BUNNELL, FL – Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly is all about law and order, but he’s also a believer in second chances. Five inmates at the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility, one woman and four men, successfully completed the SMART Program on Wednesday, November 2, 2022. SMART gives inmate’s resources and a plan to re-build their life as they remain on the path to recovery and away from the Green Roof Inn.
SMART – which stands for Successful Mental Health & Addiction Recovery Treatment – is an in-custody evidence-based treatment program designed to help inmates successfully deal with mental health and substance abuse issues while in lock-up and upon their release. The counseling sessions are led by licensed behavioral health clinicians and certified peer support specialists from Epic Behavioral Health Inc. of St. Augustine. Epic has recently opened a new location in Bunnell to serve the graduates in aftercare.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) started SMART earlier this year with a $530,000 three-year grant from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). FCSO is one of just three Sheriff’s Offices in the United States to receive funding from DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance Criminal Justice Mental Health Collaboration Program.
Since the program’s inception in May 2022, 42 inmates have graduated from SMART and have returned to the community. 36 of them – or 86% – have stayed on the path to successful recovery, according to Sheriff Staly.
“That is a tremendous success rate given that the national average for re-offending is as high as 80% to 85%,” Sheriff Staly noted. “Most of those who relapsed and went back to jail are now back on track and in successful recovery in the community as a result of the program’s aftercare and follow-up initiatives.”
The five newest SMART graduates will work with the clinicians and specialists on a plan to transition back into the community before they are released from the Sheriff Perry Hall Inmate Detention Facility. That plan will include regular follow-ups to ensure they continue to receive treatment once they’re out of jail.
“These kinds of inmates are precisely why we applied for the federal funding,” Sheriff Staly continued. “Many of the people who come in and out of the Green Roof Inn need a strong support system to break that cycle. Many of them truly do want to change their life but just don’t know how to ask for it or how to do it. SMART gives them a good path to follow along with tools and resources to understand the underlying issues that led them to the wrong side of the law. Every person whose life is turned around with SMART is someone who can be a productive member in our community and that benefits all of us.”
Not every inmate at the Green Roof Inn is eligible to participate in SMART. Only low-risk to medium-risk inmates can participate. If they’re selected following a screening from medical and mental health professionals, the SMART inmates are placed into individual and group counseling. They live in a pod inside the jail with other SMART inmates during the 90-day treatment program, something FCSO Court & Detention Services Chief Dan Engert says is vital to the inmates’ outcomes.
“Having them live together in a dedicated housing unit begins the process of peer-inspired living,” Chief Engert noted. “They live, eat and breathe recovery while they are together in the jail’s residential treatment area. A big part of a successful recovery path is maintaining connections with support groups and other individuals in recovery in the community, especially after they are released. Recovery cannot be a ‘do it by yourself’ thing because the odds of relapse increase dramatically in that case.”