PLATTSBURGH — Substance-abuse counselors have started their work at Clinton County Jail.
Champlain Valley Family Center for Drug Treatment and Youth Services Inc. Executive Director Connie Wille told the Press-Republican that staff assigned to the program went for orientation tours on June 2 and started working at the jail June 7.
Before that, the Family Center met with two jail representatives to work out the nuts and bolts of the new program and lay out ground rules.
“We clearly understand that we’re a guest in their facility and that security is their primary function,” Wille said.
“We were just working out how are we going to do these assessments, where can we offer the educational sessions, what is OK to bring in.”
Wille, Clinton County Sheriff David Favro and Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) first announced the program at a joint press conference in April.
The idea for the service came from discussions at meetings of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery of Clinton County coalition, or SPARCC, and moved fairly quickly, Wille said.
“This project has probably moved faster than anything else that I can recall being involved in.
“It was our commitment, because we’re putting some money into this program, the sheriff’s commitment, Billy Jones’s commitment.”
The state budget put forward $17,500 through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistant Grant program, the Family Center committed $12,000, and the jail is supplying $10,000 to $15,000 from inmate commissary funds.
The program's goal is to engage people in treatment services and reduce recidivism.
Staff includes two half-time counselors and Karen McCarthy, a Family Center staff member who will oversee the program, Wille said.
The plan is for two counselors to provide at least 35 hours of service weekly.
Favro said services are still in the organizational stage and that a lot of coordination has to happen to ensure the most efficient and effective service for potential recipients.
"It's more than just substance-abuse counseling that's going to take place," he said, adding that the counselors will also be providing referrals and followup.
All that takes a lot of information gathering, and a big piece of that is a computer program they're hoping to secure that ties into the jail's inmate-management system.
"It specifically gives us the calculated risk benefits for each particular inmate — who would be most likely to succeed in this type of program, et cetera," the sheriff said.
The program is costly to integrate, but Favro believes the funds are available and hopes it will be up and running in eight to 10 weeks.
When Family Center staff came in, "they were looking at the facilities and trying to coordinate who to contact, who to be with so that we know who's going to be seeing who," Favro said.
He thinks it's exciting to have the program at the jail and that the risk-assessment program will also provide inmates' success rates within the counseling program.
"This goes on for a period of time, and we need good concrete data like that to be able to secure future grants and continue to build the program."
In the meantime, the counselors are still doing ground work and assessments in-house, looking at inmate rosters for familiar faces and their charges, Favro said.
"I'm not aware that they've met with any actual inmates yet," he added.
"But we're going, that's the important thing."
A recent grant will allow more peer-engagement services in the form of recovery coaches, to begin next month, Wille said.
The services will be made available at University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, along with the Clinton County Department of Social Services and other sites as needed.
And Wille continues to work with the State Dormitory Authority, State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services and an architectural firm on the upcoming detox facility on Norrisville Road in the Town of Schuyler Falls.
The 16-bed facility will be located at the former Adirondack Residential Center.
Capital funding for the project was approved in 2016.
The next step in the process, Wille said, is a “30 percent review meeting” to look at floor-plan design.
“We’ll get reviewed, get a thorough review on the testing that they’ve been doing up there in terms of systems, and, of course, everything is tied to costs, so we’ll be looking at them.”
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