If you stop a moment to think about it, you’ll probably agree that life can be difficult.
Most of us want to live our lives the best we know how. The problem is that our best efforts don’t always turn out how we’d hope. As a result, we all make mistakes in life. We might disappoint someone we care about, fail to meet one of our obligations, or take an unwise action with possible legal consequences. Some mistakes are small and easily fixed; others can get us into serious trouble.
Everyone deserves a second chance, but not all second chances are created equal. When a mistake ends with involvement in the criminal justice system, for example, there are debts that must be paid and obligations that must be met before the mistake can be forgiven. A person who violates the law, even unintentionally, is responsible for dealing with the consequences. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a little help.
With this in mind, Cummins Behavioral Health will soon begin offering free transportation services for our clients who are involved in, or have been involved in, the criminal justice system. These individuals may have a variety of appointments they must attend as they work to rebuild their lives, and lack of reliable transportation can be a significant obstacle. By providing free transportation to important medical and legal appointments, we hope to remove some of the barriers these individuals face on their journeys toward recovery.
In this blog post, we’ll explain how these transportation services will work and why we believe they’ll make a difference for our clients and our community. We’ll also include explanations and insights from Tracy Waible and Jessica Hynson, who have been instrumental in bringing these services to Cummins.
How the Services Originated
Our transportation services for justice-involved individuals are a collaboration between Cummins Behavioral Health and Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration. More specifically, they are funded by a year-long grant from the Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA).
The process started when the DMHA indicated its desire to fund programs of this type. Tracy explains, “We receive emails periodically for various grant opportunities, and when this one came through, we knew that we had to apply. We have an obligation to look at whether our consumers have the ability and resources to do what we are asking. If not, we need to help them problem solve those barriers—one of them being transportation.”
As part of the grant application process, Tracy and Jessica coordinated outreach to community partners who would also benefit from having these services in place. “The Director of County Operations in each county reached out to partners, like local court systems and the Department of Child Services, and asked for letters of support,” Jessica says. “I know Putnam County even got one from the 911 dispatch center because they have a good partnership.”
“We received letters from almost every county, and multiple letters from some of our counties. So I think those stakeholders were all really excited about this opportunity, and definitely willing to send us referrals and to help this to be successful,” Tracy adds.
Ultimately, Cummins was awarded a grant to pay for five vehicles—one for each of our counties of operation—and reimbursement for time spent transporting consumers. Since public transportation options are sparse in Indiana, and services like Lyft and Uber are not consistently available in rural areas or have extremely long wait times, we anticipate our transportation services to be a significant benefit for our consumers.
How the Services Will Work for Consumers
Once our transportation services are up and running, any Cummins consumer who is involved in the justice system will be eligible to use them. “They’re for anybody justice-involved,” Tracy says. “That could be DCS, probation, drug court, veterans court—any kind of legal involvement.”
Individuals will be able to submit an online form to request a ride to an appointment. This could be an appointment for Cummins services, a physical health appointment, a court-related meeting, or other legal appointments, to name a few possibilities. Once a request is submitted, the appropriate staff in that county will review their availability and make arrangements to provide transportation if at all possible.
Due to the specific details of the grant, the services will only be available to existing Cummins consumers or those who are beginning services with Cummins. Tracy explains by way of an example: “There’s a large correlation between justice-involved and substance use disorder. We worry about that gap between leaving incarceration and entering treatment, because maybe a person has 30 days of sobriety now, and they’re at risk of overdose if they leave and start using again. If we could transport them straight from jail to an intake or to some kind of support, we’re hoping to reduce drug overdose and recidivism.”
Piggybacking off of Tracy’s example, Jessica gets to the core of why we’re so excited to provide these transportation services. “This justice-involved population is one of the populations that struggle to get back on their feet, because there are just so many barriers constantly in their way,” she says. “I think some people sit in jail and think, ‘OK, I’m going to turn my life around.’ They’re motivated, but then they come out to the same environment, the same challenges, maybe more challenges, because now they have a record. So I’m very excited to have the opportunity to break through some of those barriers, just by saying, ‘Well, we can do that. We can take them there.’ “
“If I think about our mission, vision and values,” Tracy adds, “and if we know that there’s always hope, and recovery as possible, I don’t want transportation to be the barrier to making that a reality for the people we serve. Because if I don’t have a way to access the care, then I’m more than likely going to become more hopeless, and not be able to do the things that I’m hoping to do with my recovery journey. So I think that’s why I’m excited about this. It’s going to give people an opportunity to tap into that hope and to see what recovery is about.”