SAP: County part of plan to help inmates recover from substance abuse

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By Mary Barczak

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Recovery is a life-long process. And it’s a lesson inmates enrolled in Bullitt County’s first substance abuse program have been learning since April at the Bullitt County Detention Center.


Melissa Gordon, program director, said they were fortunate to secure this program.

“A majority of convicted felons have drug or alcohol addition,” she said.

Inmates can apply for this six month-long program in which they learn about parenting, how to live a health life, and good work ethic and social skills.

During that time, they are secluded from the rest of the jail population with a rigorous schedule every day.

Gordon said the isolation helps to build a separate community where they hold each other accountable for their actions, such as their behavior.

“Research has shown stats are higher for inmates to be successful in the community after they get out if they do the program,” she said.

Gordon said SAP attendance also looks favorable to a parole board. In fact, seven participants will go home this month on parole.

The men are given the tools to adapt in society after serving their sentences, she said. Gordon just hopes they utilize them.

“We want to get them to focus and be successful.”

Recently, 21 inmates completed the program. Center officials and the community celebrated their accomplishment with a ceremony.

Some of the program members who had leadership roles in the SAP community came forth to share the story of their journey.

Michael Benge said his father was never around when he was growing up and he never wanted to do the same thing to his children.

Well he has a son that's 14 years old now and he's only been able to be home for three of his birthdays.

Benge said he's thankful for the SAP program because it's given him a "second chance."

"It's taught me integrity and to be accountable for my own actions," he said. "I was always blaming someone else for what I did."

Garrick Myatt echoed Benge's outlook.

"This is an important day for all of us, we've come a long way," he said.

Myatt admitted he was an addict and feeling lost eight months ago.

"I thought I was just going to be keep ending back where I was," he said. "But this program has given us hope for something - change."

During his time in the program, he's seen a lot of growth in himself in relation to how he communicates with people and his thought process.

"It's evident just how realt this is.. a lot of us will be back on the streets soon, he said. ‚"We've got the tools we need, we just have to put them to use."

Jailer Martha Knox said the jail was trying to obtain SAP before she took office but she's glad the day has finally come.

"This is the first substance abuse program in Bullitt County," she said. "The judges worked together to get this program going."

Knox said running SAP was a challenge because it requires a lot of discipline and structure for the isolation to be successful, but they made sure it got done.

Inmates were also given the opportunity to take GED classes while in SAP.

Four completed their GED in a short amount of time said David Wells, an instructor for the program from Jefferson Community & Technical College.

He said commended the men on their accomplishment now as role models for their friends, family and children.

"I always remind them two things people can't take away from you, your faith and your education," Wells said.

SAP Director Kevin Pangburn recalled former BCDC jailer Danny Fackler calling him numerous times about bringing a substance abuse program to the county.

"He would end every call with, 'Kevin, you just remember that Jesus and the Bullitt County jailer loves you.' I never forgot that," he said.

Pangburn also said Knox was also proactive in bringing the program to the county jail. She would "take her show on the road‚" to visit with local judges and other officials to explain the importance of the program.

So when three openings came up, he knew Bullitt County was first on his list.

"I knew they were fervent in their desire to have it," he said.

Pangburn said he thinks the program is a good "fit" for the correctional facility because of the willingness of staff and the layout of the building.

About 80 percent of inmates are dealing with a substance abuse problem, he said.

"For a long time, there was nothing inherently corrective about corrections," Pangburn said. "We treated them like children when they were in here‚ but then released them as adults. We realized we have to do something about that while they're in there."

This program is about more than just rehabilitating your habits though, it's about rehabilitating yourself as a person, he said.

"This program gives you an opportunity to graduate with honors‚ as a man," Pangburn said.

He encouraged the men to stop viewing themselves as inmates and to start representing themselves with pride as an individual and for their family.

Pangburn said, "One of the greatest gift to give yourself, the community and your family is hope. There's a big difference between a hope dealer and a dope dealer."