HOT SPRINGS, Ark – Mental health professionals at the Ouachita Behavioral & Wellness Center are working to help those coming out of incarnation, stay out.
Arkansas has a 47 percent recidivism rate, meaning 47 percent of offenders who get out of jail, wind up back behind bars.
In Garland County, that number is closer to 51 percent and becomes even higher when inmates are battling substance abuse or mental illness.
The Ouachita Behavioral & Wellness Center recently received a $1.2 million grant for a new program geared toward curbing some of those numbers.
The program will focus on former inmates who are battling both mental illness and substance abuse and provide them with the needed materials to move forward toward a better life.
“This creates a bridge for those people,” said mental health professional Kristal Caldwell.
The program will provide therapy, help with job search and community reengagement.
“Were able to go in and really help take care of a lot of people who don’t have anything,” said project director Sandra Gonzalez.
The program will serve about 125 clients for a two-year period.
“It’s been a long time since I felt so hopeful,” said Alyssa Wright.
Wright is a current client in the program. She says she started experimenting with drugs when she was just 11 years old.
“I was dealing with anxiety and depression and one I started using I was like I don’t feel bad anymore,” said Wright.
For years, Wright says she fought a battle with no winner.
“You feel like you’re not good enough or you’re never going to be good enough,” said Wright.
Wright says she spent about 3 to 4 years in and out of incarceration due to substance abuse, something 29 percent of Arkansas inmates face.
“It’s underserved,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez says with the help of her team, these professionals hope they can help former inmates stay out of incarceration.
The program will be paid for using money from a federal grant. The team says they believe it will be successful and hope to see it expand in the future.