REENTRY: Recovery is the Expectation
From Kasey Moyer, Executive Director
The past two years have been exciting times for the Mental Health Association of Nebraska (MHA-NE). In February of 2015 we were awarded our first vocational and life skills grant through the Nebraska Department of Corrections. For the past 9 years we have primarily served individuals in the Behavioral Health System and this was our first attempt to serve people reentering their community after incarceration within the criminal justice system.
We provide a variety of reentry services including supported employment, outreach, transitional living, WRAP Support groups, and RentWise. All MHA-NE services are voluntary, person directed, recovery focused and all is provided by Certified Peer Specialists.
Peers in our supported employment program are offered a menu of services including assistance with job search, completing applications, creating resumes and interview skills; to name a few. We adhere to the evidenced based practice of supported employment which means competitive employment is the goal, supported employment is integrated with their treatment team (if they choose), Zero exclusion: Eligibility is based on choice, participant driven, benefits counseling is provided, job seeking begins immediately, employment specialists build relationships with employers of the participants’ choice and follow-along supports continue until the participant chooses. People do amazing things when we as peers can provide hope and opportunity. For individuals coming out of incarceration the average time it takes to obtain employment is less than a week. Employers will now call us if they have any openings to see if we have a potential job match. Quality jobs with good benefits are a possibility for the people we serve.
Peer Outreach is provided to those who wish to have someone walk alongside them to navigate the resources of obtaining their basic needs of food, housing and clothing but also things such as bus passes, state identification and whatever else might assist them in moving forward. Our peer outreach worker has built incredible relationships with landlords, food nets, churches and community members in general. Peer Outreach Workers also meet individuals incarcerated in the county jail.
Honu Home is our up to 90-day peer-run transition home. Honu is a 5-bedroom home that focuses on providing peer support in a safe, learning environment. Many individuals have been incarcerated for long periods of time, sometimes 20-30 years, and learning how to become a spouse, family member, employee or friend again is often challenging. Honu provides an opportunity for people to be in the community while receiving peer support while they reacclimate to their new environment.
MHA-NE peers also provide services inside the state correctional facilities. We offer Wellness, Recovery, Action, Plan (WRAP) groups in which we facilitate the individuals to create their own plan for recovery. We facilitate these groups both in general population and in the restrictive housing unit. Once or twice a month I attend the Circle of Concerned Lifers Group to support them in their efforts and in the future hope to provide them with Intentional Peer Support Training so that they can provide support to others in the facilities.
In May, we had the privilege to travel to Albany NY and attend a meeting discussing the core principles of peer support within the Criminal Justice System facilitated by the Policy Research Institute. Two weeks later three MHA-NE Peer Specialists along with Sergeant John Walsh (Lincoln Police Department) traveled to Washington D.C. to speak with a group of 20-25 individuals working within the criminal justice system who were interested developing and implementing peer programs within their criminal justice systems.
In June, I traveled to California to visit San Quinten and a group of men incarcerated there. It was an incredible experience but also very re-assuring in that the experience affirmed our work here. No matter where we travel or who we meet, Peers just have a connection that is often just “understood” and we have a genuine care for one another and our experiences.
To date we have served approximately 650 people residing in or recently released from Nebraska state correctional facilities or in the county jail. The need is great but often just knowing they have someone they can relate to and walk with them along the journey is all they need. Recovery is the expectation and we are the evidence!
Recovery Is The Expectation
REENTRY: Recovery is the Expectation