By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Belknap County will be applying for at least $650,000 in federal grants for programs at its new Community Corrections facility, which is scheduled to open in September, according to Kevin Warwick, the consultant from Alternative Solutions Associates who helped design the program for the facility.
Warwick told Belknap County Commissioners when they met at the Belknap County Complex Thursday afternoon that he thinks there is a real good chance that the county will receive the grants, which would cover a three-year period, because the county has developed a well thought out after-care model program for the new facility which is evidence based.
The funds would be used for staff training and, if awarded, would be available in October, shortly after the 18,000-square-foot, 64-bed facility opens.
Warwick said that the county developed a pilot program, which has been in place for nearly a year, which will strengthen its case for funding, and that there are only 10 or 15 comparable programs nationwide.
Commissioners on Friday approved a $35,000, one-year contract with Warwick's company for developing programs for the center and assisting in the development of grant proposals.
Commissioners also met with Belknap County Corrections Department Superintendent Keith Gray and Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center to discuss a pending application for a $400,000, three-year federal grant for a Drug Court program.
Abikoff said that the Recovery Court program, currently operating in Laconia Circuit Court, relies on volunteers who meet on their lunch hours to monitor the progress of those accepted into the program, which offers alternatives to jail sentences for those willing to undergo counseling, undergo random and regular drug testing and commit to at least 250 hours of community service.
The program has 10 participants and Abikoff said that the grant would enable the program to hire a full-time coordinator and scale it up to the point where it will be able to more than double the number of people it serves as it expands to cover Belknap County Superior Court. She projected that it could expand to up to 30 participants.
Abikoff told commissioners when the grant was first discussed last month that the grant requires a $133,333 local match, much of which can come from in-kind services already being provided. She said the funds will be used to improve the quality and intensity of services being provided, including access to health care coverage and vocational and job training.
She said that the coordinator can either be a county employee or someone the county contracts with to provide services and, that after the grant runs out in three years, the drug court which has been established will be eligible for state funding.
Both Gray and Abikoff are members of the Recovery Court. Other members include Jesse Friedman of the Public Defender's Office, Circuit Court Judge James Carroll, Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen, the Laconia Division of Parole and Probation, Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, the Belknap County Restorative Justice Program, the Belknap County House of Corrections, Genesis Behavior Health and Laconia Drug Prevention, Education and Treatment Officer Eric Adams.
Gray said that the Department of Corrections will be the lead agency in applying for the grant. The deadline for applications is Feb. 28.
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