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Program aims to get Bartholomew County drug offenders back on track

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BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. – The Bartholomew County Council was expected to pass a salary ordinance for a final case worker Monday night, paving the way for a new drug treatment program for men.

Rob Gaskill, who runs residential services at the Bartholomew County Community Corrections Center, says all the pieces are nearly in place for a program called REALM, which stands for Recovery Enables a Life for Men. The program is largely modeled after the county’s program for women called Women Recovering with a Purpose, or WRAP. The women’s program has seen a 74-percent success rate since it started in 2011, according to county officials.

“They want to be productive, they want to be the mother to their children that their children deserve,” Gaskill said.

Starting in January, Gaskill hopes to enroll up to 40 men per year in the yearlong REALM program. It will focus on drug offenders who demonstrate a low-to-moderate risk of being arrested again for crimes related to drugs.

“We’re trying to teach skills that change their behavior, change the way they think,” Gaskill said. “Give them the skills and tools they need to be successful in life.”

Instead of being sent to jail after being arrested, men enrolled in the REALM program will spend about half of the year living in a residential wing of the Community Corrections Center. They will spend five days a week attending classes and undergoing therapy aimed at turning away from drugs and toward a positive lifestyle.

“We believe you have all the ability to change your life and to be productive,” Gaskill said.

For the second half of the year, program participants will be allowed to live at home on electronic monitoring while continuing the curriculum. Gaskill says the opportunity will allow the men to start applying what they learned in the first half of the program to their home lives and families.

“My goal is to just help, even if it’s just one person each day, make their lives better, make our community better,” Gaskill said.

Columbus Police Lieutenant Matt Harris hopes the REALM program will mean officers won’t have to continue arresting some suspects time after time.

“If we can work together with the court system to get these persons back on track, I think it’s a win for everybody,” Harris said.

Gaskill says funding for the program is already secured. He says the $1.4 million overall budget is a combination of grant funding, state and local dollars. Case workers, mental health professionals and other positions have already been filled. He says research shows the investment in such a program is well worth it.

“For every dollar you spend on residential treatment, you’re actually saving the community around fourteen dollars,” he said. “Because of the children and families and everyone that’s involved in the program.”