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Inyo officials seek way to continue nixed state program

February 21, 2012

Jeff Thomson

Inyo County’s Health and Human Services and Probation departments have joined forces to come up with the funds to continue a program that was abandoned by the state three years ago.
Health and Human Services Director Jean Turner said that despite the discontinuation of the state-funded Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention program, the county was able to continue the project through 2012 via a cooperative effort by HHS and Probation.
Through the program, non-violent drug offenders go through a rehabilitation program rather than being incarcerated. Offenders are assigned a probation officer and attend regular meetings to ensure they stay sober.
Inyo County Probation Officer Lars Erickson said that 258 non-violent offenders have been recommended to the program. As of 2012, 202 residents have left the program sober and successful.
Erickson said that equates to a 52 percent success rate. Other counties throughout the state experienced between a 28 and 35 percent success rate.
Erickson said he believes Inyo County’s program was so successful due to the collaboration between HHS and Probation, and because the whole program was set up like the Drug Court program.
“This program has had a hand in reducing recidivism,” said Mary Brown of the Health and Human Services Department, who added that she has seen seven families rebuild through the program, seen 10 participants return to the workforce after a struggle with addiction and even told of one participant who overcame her narcotic convictions, completed the program and is on her way to becoming a licensed nurse.
“Without Health and Human Services, this program wouldn’t be as successful,” Probation Chief Jeff Thomson said.
Thomson said that last year, Probation contributed $32,000 to the program and Health and Human Services added about $56,000 to the pot.
That means the county needs to come up with about $88,000 to continue the program.
Turner said she is looking at ways to make the program feasible for the future and hopes to use County Medical Services Path 2 Health funds which provides money to benefit indigent adults and mental health treatment.
Turner also said that her department currently maintains one vacant position that it can make due without, which will help to save funds for the SACPA program and that there may be federal funds available through Assembly Bill 109 programs.
Thomson said he is also planning to keep one vacant position in his department to save funds that can be used to continue the SACPA program next year.
“There are a few things we have to work out,” Thomson said, adding that he hopes to be able to continue the program.

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