XENIA — The commissioners, the sheriff and several social services representatives are offering a “transformational rehabilitation” approach to building a new county jail.
While the jail may still be a few years from construction, planning discussions, like the one held April 24, are underway.
The commissioners — who will fund the jail— called the special meeting to hear input from Sheriff Gene Fischer — who will influence the design and build of the facility — and the organizations in Greene County working closest with residents affected by addiction and mental health issues.
Fischer said the current jail on East Market Street is already incorporating good programs, so now it’s about expanding those and helping people once they get out of the system.
“Unfortunately the facilities that are available in the jails are not conducive to doing a lot of what we want to do and the modern technologies that we have available today are restricted currently,” he said. “Hopefully we can open those doors in the future and do a lot more than we do now — and it is rehab, it is getting people back on their feet to be progressive and constructive citizens again.”
Around the table, representatives offered their ideas — like separating inmates into different treatment groups and setting up a formal assessment when they check into the jail.
Melissa Walters from the Greene Leaf Program said smaller pods specific to different populations — mental health, drug and alcohol services, dual-diagnosis — might be beneficial.
“Groups are almost like a fishbowl effect. You can’t get a lot out of treatment when you have 100 inmates staring at you,” Walters said.
Michele Cox, Women’s Recovery Center, continued, “From talking to some of the women we have at the center about when they first went to jail and their perception of treatment — what they say is it’s hard for them to focus on being sober when they have a cellmate talking about using all the time.”
Some suggested the first conversation upon entering the jail is a crucial step to recovery.
“Engaging conversation, along with a screening tool … giving them a level of choice within incarceration setup,” Greta Mayer, Mental Health and Recovery Board, prompted, adding that an individual’s plan might change along the way.
Cox continued, “Just having a basic conversation when they come in, listening to where they’re at — you’ll get a lot of where they really need to be just based on having an informal conversation when they first come in.”
Many around the table stressed the importance of this immediate engagement. A computer — or iPad — center, they said, could offer inmates the chance to work on their GEDs, take classes to learn trades, have outside connection with support groups, and even take a yoga or meditation course.
“Human connection is up there with engagement and meaningful activities as the best predictor of sustaining sobriety,” Renee Pinkelman, Layh & Associates, said. “Community is important.”
Representatives from TCN Behavioral Health Services proposed the key to success is giving people access to community — including recovery communities and family involvement opportunities.
“When these clients stop using, they have to give up all of their old people, places, everything,” Nathan Crago, Christopher House, said. “It leaves a vaccuum or a void … what access to a recovery community does is it puts something positive back into their life — new people, new places and new things.”
Ultimately, all ideas around the table led to: How do you offer hope to this population?
“Hope is important to this population — without it you don’t get a whole lot of movement, you don’t get people who want to make changes,” Tom Otto, associate CEO at TCN, said. “Is it a waste of time for some patients? I don’t think it’s ever a waste of time because you get to plant the seed. We will see people who come in when they’re ready. The reason they got ready was because we were able to talk to them and make some initial headway with them.”
Otto said with addiction, which is beginning to lose its stigma as a “moral failing,” time is important.
“How quickly can we get people these resources because when people are ready, we need to be ready and that’s the problem with our setup,” he said. “We need to be able to respond immediately and when we can’t, that moment is gone and then that client’s gone. So you’ve lost your opportunity.”
Otto said it costs five times more to incarcerate an individual than it does to provide treatment to prevent incarceration.
The commissioners said they would use the representatives’ input to drive the planning process of the new jail.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.