Grant will aid 2nd Chance Project

POLK COUNTY -- Polk County Mental Health and Addiction Services has received a $303,724 grant to help people recently released from the Polk County Jail re-enter the community.

POLK COUNTY -- Polk County Mental Health and Addiction Services has received a $303,724 grant to help people recently released from the Polk County Jail re-enter the community.

The U.S. Department of Justice grant will pay for the Polk County 2nd Chance Project, which will provide treatment and medications to medium- and high-risk offenders suffering from addiction or mental illness once they are out of jail.

"The goal is to increase public safety and reduce recidivism," said Jennifer Lief, Polk County's addiction services supervisor.

The project will be a collaboration of Polk County's Mental Health and Addiction Services, the jail, Community Corrections, Public Health and the Local Alcohol and Drug Planning Committee.

Grant funds were approved through the federal Second Chance Act.

The program is designed to begin assessments and referrals while the individuals are still in the jail, so they can connect with services quickly once released.

The bulk of the grant will go toward drug and alcohol treatment, but there will be funding for health care, rent and transportation assistance and other needs.

Lief said the services would be available to people who normally couldn't afford counseling and medications.

Lief, who wrote the application for the grant, said the services the grant will provide are in high demand in Polk County. She said currently Community Corrections refers clients to her office, but only with enough funds to cover some treatment and no medication.

The grant will help cover costs that neither the county or the individual can provide.

"There is a huge need," she said. "We could probably use twice as much. ... We could spend almost the whole grant on medication. But this will at least help."

Lief said she is hoping to be able to serve 150 people with the grant. The funding will allow people in need to spend nine months to a year in counseling.

After a three-month planning period, the program will kick off in January and run through December 2013. Lief said part of the planning will be figuring out ways to keep the program -- or at least pieces of it -- running after the grant runs out.

Until then, though, Lief said it is an opportunity for the county agencies to work together to prevent people from falling through the cracks.

"It's a great (chance) for community collaboration," Lief said. "We all can come together and support this population."

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