Lake County Sheriff reinstates substance abuse counseling
By Rich Bird Post-Tribune correspondent July 25, 2012 11:54AM
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media, file
Updated: August 27, 2012 11:11AM
CROWN POINT — Two months after reinstating a GED and job readiness program for inmates at the Lake County Jail, Sheriff John Buncich is bringing back services for inmates with substance abuse issues.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners recently approved a contract with Merrillville-based Addiction and Behavioral Counseling Services, Inc. to provide on-site services at the jail.
Those services, according to sheriff’s attorney John Bushemi, will take place both in one-on-one and group settings. They will involve professional counselors, as well as recovered addicts.
The contract, which takes effect Aug. 5, runs through the end of the year at a rate of $4,166 per month.
In May, the commissioners approved Buncich’s request to contract with Griffith-based True Light International Ministries to provide classes that will give select inmates the opportunity to earn a GED. True Light also teaches inmates interview skills and how to build a resume.
The contract for $9,861.24 pays for two 10-week GED courses and the job skills program.
Both the GED and substance abuse programs, which were available to inmates during Buncich’s last term as sheriff, were cancelled after he left office in 2002, according to Patti Van Til, spokeswoman for the department.
According to Buncich, the services are aimed at reducing costs by preventing repeat visits to the jail.
“Money well spent will help to reduce the rate of recidivism, which is in excess of 40 percent coming back to the jail,” he said. “Higher recidivism rates, the higher costs are. We are doing all we can to reduce costs.”
Sheriff’s department officials discussed reinstituting the services with the U.S. Department of Justice, and they were fully supportive, Van Til said.
The jail is under a series of DOJ mandates, which include 99 areas of deficiency at the jail. The DOJ instituted the mandates in response to a 2008 lawsuit citing overcrowding and unsanitary conditions at the jail.
“The sheriff believes this is an important service to be able to provide to inmates,” Bushemi said.