New program creates communities focused on sobriety and fun

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Participants in community corrections receive coping tools and develop mental habits to help them stay sober. They build relationships with other participants who work to overcome addictions and mental health issues as well as bond with therapists during their time.

But what happens when they are released and no longer have access to these services or communities?

The Community Corrections Advisory Board has heard of a potential new program, The Phoenix, that facilitates free activities that anyone can participate in to create holistic communities. These activities take place outside the justice system and are completely free for everyone. The only requirement is that participants be sober for 48 hours.

In Dubois County, more than half of encounters with local law enforcement involve some form of drug addiction – alcohol, prescriptions, or illegal drugs. The recidivism rate in Dubois County averages around 22% and many of these people struggle with addiction and mental health issues.

Scott Garrison is a retired police officer who now serves as the Dubois County Community Corrections Treatment Program Facilitator. He is also a Crossfit enthusiast.

“One of the things I noticed about the Crossfit model is the sense and power of community among the membership,” Garrison told the Community Corrections Board Tuesday afternoon. “You have people working side by side who would never normally associate with each other for some other reason. “

He described training in the gymnasium and watching his fellow police officers sit down and talk to former criminals; neither party knowing the past of the other.

“They just had a conversation like two guys hanging out,” Garrison said. “It was great to watch that kind of conversation, that kind of camaraderie happen for people who wouldn’t normally be in the same room together.”

He saw that this happened regardless of an individual’s ethnicity or socio-economic status.

As many people with addiction or mental health issues report feeling lonely, these types of communities can help.

Building a community around shared activities is not a new idea. The Red, White and Blue team, a group of veterans focused on physical activity, are doing this with great success. But a program that specifically builds communities for those suffering from drug addiction could be another tool outside the justice system to help create lasting, healthy changes in the lives of those people.

According to Chris Spallina, manager of The Phoenix program, 87% of people in The Phoenix programs report not having abused substances for up to three months after attending an event.

Spallina explained that in his own battle with drug addiction, these types of supported community development programs have helped him tremendously.

In addition, since these programs are open to everyone, the relationships build bridges to create a stronger global community.

In addition to providing special training for volunteers and potential coaches to build the program, The Phoenix operates an online presence to allow individuals to find activities they can participate in. They also operate an exercise-focused app to virtually facilitate fitness classes.

There is no cost associated with the Phoenix other than the 48 hours of sobriety. The essential part of creating a successful program is finding community members and spaces to align with the mission and join in the process.

While successful programs have been built around physical activity, the Phoenix doesn’t want to limit anyone’s access to being part of a community. They even helped build communities around book and chess clubs.

Anyone interested in helping establish this program in Dubois County can contact Community Corrections at 812-482-2440 and ask for Scott Garrison or email him directly at [email protected]


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