MetroHealth WRAP program decreases recidivism among people with mental health diagnoses
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A MetroHealth initiative helping people with severe mental health diagnoses and criminal convictions get back on track is proving effective in keeping participants out of jail, data shows.
The Wellness Reentry Assistance Program launched in 2013, identifies Cuyahoga County jail inmates with serious mental health conditions and provides mental and primary health care, as well as for the 30- to 50 percent of inmates struggling with substance abuse, addiction care.
The program helps participants plan for their release and supports them after they leave jail. It’s also free for them.
The program can help former inmates fill out food stamp applications or social security paperwork, line up jobs, find housing, schedule and arrange transportation to doctor’s appointments and fill prescriptions.
“I see it time and time again, it’s very overwhelming for these folks who are recently exiting incarceration. They don’t even know where to start. You walk out of jail, and you might have lost your apartment and all your clothes and everything. And you’re just standing there on the sidewalk,” WRAP nurse care coordinator Rashell Tallent said in an interview. “Our patients know that they can come here. We have a plan.”
The program also works to help individuals who are not currently in jail, but who have a history of incarceration.
Since 2013, the program has touched about 900 people. Participants are typically low-level, non-violent offenders.
Data collected between 2015 and 2018 shows that of the 214 participants who actively participated in the program, the number of days they spent in jail decreased about 60 percent between the year before they enrolled in the program and the year after, from about 20,260 to about 7,960. The number of times members of the group were booked into jail in the same time period also was cut in half, from about 320 times to about 160.
The program costs between $200,000 and $300,000 annually, and has received support from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Woodruff Foundation and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County. It expects to receive money this year from the ADAHMS Board, Cuyahoga County and philanthropic grants.
“We don’t view our patients primarily as offenders, even though they are in jail, they have been arrested,” said its founder, Ewald Horwath, who chairs the MetroHealth department of psychiatry said. “We’re approaching it from the standpoint of these are people who need treatment.”
Shannon Kuhn, a 38-year-old mother from Parma, said WRAP helped her connect with doctors, and get sober.
She was approached about the program during a two-month stint in Cuyahoga County jail a little more than a year ago, which she said was her first time in jail. Her charges have now been dismissed, and she’s awaiting expungement, because of her participation in WRAP. She said she’s never received the kind of support she got from the program. She went from being homeless and staying with a friend, to having her own home, a full-time job, and a car.
“They just hugged me and just gave me love,” she said, recalling her first experience with the program. “They let me know that they were going to be there for me. And they have been there for me for over a year now, every step of the way anything I needed.”