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Peer specialists start work inside southern Indiana jail, paving path to recovery

Scott County leaders have implemented a state-funded pilot program to treat incarcerated people and help them navigate life post-release.

SCOTTSBURG, Ind. — A southern Indiana jail is taking steps to get inmates on the right track.

Scott County leaders have implemented a state-funded pilot program to treat inmates while they're incarcerated and help them navigate life post-release. 

On Thursday, WHAS 11 News was allowed inside the jail to see how it works.

"We want to try to help them be productive citizens and heal their families," Scott County Sheriff Jerry Goodin said.

We got to see two different live treatment sessions happening in both the women's and men's pods. Peer specialists discussed battles with substance abuse and addiction with inmates, from their own experience.

"Just as hard as I went and found the drugs, I've got to run and find that recovery," one of the specialists said.

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It's a discussion inmates are now getting at least three times a week to show support and instill hope.

In June, WHAS 11 reported about the Integrated Reentry and Correctional Support Program (IRACS). Then in August, the state made funding official, awarding up to $500,000 to five county jails across Indiana -- including the one in Scottsburg.

Now, the program's up and running.

Scott County THRIVE, a local community recovery group, is helping lead the charge. Executive Director Phil Stucky tells us they're going to make sure to be there for folks after they're released.

"We're actually transporting them and making those connections inside the jail to get that warm hand-off, that human piece, when they're going back out into the community," Stucky said.

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On Thursday, Sheriff Jerry Goodin said so many of the 167 inmates have already bought in. The hope is to reduce the rates of people reoffending.

"To take someone who's never had an opportunity or a chance, [and] to give them a chance at a job, to provide for their families, to give back to the community that they took from," he said.

Indiana Executive Director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Doug Huntsinger, who was on site Thursday, says four out of every four incarcerated people in Indiana are struggling with substance abuse or addiction.

He hopes this latest program will be key in reversing the trend.

"The moment that somebody says I'm ready and willing to accept help, we have to have the infrastructure here in Indiana to do that -- and that's what we're building," Huntsinger said.

If the pilot program shows success, state leaders want to expand it to more county jails within the next three years.

The Hoosier State has been dealing with an increased rate of overdose deaths over the last few years. According to CDC data, Indiana saw a 32 percent rise in fatal overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021.

If you'd like to learn more about the program, or have a loved one impacted by incarceration in Indiana, you can reach out to the IRACS team. Their number is (812) 413-3319.

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Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at ikimmartin@whas11.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@isaiah_km) and Facebook.

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