“Neighbor of the Week”
This week, we stepped of the Mountain to talk to Christine Hopkins, Executive Director of Middle Tennessee Rural Recovery. Christine spoke at the recent Grundy Addiction Recovery Roundtable and will be bringing the re-entry program to our county on December 1.
The Rural Reentry program sounds very exciting. How did you come to work in the addiction field?
“I have a Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision and an undergraduate degree in Psychology. I have worked for 32 years for the state government in rehabilitation.
“While working as the State Director of Tennessee Rehabilitation Centers I met Sheriff Fuller when he was running for sheriff in Winchester eight years ago. He was making a speech, and began talking about seeing inmates sitting in jail, day after day, going nowhere. He suggested they needed rehabilitation. I agreed and worked alongside him, after he was elected, to begin the program.
“We started in Franklin County, and were eventually able to expand to Warren and Coffee counties. Now, we will be coming into Grundy County.”
What will you bring to the county?
“We initially start with assessments of the prisoners that have been identified as needing our services. The program participants will receive training in computers and information technology through a partnership with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology. They will attend class five hours a day, five days a week, for five weeks.
“In addition to the classroom training, the inmates will receive vocational evaluations. This is a good starting point to access job interests and abilities. They will receive job readiness training that includes resume development, job application completion skills, goal setting skills, budgeting skills, acceptable work behavior training, and information on how to dress to for success.
“Another component of the program is counseling. Franklin County inmates saw the greatest success with MART, Moral Recognition Therapy. This type of therapy is designed to change criminogenic behavior patterns and encourage a person to make good choices.”
How is the program funded?
“We are 100 percent funded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice. The funding consists of two grants – a technology and career training grant and a co-occurring grant that we receive because many participants have co-occurring illnesses such as a mental illness and addiction.
“The staff in Grundy County will include two counselors and one case manager. We will initially serve eight inmates. Once the first group has completed the program, we will pick up another group.”
What are the goals of the program?
We have three major goals. First, we want to reduce the recidivism rate in the county. Secondly, we will train inmates to be productive members of Grundy County by addressing their criminogenic needs. Finally, the program aims to improve public safety.”
Are there challenges facing Grundy County?
“Yes. Employment, housing, and transportation will be the problems we will have to overcome. Right now we are working with SETHRA, and hope to address some of these issues.”
The Middle Tennessee Rural Reentry program is successful in Franklin County. It is estimated that the county sees over $3 million in savings as inmates are trained and become productive members of society. Franklin County has seen their recidivism rate drop 81 percent since the program began in 2007. Christine feels Grundy County will benefit from the program and says, “When one of these individuals are returned a productive citizens everybody wins – the individual wins, the family wins, and the community wins.”