JAMHI Health and Wellness Inc. received a $100,000 grant for programs supporting the recently released as they reenter society last week from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.

“This quarter, Trust grant dollars are funding a variety of efforts, large and small, that will increase service capacity and access to care, support data and planning efforts, and help our industry professionals grow their skills and knowledge,” said AMHTA CEO Mike Abbott in a news release. “We are happy to be able to invest in these efforts to support our beneficiaries and we look forward to supporting our partners as they advance their work.”

In Juneau, that money will support the activity of the Juneau Reentry Coalition, which falls under JAMHI as its financial agent, said JAMHI director of prevention and wellness Linda Landvik in an email. That relationship began in 2017, Landvik said.

“The mission of the JREC is to promote public safety within the community by identifying and implementing strategies that increase the success of all justice-involved individuals and reduces the likelihood of recidivism,” Landvik said. “We accomplish that by working to improve communication and collaboration between the Alaska Department of Corrections, other State agencies and the community and by identifying barriers for successful reentry into the community after incarceration.”

Recidivism is a problem nationwide and especially in Alaska, where the rate of recidivism within three years of release is just above 60%, according to the Alaska Department of Corrections. In 2015, when that rate was over 63%, the state Legislature took action, Landvik said.

“Alaska’s Recidivism Reduction Plan was developed in 2015 at a time when the adult population in the state’s prisons was increasing at an annual rate of 3% per year, and released prisoners had a very high recidivism rate,” Landvik said. “Faced with serious budgetary concerns, bipartisan passage of several bills in the 28th and 29th legislative sessions began to shape a statewide reform of Alaska’s criminal justice system.”

The grant funds, part of a yearly grant program, will be used to support JREC.More than $1.4 million were disbursed to programs across Alaska in this round of grants. AMHTA issues more than $25 million in grants each year to many organizations, according to the news release. Now is more important than ever for helping the recently released to help them on a better path, Landvik said.

“I guess that people should know that services are continuing during COVID with telehealth appointments and many clients are continuing to be engaged,” Landvik said. “That we have huge needs in the form of affordable housing and sober living homes. If someone comes out of prison and gets a job making minimum wage, he/she is not going to be able to find and maintain housing.”

Lack of housing can be the biggest problem in helping people form a stable, post-incarceration life, Landvik said.

“Lack of safe, secure, sober housing can throw the individual into homelessness; being homeless often means that the person does not have access to clean clothes, shower facilities, etc. so they lose their job – a difficult loop to break out of. Some of our clients return to prison and to our program numerous times. The path is very seldom an easy one to follow.”

An article in the October 21, 2020 edition of the Juneau Empire, by Michael S. Lockett, mlockett@juneauempire.com. Photo is by Michael Penn, Juneau Empire.