mental illness, to treatment organizations.
Family and Social Services Administration spokesperson Marni Lemons says corrections officials estimate more than 80 percent of state prisoners are in need of addiction treatment. To put that number in perspective, the FSSA says only 8.8 percent of people in the general public have a substance use disorder, and only 5.4 percent have a serious mental illness.
“If they don’t have insurance, which many of them don’t, they don’t have the resources to get themselves treatment for either mental illness or addiction, which they really seriously need and will help keep them from becoming repeat offenders," Lemons said.
She says the program has been positively received — especially in response to the “addiction crisis” she says appears to be taking place in Indiana. Gov. Mike Pence has called the program a “critical initiative.”
But Lemons adds response to the program is taking some time, with treatment providers slow to get on board. As of Nov. 9, fewer than 50 providers in 25 counties were participating in the program.