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Sedgwick County accepts state money to help those on probation

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, at 12:28 p.m.

Sedgwick County commissioners accepted about $535,000 from the state on Wednesday to improve behavioral health services for clients in community corrections.

The funding will increase mental health and substance-abuse counseling and other services in an effort to keep people who are on probation from reoffending and having to serve time in jail.

The additional spending will “increase the intensity and effectiveness of probation,” said Mark Masterson, director of Community Corrections.

Helping people fulfill their terms of probation saves the county money on incarceration costs and increases the offenders’ ability to pay restoration, he said.

Part of the goal is to help offenders on probation develop habits that will help them get and keep jobs, which is key to reducing probation violations and getting them to “live lives that meet the community’s standards,” said Commissioner David Unruh.

Unemployment among people on probation generally has been about 12 percent through the years. But it jumped to 32 percent during the 2008-2010 recession, Masterson said.

The situation has improved over the past two years, but unemployment for probationers still is running about 24 percent, he said.

The state grant money will be split between two county departments and a private-sector contractor:

• $258,523 for Community Corrections, for substance abuse and cognitive skills programs.

• $176,376 to create a specialized intervention team through COMCARE, the county's mental-health agency.

• $100,000 to Higher Ground for substance abuse services.

The money will pay for four new employees for Community Corrections, three for COMCARE and two for Higher Ground, Masterson said.

The funding is from the Kansas Department of Corrections under the Justice Reinvestment Act, a bill passed by the Legislature in a bid to reduce prison costs.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said he supports the program but won’t commit to keeping it going if the state funding dries up in the future.

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