CLARK COUNTY — Clark County CARES is not only taking steps to address addiction during times of crisis, but also to build a system that focuses on much more than just short term aid.
Clark County CARES, a grassroots organization addressing issues of addiction, is working to create a Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC), or a longterm recovery approach, in Clark County. More than 50 people gathered Monday and Tuesday for training on the topic, including representatives from local police, probation, healthcare providers and other community organizations.
This week's training was funded by a $75,000 state grant given to both Clark County CARES and Scott County organizations this year to help Southern Indiana fight the drug crisis. The workshops included facilitators from Both and Partners, Inc, a national consultant firm that focuses on issues such as addiction and recovery, and the Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center.
Rev. Nancy Woodworth-Hill, facilitator of Clark County CARES and pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Jeffersonville, said the organization is working to fill in the gaps for longterm recovery to prevent the cycle of addiction, as well as responding in moments of crisis. This week's workshops included conversations about possible improvements in the community.
She emphasized the need to identify barriers within the community for those struggling with addiction, including housing, jobs and transportation. It can also be challenging for people to understand exactly what services are available, and it is important for service providers and organizations to interact and collaborate with one another so they are not operating in "silos," she said.
Woodworth-Hill said one of the main focuses of a recovery-oriented approach is thinking about what it means for these individuals to have meaningful lives. She wants to make sure the community is lifting up voices of "recovery champions" who can tell their own stories of recovery.
"We want to put the people in recovery more in the center and hear their voices about what they understand to be a meaningful life, what they need for that and how that can be assisted," she said.
The stigma of addiction is another barrier Clark County CARES hopes to address through the recovery-oriented system, she said. Community members discussed a need to prioritize to treatment over criminalization of drug abuse.
"What if we were able to take all the jail dollars and turn them into treatment dollars?" she said.
Another approach to recovery-oriented care would be the expansion of peer recovery across Clark County. In peer recovery, people who have found success in the recovery process become certified to assist others on their recovery journeys and connect them with resources.
Jamie Gibson, chaplain at the Clark County Sheriff's Office, was one of the community members who attended the training this week. He said the need for more peer recovery was one of the most important parts of the conversation, saying it makes a difference when those in recovery are empowered to help others and make decisions about treatment plans.
He is recovering from drug and alcohol addiction himself, and he has been sober for about five years. He abused drugs and alcohol for years, and he was in and out of the Clark County jail. As he was recovering, he started volunteering at the jail, and he was hired as the chaplain earlier this year.
"We're at the table making the decisions along with [others]," he said. "I just think that's probably the best takeaway I got from it. People are starting to realize how important that is for recovery."
Gibson said he wants to continue discussions about the gaps between probation, corrections and healthcare providers so "we all network, we're all on the same page and start focusing on some real treatment plans." Transitional and halfway housing for those in recovery is lacking in the community, and changing zoning for residential services can pose challenges, he said.
"As a community, we're at a point where we need it, but there's an 'I don't want it in my backyard' mentality," he said. "That's what the problem is. These guys get out of jail with a bag on their back with court papers and whatever they've accumulated over their stay in the Clark County jail, but they are just being released into Clark County with nowhere to go."
Dr. Kevin Burke, retired physician and former Clark County health officer, also attended this week's training. While evidence shows that those who go through recovery programs have the best chances of successfully getting off and staying off of drugs, these kinds of longterm recovery programs can be difficult to develop due to stigmas attached to addiction, he said.
"The goal is to get these people off drugs and healthy and employed, because it's tough for a drug addict to hold down a job and not get fired," he said.
One of the conversations was about potential protocols that could assist community members in the recovery process, including intake forms that could be shared between agencies so that people are not filling out form after form at different organizations, according to Woodworth-Hill.
She said this week's workshops were a big step in "knitting our community and providers together," particularly since probation officers were sitting next to hospital staff and representatives from LifeSpring to discuss the development of a ROSC. Another Clark County CARES discussion is planned for Sept. 18 at the Jeffersonville Police Department.
"I saw people interested in hearing what others were doing, and I saw people sharing what they were doing," Woodworth-Hill said. "I saw people realizing that their piece of the puzzle is only a piece of the puzzle, and they could be stronger if able to network a little greater, and in that networking, we could do more."