SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Reese Renner has been shedding tears since Wednesday, when the state informed her that a program where she helps recovering addicts to sober up and fix their tattered lives would end next year because of a cut in federal funding.
She shed tears for her nearly 90 clients, most of whom, like her, had served time in prison.
“They trust me, they know I know what I’m talking about,” she told the South Bend Tribune.
Access to Recovery paid for the clients’ substance abuse treatment and a lot more to support their search for jobs and stability, including medical expenses, bus passes, gasoline cards, vehicle repairs and gift certificates for clothing and personal hygiene items.
“Some don’t even have underwear and socks — the things they need and we take for granted,” Renner said of clients just out of prison.
ATR came to the area at least six years ago to serve anyone with a substance abuse problem, former inmate or not, whose income was at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level or 500 percent for military.
But the U.S. Congress was trimming funds for the federal program, which served 11 counties in Indiana, including St. Joseph and Elkhart. And a week ago, Indiana got word that it wasn’t among the states and tribal councils that were awarded funding for next year: Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts and North Carolina, according to a letter from Indiana’s Family & Social Services Administration.
Renner served as a consultant in one of three ATR programs in St. Joseph County. She was based at the Healthy Communities Initiative, a nonprofit organization where officials decided early this summer to close down over a shortfall in funding not tied to the loss of ATR money.
At Calvary Chapel in Granger, the Rev. Bob Moore said his ATR program is now serving 300 to 400 clients “I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said, noting that he’d do what he could as a pastor but that it wouldn’t come close to ATR’s aid. “This is going to leave a lot of people in need.”
The other provider in the county is Power in Praise Crusade Ministries in Mishawaka.
Renner had fallen into a drug habit when, at 34, a divorce sent her to the bars, something that her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice couldn’t prevent. She bilked her Wakarusa employer to pay for drugs until, she said, “I turned myself in because I wanted to stop doing drugs.”
Her boss offered that he wouldn’t press charges if she paid back the money and rehabilitated herself.
She tried, but she couldn’t do it alone.
Her boss pressed theft charges. She served a year in prison and exited in 2008, then spent three months at the Dismas House, a nonprofit home in South Bend where inmates make the transition to free life. ATR paid for her time there. She was finally clean and sober.
Renner has been serving clients out of an office at Dismas since Healthy Communities closed its offices.
The ATR programs do have funding to serve clients until Dec. 31. Since June 30, they haven’t been accepting any new clients, a normal part of spending down resources in this grant cycle.
Local coordinators of the ATR program knew there was a chance that federal money could stop. Is there another way to keep it going? The state’s FSSA hasn’t announced any such plans.
Local coordinators had attended a training that the state provided this summer on marketing ATR. And on Tuesday, they’ll gather for a previously scheduled meeting to talk about how to make ATR sustainable through other sources of funding. Renner would love it if there’s a way, but she’s not sure how local agencies could eke out the extra funding when they are “not for profit.
Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com
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