Rockdale County launches new recovery program to assist mentally ill inmates re-entering community



ROCKDALE COUNTY, GA–Rockdale County is launching Opening Doors to Recovery (ODR), an intensive care management program designed to reduce repeated psychiatric hospitalizations of the mentally ill who have been incarcerated.

Championed by Rockdale County Commissioner Doreen Williams, the Rockdale program is the first county in Georgia to launch ODR. Under the new program, funded by a grant from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, mentally ill inmates who have been released from jail back into the community will receive wrap-around services to help them succeed and stay on track. ODR will provide the individuals a team that includes a licensed professional counselor, a certified mental health peer specialist and a certified peer specialist who is a family member. Participants in the program also will receive help in finding a job and other needed services and resources.

“The goal is to keep them out of jail and into treatment. We are talking about those who are non-violent and have been incarcerated for things such as criminal trespassing and public disturbance,” said Commissioner Williams. “When you stabilize a person, you stabilize a family, and then a community. ODR is designed to do just that, and it has proven results to support it.”

Nora Lott Haynes, researcher, past president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-GA and one of the founders of Georgia Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement, helped design ODR. Haynes obtained funding for the research project from the National Institute of Mental Health. The research project, which was conducted in Chatham County in 2010, included 240 participants with serious mental health challenges being discharged from inpatient psychiatric units.

The study, led by Michael T. Compton, M.D., M.P.H., a research psychiatrist at Columbia University in New York state, found that those participants not associated with Opening Doors to Recovery incurred twice the amount of costs to taxpayers compared to those participating in ODR, a 50% savings with better outcomes.

Participants with the Opening Doors to Recovery study were hospitalized fewer days, had a lower incidence of arrests, and among those arrested, a longer time between arrests. After 12 months, Opening Doors to Recovery participants had greater satisfaction and overall improvements in housing satisfaction, job satisfaction, social satisfaction, and overall recovery, researchers stated.

Haynes is now training the Rockdale ODR team, along with Bill Carruthers, one of the original Community Navigation Specialists who participated in the study project. Carruthers is a person in long-term recovery and works as a consultant for the Stepping Up Initiative, a national movement to provide counties with the tools they need to develop cross-system, data-driven strategies that can lead to measurable reductions in the number of people with mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders in jails.

Caruthers recalls 10 years ago that he was in the same training. “ODR impacted not only just my life but the lives of so many people and is impacting our systems in such a significant way.  ODR works,” Caruthers said.

LeRoy Bryant, a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor, who works for View Point Health, said he is certain “ODR will make a significant impact on the people they serve.”

Others who are working with ODR also are excited about the chance to serve.

“I believe the next step in my own recovery will be serving people,” said Chris Jackson a graduate of the Rockdale County Drug Court and now a certified mental health peer specialist, echoes Bryant’s sentiments.

Teresa Carmichael, a certified parent peer specialist, said that “my heart is in helping people find resources that may not have been available to me as a parent.”

Commissioner Williams said she believes the new program is a game changer and is looking forward to its implementation in Rockdale.

“We are excited to begin this program in Rockdale County with the goal of helping our law enforcement, our taxpaying citizens and most importantly, those citizens who have behavioral health challenges.”


Photo above L-R: Chris Jackson;Tanisha Character (Program Outreach and Creative Consultant for Stepping Up); LeRoy Bryant; Teresa Carmichael; Nora Haynes;Mary-Lou Snow (Project Manager for Stepping Up – Diversion Center); Bill Carruthers; and Rockdale Commissioner Doreen Williams. Photo provided by Rockdale County Government.







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