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Delaware County jail peer-driven counseling program begins

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Community, Government, Health, Local News
(FILE Photo: Delaware County on YouTube)

Mental health and addiction services have recently begun at the Delaware County jail, thanks to a state pilot program.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, organizers say the success will come in its peer-driven approach.

Announced to the public in May, the program’s official name is the Integrated Reentry and Correctional Support Program.  IRACS for short.

And it’s meant to bring counseling to people in some of their lowest moments.  But it isn’t completely focused on those moments.

“So that the moment they’re incarcerated – the moment they arrive in jail – we’re already starting to look at their reentry.  And what their needs are, what sort of challenges they are facing, what kind of partners do they need.”

Jayme Whitaker is the Vice President of Forensic Services at Mental Health America of Indiana.  He oversees the statewide program that Delaware County is using.

He says every member of the team – counselors, navigators, and supervisors – are people he describes as having “lived experience.”  They’ve faced substance abuse, incarceration, or other hard times themselves.

“And the people connect with them.  It really provides a support of people they can know they can relate to, who have had similar experiences, sometimes have very similar histories.  It allows you to have a connection and an understanding in knowing that not only do you have someone who can walk with you that understands what you’re going through, but also someone that knows the way out of the hard places.”

Whitaker says though the pilot program started with a large grant, it’s designed to be self-sustaining and should continue to help Delaware County inmates long into the future.

And Delaware County isn’t the only one to start the IRACS program this year.  Services will also be started in Blackford, Davies, Dearborn, and Scott counties.

County commissioners Sherry Riggin and Shannon Henry have said this grant-funded program is in addition to a future addiction and mental health services rehab program that’s already been approved by county officials and is being bid out.  That’s being paid for by federal COVID-relief funds from both Delaware County and the city of Muncie.