Kosciusko County Sheriff Jim Smith (L) and Chief Deputy Chris McKeand talk to the Kosciusko County Commissioners Tuesday about the Integrated Re-entry and Correctional Support (IRACS) program and a $500,000 grant to fund it. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Kosciusko County Sheriff Jim Smith (L) and Chief Deputy Chris McKeand talk to the Kosciusko County Commissioners Tuesday about the Integrated Re-entry and Correctional Support (IRACS) program and a $500,000 grant to fund it. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
If awarded a half million dollar grant, the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department wants to launch a program designed to engage incarcerated individuals with mental health and substance use disorders with certified peer professionals and related services.

Tuesday, Chief Deputy Chris McKeand and Sheriff Jim Smith approached the county commissioners to request applying for a maximum of $500,000 grant for the Integrated Re-entry and Correctional Support (IRACS) initiative.

“It’s actually an initiative that comes through the governor’s office. They started pilot programs that are actually in place now. We put a committee together. We actually went and visited one of these pilot sites to see if it’s something that’s feasible for us to participate in. That went well,” McKeand said. The visit was in Dearborn County.

“We liked what we (saw), we liked the model that they’re using. We believe it’s something that we can implement here in our correctional facility,” McKeand explained. “It encompasses a certified peer recovery coach and a re-entry coordinator. What that does is, the population in our jail would actually - outside of JCAP (Jail Chemical Addiction Program) - this would be for our full population in our jail, would have access to these peer recovery coaches to aid in one-on-one counseling, group counseling, helping them get the recovery assistance that they need, to be able to take that next step into recovery.”

The coordinator position would help the inmate find the services out in the community, such as housing and counseling.

The program also allows for the creation of a community recovery hub, which is where all the activities outside of the jail would take place.

“As far as the county’s part of it, our part of it, what we would be doing is actually managing the individuals that would be coming into the facility,” McKeand said. “As far as the individuals themselves, the idea of the grant is for them to eventually be able to bill through the Department of Health. It’s going to be a state - hopefully - funded thing at that point.”

While the grant is for a maximum of $500,000, McKeand said what they would actually receive they won’t know until they go through the grant process.

Commissioner Cary Groninger asked what the county’s matching requirement would be. McKeand said it’s not a matching grant.

“The way I understand it, we would get an advance. There would be a certain amount of the allotted money we would get upfront to help with setting all these things off. And then, at a certain point, it would turn into a reimbursement grant. Of course, then, we would have to reapply for next year. And then, if it works like some of the others we’ve seen, eventually they’re going to want to migrate it toward that model where it actually turns to that state funding,” McKeand said.

He said Kosciusko County would be the second phase of the program as the state has the pilot program out now.

“They’re still gathering statistics, things like that. Their initial summary is that it’s successful,” McKeand said.

Groninger asked if the grant amount was based on the jail population or something else.

McKeand responded, “I think, once they do their initial assessment of what they believe we would need in our facility to make that happen, it would probably be determined off what we need to do to get that community hub set up and then how many of those peer recovery coaches we would actually need to service our population in the jail. Those are the components that would affect our side of it.”

The program would be a collaboration between the KCSD, prosecutor’s office, courts, Community Corrections, work release, probation and the other side which would include “all your recovery partners that are out in the community that we meet with at KCODE (Kosciusko Coalition On Drug Education) that do all the services, like LITE (Living In Transition Effectively), that comes into the jail. It’s going to be a project that brings all those things together. Everybody will be working together to try to make those transitions outside of our correctional facility,” McKeand explained.

One of the things they hope will be a result of the IRACS program will be a reduction in the jail population.

“That’s one of the things Dearborn County has been able to attest to us, that they have seen fewer instances in their jail  of violence, of suicide, of damages and the reduction of the jail population. We would work hard to move our facility in that same direction,” McKeand said.

Smith said, in addition to the results McKeand listed, “The repeat offenders is lessening, according to the sheriff down there in Dearborn County. So that really spoke to me. When I got into law enforcement, it was preached to us that 90% of the crimes were committed by 10% of the people. We’re dealing with a lot of the same offenders. With this program, they’re finding that - it’s only been running for eight or nine months down in Dearborn County - but they’ve quickly been able to identify that they’re seeing less of the people coming back that normally would have returned.”

Commissioner Brad Jackson said one thing he would ask is that if the funding dries up, the county wouldn’t be on the hook to keep the program going.

McKeand said they’re not adding employees.

“They would be billing their services. The recovery coaches would be billing their services, and so would the re-entry coordinator. As far as the facilities go, that is going to be ran through that hub, and the idea of that hub is to be able to do the billing through the Department of Health,” McKeand said.

“What I see for our department in this, as far as - if you want to call it a match - is going to be the work that is involved in it, and we’re going to put forward the work to make sure it happens. To vet people that we’re having coming into the facility, to make sure that we’re doing it in a safe way. As far as the monetary end of it, yes, we’re going to have to find space for it. Yes, we’re going to have to allocate manpower to assist this to happen, but I haven’t been asked for any matching numbers or anything like that as far as the funding itself goes. What has been presented to us is that it eventually ends up back at the state. It’s not an addition of employees or equipment or anything like that. It’s actually the services that these individuals that are going to be providing to the jail itself,” he explained.

Jackson applauded the sheriff’s department for their work on the program, and the commissioners approved the grant application 3-0.