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Pike County recovery partnership builds program to ‘REBUILD’ workforce

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 6
Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 1:55 PM EST
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Governor Andy Beshear partnered with Appalachian Regional Commission on Tuesday to announce more than $1.5 million in funding for recovery-to-work projects.

The money was awarded through INvestments Supporting Partnerships In Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE).

Beshear spoke during the announcement, saying the focus over the last couple of years has “rightfully” been on the pandemic, but Kentuckians can not lose sight of the epidemic that preceded it.

“Even before the pandemic, many of our communities were suffering from the effects of drug addiction, fueled by out of control opioids and methamphetamine,” he said. “Unlike COVID, which we have a vaccine now to protect us again, that doesn’t exist when it comes to addiction. We are all vulnerable.”

Beshear said COVID came with a dramatic increase in overdoses, seeing 2,104 in one year- which was a 54 percent increase from the year before.

”That’s more than 2,100 funerals. 2,100 families mourning the loss of a loved one,” Beshear said.

“It is clear that addiction and recovery issues require an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. From all parts of government and all parts of society,” said Beshear.

He said the focus for the future is on the need for recovery, workforce development, and resilience.

“What we see in recovery is the very best of who we are as Kentuckians and as Americans,” said Beshear. “Those that make it through, that get to the other side. That could leave their pain behind them and their past. Coming back, serving as peer counselors, starting new groups. Being willing to be vulnerable with their pain and their lowest moments to lift people up. You see a little bit of God in that.”

He said now is not just about leading, but lifting up the people who need it most.

“Second chances are supposed to be given,” he said.

One of the funded projects, a collaboration between the Pike County Health Department, the Pike County Detention Center, and WestCare Kentucky, is looking to do just that.

Men from five counties across the Big Sandy will be involved in the Re-establishing and Boosting Unemployed Inmates Leverage and Development (REBUILD) project.

With the funds, the project will open a state-of-the-art distance learning lab and purchase supplies and transportation to the off-site woodworking shop where inmates build beds for families in need.

The program includes a three-step approach, according to Public Health Director Tammy Riley.

Step 1: Innovative public health services, health assessments, resume writing, and mock jobs interviews are also part of the first step.

Step 2: Life skills lessons. Decision-making, etc.

Step 3:Technical training. Carpentry and woodworking at the off-site space. This Includes connections with potential employers to help successful transition into the workforce.

Riley said unemployment and substance use are areas in which Pike County needs the most attention. Public health wanted to step in to be part of a plan to end the “vicious cycle.” So, joining in a new program with the detention center was a clear move.

“You know, we couldn’t ignore being a half-mile away and knowing they had the second largest substance abuse disorder program in the state,” said Riley.

She said the new program, which will bring two cohorts every year to be part of the learning and working projects, will help provide a platform for the inmates to better build upon a promising future.

“Individuals seek treatment, they go to a program like WestCare for incarcerated, they do what they were supposed to do and then we release them, but we are releasing them without all the tools that they need,” said Riley. “What we want to do is bring in employers, educate them about the challenges that these men have faced and overcome.”

Jailer Brian Morris said it is about providing more of a basis for allowing the inmates to transition back into the workforce, showing potential employers that they are more than their records.

“The things that they’ve done to get incarcerated is out of their system. And I really get to meet them. And they are good people,” said Morris.

He said this new program, funded by ARC and working with the community partners, is the best route to making that happen.

“First, be done properly. Second, it’s going to give them the tools that they need to succeed. And three, hopefully give them a better life,” he said.

The first group of cohorts are expected to begin the program in January, once the stage is set with the education component in the learning lab.

According to Riley, that lab will also be a great addition to the mission of the detention center far past the three-year life of the grant.

“This program is sustainable,” she said.

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