By Rick Hiduk
(Exclusive to EndlessMtnLifestyles.com readers)
Wyoming County Correctional Facility warden Ken Repsher told the county commissioners and others in attendance at the Prison Board meeting on Tuesday that the facility’s staff has been coordinating the bulk of intake assessments recently.
“The staff took it upon themselves to get it done. It’s a slow go, but we’re trying to get it covered ourselves,” Repsher explained, giving most of the credit to the jail’s administrative assistant. “And it seems to be working.”
The assessments, geared at determining which new inmates need drug & alcohol or mental health services, has been handled in the past by staff from the Luzerne-Wyoming County Drug & Alcohol office, which is headquartered in Wilkes-Barre. Agency administrators informed their Wyoming County counterparts recently that they would no longer be sending a staff person to conduct one-on-one assessments but would make them available via Skype, or video conferencing.
“Unfortunately,” commissioner Tom Henry explained, “We just aren’t set up for it.” The assessments could have been conducted via cellphones, but neither Henry nor county human resources director Mike Donahue felt that was adequate.
In anticipation of the impact it would have on prison staff, the commissioners announced at their last meeting that Donahue had acquired a Single County Authority (SCI) grant to contract with both Trehab and A Better Today (ABT) for certified recovery specialists to do intake assessments. That too is merely a measure to fill the gap until county officials arrive at a more permanent solution.
“We were behind for a while, but we’re getting back up to speed,” Repsher stated, adding that his staff has linked about a half dozen new prisoners with the appropriate services. Henry said that ABT and Trehab should be providing help soon.
Population within the system is fairly steady, Repsher reported, with only five inmates – one man and four women – currently boarded at facilities in Susquehanna and Lackawanna counties. “The female population has exploded,” he noted.
Repsher expressed gratitude to unnamed law enforcement agencies who responded to the prison when an inmate who was being prepared for transport to Tyler Hospital became especially violent. Repsher declined to provide details but said of the assistance, “It was nice to see the support that we got from them. It was probably one of the worst things I’ve seen in the 28 years that I’ve been there.”
(Read more about the incident, as edited from police reports here: http://www.endlessmtnlifestyles.com/?p=14889 )