JOLIET – “They have figured it out.”
That was the reaction from state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, on Friday at Stepping Stones in Joliet, where the treatment facility hosted a special luncheon for 60 guests.
This lunch, the second event in Stepping Stones’ “Taking Steps with Our Partners” campaign, had two purposes.
The first was recognize its partnership with agencies that also provide a positive alternative to a criminal lifestyle for offenders with substance use disorders, according to a news release from Stepping Stones.
The second was to highlight the accomplishments of those who completed treatment through Stepping Stones’ men’s extended care program through testimonies from guest speakers, the news release from also said.
It was this unique partnership between all six agencies to help ex-offenders not become repeat offenders that impressed McGuire. He hopes other agencies learn from this example.
“The continuity of care after a man or women leaves [prison] is essential,” McGuire said, repeating, “They have figured it out.”
Pam Rodriguez, president and CEO of Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities, which provides re-entry services for those in the criminal justice substance who have substance use or mental health disorders, was one of those guests.
She said Sheridan Correctional Center has provided treatment for incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders since 2004 and has partnered with Stepping Stones since it opened.
The partnership appears to be working.
Rodriguez said inmates who have participated in programs such as the men’s extended care program at Stepping Stones have a 44 percent reduction in recidivism than those who have not.
Before participating, inmates go through a screening process, she said.
“We try to match folks where services are needed,” Rodriquez said.
Rodriquez said not all clients are Stepping Stones are from the Joliet area. Some may be from Chicago or Rockford and don’t wish to return there, preferring to start over in a new place.
“And some may live here and want to stay close,” Rodriguez said.
Paul Lauridsen, executive director of Stepping Stones, is amazed at how the partnership has grown. Lauridsen said Stepping Stones had four referrals from Sheridan in 2004 and 100 in the past year, mostly in the men’s extended residential care program.
“It’s something like a halfway house,” Lauridsen said. “When guys come in, they have time to get readjusted in the community, get IDs, get jobs and get reacquainted with their families. It’s not like the old days when you took them to the prison gates, opened the doors and gave them $50 to get somewhere.”
Lauridsen said Stepping Stones provides a seamless transition of care.
“We actually go out to the prison before their release,” Lauridsen said. “We sit down and meet with them so they get to know us. We provide them with all the information they need to know about what it will be like when they come. We take them the handbook. They know what the services are. They know what the restrictions and limitations are.”
The extended residential care program is a structured program, Lauridsen said.
“They’re expected to participate in at least five hours of treatment a week,” Lauridsen said. They’re expected to attend and participate in recovery groups both at the treatment center and out in the community. They’re expected to go to work and we do random drug tests.”
In return, Stepping Stones helps clients find work, communicates and meets with their parole officers on a regular basis and provides them with an affordable care act counselor so they can get Medicaid.
“We even pick them up on the day of release,” Lauridsen said. “That’s part of the whole transition process. You don’t want somebody to say, ‘I’m going to go here for a couple of days and then I’ll get there.’ We want them to come to us directly.”
The average stay in the extended residential care program is 90 days, Lauridsen said. Some may also participate in the recovery home. That average stay in the recovery home is six months. Both those numbers are flexible, depending on the client’s needs, he added.
Stepping Stones can serve up to 21 clients at one time in the extended residential program and 21 in the recovery home, Lauridsen said. Best of all, it works.
Just the other day Roosevelt Burton, profiled in the Oct. 22 edition of The Herald-News, showed Lauridsen a video of him, his daughter LaMeyesha Burton and his mother and stepfather at Southern Illinois University’s family day, where LaMeyesha is a student.
LaMeyesha spoke at the Oct. 20 partnership luncheon about her father’s recovery.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Lauridsen said.
Lauridsen said one hears everyday about the crime and the violence in urban areas, which can leave people feeling bleak and hopeless about finding solutions. He wanted the six agency partners to see and hear firsthand the hope and the answers.
“I wanted them to go away feeling good about the things they’re doing and seeing what a positive difference they’re making in people’s lives,” Lauridsen said.