Justice Related Services (JRS) works with the Allegheny County Jail, District Courts, and behavioral health and other community providers to support adults with mental illness, mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder, or a dual diagnosis of mental illness and intellectual disability, who are involved in the criminal justice system. Services are provided during and following Court proceedings and incarceration to promote successful transition back into the community and to decrease the likelihood of recidivism. This is accomplished through assessment, development of a treatment plan, and providing access to treatment, supports and recovery programs. During the pandemic, JRS has continued to plan, coordinate and facilitate release of individuals incarcerated in the Allegheny County Jail, Torrance State Hospital or the State prison system. The following scenarios illustrate staff accomplishments during the pandemic, when even the smallest activity became complicated and complex.
Joseph Lapcevic, a staff member of Justice Related Services – Diversion, assisted an individual transitioning from Torrance Forensic State Hospital to a Community Residential Rehabilitation (CRR) group home for adults with mental illness. Joe transported this woman from the hospital in Blairsville to the CRR in Allegheny County. He successfully connected her to language interpretation, treatment and medical services in the community, supported her during the transition to the CRR, helped her get her charges reduced to a summary charge, and made sure she had appropriate clothing and personal hygiene items.
Early in the pandemic, before regular processes were put into place, Chloe Taylor, a County support specialist for Justice Related Services, helped to plan and facilitate an individual’s release from jail to a community program. She ensured his safe transfer to the program by coordinating with the Courts, Jail, Probation Office, the individual and his family, while quelling his concerns and those of the provider and his family. On the day of his release, Chloe went to the Jail and transported him directly to the program to make sure he complied with the Court order (while making sure he got necessary clothing and food). Since his release from the Jail, he has enrolled in behavioral health treatment and has been doing well. He is currently focusing on complying with his probation requirements and is attending family sessions to attempt to reconcile with his wife.
JRS clients continue to make progress despite the challenges of COVID-19. For example, one client achieved all necessary treatment requirements for her probation and is now living independently on her own. She has found work, has successfully completed her probation supervision and is in the process of reunifying with her children.
Another client released from incarceration during the pandemic has been thriving in the community. He has been active in his treatment, has been caring for his infant daughter and has been actively searching for work – applying for 27 jobs in one day! He continues to remain motivated in his recovery and is excited about making a new start.