Daviess County will become the home for a special pilot program to help jail inmates with mental health and drug issues transition back into the community. The state of Indiana has named Daviess County as one of five counties that will be offering a mental health a peer recovery program through the jail called Integrated Re-entry and Correctional Support (IRACS).
The program is starting with $269,000 for training and equipment at the jail.
“This is through Mental Health America and the governor’s office,” said head of the Daviess County Peer Counselor Program Brian Peek. “This will add to some of the recovery work we have already begun in our jail. The idea is to get them treatment while in jail and then walk them through the process at release so that they can get a job, a social security card, a driver’s license and more counseling.”
Vanessa Phillips, who will be heading up the IRACS program, says the program will also serve as a training center for other counties as they get involved with helping prisoners transition to society.
“We are working closely with Gary (Sheriff Gary Allison) and his staff to set this up in the jail,” said Phillips. “We are also going to be working with the prosecutor, judges, community corrections, employers and mental health providers. Basically, anyone who can help make this successful.”
Daviess County Commissioner Ron Arnold favored giving the project the go ahead.
“Drugs and mental health are a huge problem in this community,” he said. “Hopefully, this will put a dent in it.”
“I think there is a need for this,” added Daviess County Commissioners’ President Michael Taylor. “Brian Peek does some of that work already at the hospital and the jail, but this is above and beyond that.”
Even though the commissioners approved the program, they were hesitant to jump in because the state rolled it out at the last minute.
“The state rolled it out pretty quickly and we are all playing catch-up on how exactly it is going to work,” said Taylor. “It is funded for one year. The five employees they will have will not be county employees, but will be contract employees.”
The commissioners also unanimously approved a resolution to create vote centers for the 2023 election. Under the plan the county will set up eight locations where people can vote. People located in any precinct will be able to vote at any of the centers that will be spread around the county.
The vote center idea has been approved by the election board and endorsed by both County Clerk Janice Williams and Deputy Clerk Lauren Milton.
“I think this will be good for the county, convenient for the voters and will benefit all of us,” said Williams.
“We have talked about this for a number of years, but now that we have the e-poll books we will be able to do it,” said Milton. “There will have to be a special committee formed now to approve the plan for the vote centers.”
With the passing of the commissioner’s resolution the committee is formed.
“I think the vote centers will be a good deal for the county,” said Taylor. “It will give people more access to vote in the elections. People will be losing many of the poll locations they are used to, but I think it will work out better for the county as a whole.”
Officials estimate the vote centers will save as much as $6,000 during a municipal election year and $12,000 during a general election.
The county approved designed to put together the renovation of the courthouse. A $50,000 contract was approved for Garmong Construction to act as the county’s owner representative during the construction. Architectural and engineering firm RQAW had a contract approved for $880,000 to provide drawings and oversee the construction.
Officials say the courthouse is going to be a big project.
“The courthouse is going to need more than remodeling,” said Taylor. “Our mechanical system is shot. It is on borrowed time. Our electrical system is the same way. The stone facade needs work done to it. The windows need to be replaced. A lot of the cost is going to be to get the courthouse where it needs to be structurally.”
The county expects to put the project out for bids early next year. The result of those bids may determine whether the project is done in stages.
In other business, the commissioners agreed to a proposal that will allow third party users access to the county’s computer system for official business.
The commissioners accepted a bid from Evansville Truck Center of $192,286 for a tandem axle dump truck for the county highway department. At the request of highway department supervisor Chris Winkler, the county agreed to purchase two of the vehicles. The trucks are due for delivery sometime next year.
Bids for some owner-occupied housing rehabilitation projects were opened. Mendenhall Carpentry submitted bids on three projects of $36,781; $153,605; and $127,981.
Commissioner Nathan Gabhart presented an update on the Blighted Property Ordinance and the hiring of a code compliance officer.
“This is a draft of the ordinance,” he said. “It is very similar to the one in Knox County. I want you to just look over it now, and see if we need to make any changes. We have already advertised for the code compliance officer and have received one response. I anticipate we will fill that spot next month.”
“I think we are moving pretty good,” added Taylor. “We need to get a code enforcer hired and let them look at the ordinance before we pass it. The county is not looking to clean up every piece of property in the county, just the highly visible places, some of the junkyards close to the high population areas.”
The commissioners received a report from Paul Williams with Hoosier Insurance. He reported the county should pay less for health insurance next year. He also recommended and the commissioners accepted a change in carriers to IISI.
The commissioners reappointed Auditor Patty Ball as their representative to the Southern Indiana Development Commission, and Dr. Dan McCarty to the Daviess County Hospital Board.