Review: Program to help offenders with mental health, addiction issues working

A two-year-old state program to improve recovery and reduce recidivism of felony offenders who have drug and alcohol addictions or mental health issues has shown positive initial results, according to a review of the program.

Recovery Works provides offenders evidence-based help to treat mental health or substance abuse issues, aid in their recovery and help them increase their ability to lead successful lives. The review found that among clients who remained in the program for at least six months, there were statistically significant increases in rates of employment and insurance coverage and decreases in self-reported arrests.

“There are a lot of individuals in the criminal justice system who have a mental health or substance-abuse problem who are now getting the additional services they need,” Brad Ray, co-author of the review, said in a news release announcing the findings Wednesday. Ray is an assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis and director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research. “If we can address these issues as thoroughly as possible, we should see fewer of them in the system.”

From November 2015 through May 2017, the program assisted 12,042 individuals. The majority were referred to the program by probation and parole agencies.

Other findings:

  • The typical client is a 34-year-old single, unemployed white male. Most clients have a high school degree or GED equivalent and an average annual income of $7,500.
  • The most common substances used by Recovery Works clients are alcohol and opioids. Approximately one-third of the clients have used needles to inject drugs, and 13.4 percent have shared a needle to inject drugs; among those who reported having used opioids, 29.6 percent reported needle sharing.
  • Although not statistically significant, clients' average family income increased.

The Center for Criminal Justice Research, part of the IU Public Policy Institute, conducted the review of Recovery Works for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's Division of Mental Health and Addiction, which manages Recovery Works. The full review may be read here.

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