Clermont County’s Recovery to Work/Horizons program earned an achievement award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The award was presented last month at the NACo annual summer conference in Fort Worth, Texas. During the conference NACo publicly recognized counties, county employees, youth and local programs for developing “innovative programs that modernize county government and increase services to youth, criminal justice, county administration, and much more, to county residents,” retrieved from www.naco.org, Aug. 12. The NACo award received by Clermont County was one of only six presented to county programs in Ohio. Karen Scherra, Executive Director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, and Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey were present to accept the award on behalf of Clermont County.
The Recovery to Work/Horizons program in Clermont County is one of the first of its kind in the nation, directing federal dollars towards rehabilitation for individuals with substance use disorders. The Clermont County program is also considered unique in that it focuses on people struggling with opiate addictions, primarily heroin, while helping them transition back into society from jail. The program is innovative and successful because it provides the necessary treatment, including Medication Assisted Treatment and intensive vocational rehabilitation services, to combat opiate addiction along with helping each individual find and keep employment.
Planning for the Recovery to Work/Horizons program began in April 2011 and was officially implemented later that year in October. Since this time almost two hundred individuals have been enrolled, which as Scherra stated, “has exceeded expected outcomes.” Scherra explains this revolutionary program begins with an intensive six-week treatment process that requires the participant to attend the Clermont Recovery Center every day. While the clients are there, “they receive treatment, meet with their Probation Officer, attend critical thinking classes to modify their thinking and behavior and they meet with vocational staff to begin learning the professional skills necessary to obtain a job,” Scherra said. “Because the participants have some place to go and are held accountable every day when they first get out of jail, they are more likely to stay out of the trouble that brought them to jail in the first place.” According to Scherra, the program has successfully helped a majority of participants not re-offend or relapse.
The success of the program is a result of a strong collaboration involving the Mental Health and Recovery Board, the Municipal and Common Pleas Courts, Clermont Recovery Center which is the local alcohol/drug treatment provider and the vocational services provided through the Work Initiative Network (WIN) at LifePoint Solutions, as well as, a strong working relationship with Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC). “This award emphasizes the county’s forward thinking approach to devastating problems of addiction and mental health,” said Ed Humphrey, President of the Board of Clermont County Commissioners.
Participants in the program are less likely to re-offend or relapse because the intensive treatment and services of the program begin as soon as possible after a release from jail. Assisting the program participants in obtaining employment and continuing to provide support once they are employed, has also made a huge difference in the success rate. Funding is provided through match supplied by the Mental Health and Recovery Board, which the RSC uses to draw down federal funds on a 4-1 ratio.
One of the participants helped by Recovery to Work/Horizons stated, “Without the program, I would still be on the streets and using.”
Scherra explains, instead of being addicted to opiates, the participant successfully completed treatment in July 2013 and has been employed full time for almost six months. Also, the participant started paying her back child support, now has a goal of obtaining her GED and then plans to attend college. An Employment Coordinator who provided commentary on the program stated, “We give them hope that not everyone has given up on them – hope that they can get clean, get employment, and can have dreams and a future.”
Scherra wants the citizens of Clermont County who are struggling with an opiate addiction, along with the family members battling it with them, to know that leaders have witnessed real successes with this program and believe it will continue to grow and make a positive impact on public health. She said the biggest change they’ve seen is people now volunteering to get into treatment. “We’ve actually had people calling us asking to be in this treatment program because word has spread about the positive results. People recognize this program is something different, providing a real chance to have a better life off drugs,” said Scherra. According to Scherra the NACo Achievement Award was a pleasant surprise to the leadership and staff of the program, “They are honored to have their efforts be awarded, however, changing lives and bettering the community is also our reward.”