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Supervisors allocate $30K to addiction recovery program

Posted on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 8:48 am

The Caroline County Recovery Community Program will continue to help recovering addicts get their lives back on-track, thanks to an infusion of cash from the county’s coffers.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 last week to allocate $30,000 to the program in Fiscal Year 2015, which begins June 1.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer led a presentation highlighting the benefits of the program—both to its participants and to the county budget.

The CCRCP began in 2011 as an alternative sentence to incarceration. It’s a day reporting program in which participants report to a center daily and take part in multiple meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. The program also teaches life skills to participants, who are required to have sponsors.

Participants partner with recovery coaches, and the program is structured in four 90-day phases. A full year of sobriety is a graduation requirement.

The nonprofit McShin Foundation has thus far funded the program at no cost to taxpayers, but finances are becoming strained.

John Shinholser, president of McShin, said he and Spencer came up with the idea a few years ago and at the time had requested to the supervisors an opportunity to demonstrate CCRCP’s value to the community.

Shinholser said the board had told him to come back with evidence that the program was working.

“I have for you tonight evidence that it’s working,” Shinholser said.

The evidence came on two fronts.

Seven recovering addicts and alcoholics told the board that the program has saved their lives and enabled them to become contributing members of society.

Additionally, Sarah Scarbrough, who holds a PhD in Public Policy, presented her study on a cost-benefit analysis of CCRCP.

According to her report, 44 people have graduated from CCRCP since its inception, and this has saved Caroline County close to a million dollars by not having to send them to Pamunkey Regional Jail.

The current 21 participants have already saved the county about $221,000, Scarbrough said.

She added that the success rate is over 95 percent. Only two of the 44 graduates have gone back to jail, putting the recidivism rate at least 24.5 percent lower than the statewide prison average.

“It’s pretty incredible what this program is delivering, so I would encourage you all to look deep into this and truly consider adopting the program in the county,” Scarbrough said.

Bernard Meyer, a member of McShin’s board of directors, said, “This is the most unique program in the United States. When the first graduation was held, one of the members of the administration of President Obama came.”

Meyer said that participants who can afford to pay are charged a considerable fee—but most can’t.

“Unfortunately, the only people that can pay us are the ones that are pretty wealthy, and they pay a fairly substantial fee, but we don’t turn anyone away. We do it on a need basis program. And we subsidize that with the donations that we go out and raise,” Meyer said.

“Every month, we look at the numbers, and every month, we wonder if we’re going to get through the next month,” he added.

Spencer said, “The way this all started was members of the Board of Supervisors came to me in 2009 and said, ‘Jail costs in Caroline County are getting out of control—can you come up with some plan to try and reduce the jail costs?’”

He continued, “I was very much aware, as our circuit court judge would say often, that 80 percent of the cases he sees involve people who have an addiction to alcohol or drugs. That struck me that if we can address that issue, we could reduce jail costs.”

Spencer said that Board of Supervisors Chairman Floyd Thomas had said in 2011, “If you can show me savings in jail costs, we will send some of those savings to your program.”

(Thomas was absent from the April 8 meeting due to a death in the family.)

“I’m here to collect on a promise that was made in February of 2011,” Spencer said, adding that $30,000 was the minimum amount required to keep the program running.

“This is a unique program. It is a model for the rest of the country. It is something that can make Caroline County proud.

“And not only is this financially responsible to keep this program here, but it’s the right thing to do. Morally, it’s the right thing to do. Financially, morally, in every way, it’s the right thing to do,” Spencer said.

“Congratulations to all of you,” Madison Supervisor Wayne Acors said to the program graduates. “My hat’s off to you. I really am extremely proud that people in Caroline County do take advantage of a program such as this, and it makes me proud to know that you have gotten your life together.”

The $30,000 “sounds like a lot of money, but I do believe that it is proven that it’s well worth it from what we’ve seen tonight,” Acors continued.

Supervisors advised CCRCP leaders to contact County Administrator Charles Culley much earlier in each year’s budget cycle going forward.

“There is a budget process, and we need to get everybody involved early,” Vice Chairman Jeff Sili of Bowling Green said.

“I’m trying to keep the doors open,” Acors said. “I’m extremely impressed by what I heard today. … It’s not only saved us money, but from what I’m hearing, it’s changed their lives. And to me, we cannot put a price on that.”

“I will applaud everyone who came tonight.” Sili told the CCRCP graduates, “You sold the program.”