BARTOW, Fla. (May 29, 2019) – The National Association of Counties (NACo) awarded Polk County’s Helping HANDS jail transition program an achievement award. The award honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.
“This is another example of the COC’s efforts to recognize and fund innovative programs that improve the quality of life of our residents,” said Lance Anastasio, Chairman of the Citizens’ Healthcare Oversight Board. “In this case, it has the additional benefit of reducing incarceration; and helps those released from jail with mental illnesses become productive members of society.”
NACo recognized Helping HANDS as best in the category of Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Helping HANDS, a pilot program for jail transition, uses community paramedics alongside recovery peer specialists to assist inmates with community reentry. The program ensures participants engage in treatment, receive medications and connect with social services that result in reduced arrests, behavioral health crisis admissions and inappropriate use of emergency medical services.
“The combination of compassion and innovative thinking has provided a pathway to care for former inmates, reduces the cycle of re-arrests, and keeps our community safer,” said George Lindsey, Chairman of the Polk County Board of County Commissioners
The program works with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Fire Rescue, Polk Health and Human Services, jail healthcare providers and behavioral health providers.
“Helping HANDS is a program inspired by Dr. Thomas McMicken’s legacy and dedication to ‘saving lives and stamping out disease.’ Tom dedicated his life to his family, his community, and to the practice of medicine,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.