The Rehabilitate Rather Than Incarcerate Project provides high-risk/high-need, drug/alcohol addicted repeat offenders in Otsego county with tools to maintain their sobriety by supporting rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration through incentives, education and programming to support a healthy, sober lifestyle. This program has allowed the Otsego County Drug Court to supplement its program around incentives and personal growth programs for participants. 28 drug court participants were directly impacted by the grant, but the community as a whole has also been served.

This project benefits the community by teaching and helping the drug court participants to become responsible, productive citizens by working and giving back. It also benefits the community by saving money that would otherwise be utilized to pay for jail stays for participants. In some instances, families that have been torn apart by a substance use disorder have been reunited.

“The grant has provided much-needed services that otherwise would not have been available to the participants. It has allowed them to take different classes in order to relax and focus on their daily life situations. The grant further helped to purchase clothing for a participant to attend a job interview – they did get the job and are doing well. It has also allowed us to purchase incentives to give as an accomplishment for the participants when they have met certain requirements in the program,” noted Abe Cruz, drug court probation officer.

This grant even helped participants in the program plant a community garden. All of the participants benefited by keeping busy tending to the garden or harvesting and using the vegetables planted for healthier eating. Participants also learned canning procedures for tomatoes and how to make salsa. Perhaps most importantly, participants were able to “give back” to the community by donating unused fresh vegetables to elderly residents of The Brook, Alten Zimmer and Aspen Ridge. Yoga classes were offered to participants to help them learn techniques in breathing, focus, and relaxation, which is an integral piece when dealing with a substance use disorder. Yoga also promotes positive energy, which is critical in the negative world that can plague an addict. Another portion of the grant was used to purchase incentives such as food gift cards, bowling, and movie passes. Again, in the negative realm of addiction, even these seemingly insignificant tokens are extremely important to help encourage and motivate participants to continue working on their sobriety. 

“An ‘aha!’ moment came during the program for a participant who suffers from a substance use disorder and had no support from his family. While in jail, his family threw away all of his clothing, which resulted in him having no basic necessities to live when he was released. This grant provided the ability to purchase some clothing at Salvation Army as well as other basic necessities to get him on his feet again. With tears rolling down his face, he explained how no one has ever taken the time or effort to help him and this has pushed him to work harder to stay sober,“ stated Victoria Courterier, Court Administrator.

This grant was funded by the FOP Cops Fund, Pura Vida Fund*, and Dr. Patrick J McNamara Fund* of the Otsego Community Foundation.