New facility offers intervention, not incarceration, to addicts, mentally ill, homeless population

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Providing relief for an outdated and overtaxed jail system in Marion county is the goal behind a new facility dedicated during a ceremony downtown.

It’s called the Reuben Engagement Center.

The facility, located in the same building as the Arrest Processing Center on E. Market Street, will provide shelter, medical detox, mental health evaluations and referrals to not just the city’s homeless, but addicted and mentally ill individuals.

It happens every day round the clock.  Police are called to help control someone suffering from substance abuse or mental illness.

Far too often those people end up behind bars at the Marion County jail.

Carl Rochelle says the opening of the center is intended to provide another option.

“But not just a different option.  Not a way to avoid being arrested, but a way to get help,” said executive director Carl Rochelle.

This center which includes 20 beds specifically for the homeless and another 10 beds for those brought in by police also has medical space to offer treatment and refer those in need to social service programs instead of shipping them straight to jail.

“This is two-fold.  We’re helping individuals. We’re also helping the criminal justice system focus on true emergencies,” said Rochelle.

Mayor Joe Hogsett truly believes reforming the criminal justice system means rethinking how the city helps those in need.

“This center will provide a safe space for those in our community who need it most,” said Hogsett.

Hogsett announced plans in December to overhaul the way Indianapolis handles arrests and incarcerations. The recommendations came after an exhaustive seven-month long study into reforms of the Marion County criminal justice system and an outline for construction of a new jail.

His report called for changes at every level; from initial 911 calls and dispatches, to booking referrals and incarcerations.

“As I stand in this new facility at the beginning of this new year, talking about this type of new approach to criminal justice, I am reminded and you should be as well, we have undertaken a daunting task,” Hogsett added.

The Engagement Center has been in the works since 2002 when Indianapolis first adopted a blueprint to combat homelessness in the city. Now operational, Hogsett says it will be staffed by medical personnel trained to deliver immediate, non-emergency care and “necessary wraparound services” for individuals who battle substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness.

“Facilities like the Reuben Engagement Center will allow us to divert these individuals who most need our help from the cyclical punishment that currently exists in our criminal justice system,” Hogsett added.

“40 percent of those in jail have mental health issues. 40 percent.  So hopefully we can reduce the population, get them treatment and save money for taxpayers,” said city-county councilmember LeRoy Robinson.

Robinson hopes the new center saves the city money by helping addicts and the mentally ill get services they need to avoid repeated trips to jail or the hospital.

“Folks at home should know this benefits the community in the long run.  Our goal is to help people get better,” said Rochelle.

When it’s open the center will be able to accommodate 30 beds a