COUDERSPORT — A much-needed men’s transitional living program has started in Potter County.

A three-bedroom house in Coudersport, which the county commissioners approved the lease of during their meeting last Thursday, will be utilized for men who are leaving jail, a drug and alcohol facility, mental health facility or a state hospital and need a transitional phase before living on their own. Jim Kockler, director of Potter County Human Services, said it will help integrate these men back into the community.

“You see a lot of guys that come out of the jail that are couch surfing. They don’t have any place to go, so they end up reoffending and end up back in jail,” Bryonna Swede, mental health director, PCHS, said. This is especially common with people under the age of 23, she said.

By giving them a place where they have freedom with some supervision, Swede and Kockler hope it will reduce recidivism. In the program, they’ll learn how to budget and daily living skills, such as keeping the house clean, Swede said. They’ll also work toward individual goals, which could range from finding a job, finding permanent living, attaining their GED, getting a driver’s license, etc.

The house is within walking distance of many local businesses, as well as all the services they might need, like CareerLink, Dickinson’s and the assistance office.

A newly-hired housing specialist will check in at least weekly and review each resident’s treatment plan to and their progress toward their goals. They’ll provide general help with whatever might be needed, such as job applications, medical assistance and arranging appointments.

“It’s going to be dependent on their treatment plans and what each one needs. You may have guys coming out that maybe want to work on their GED … That’s what the program was designed for, to help give them the tools that they need to remain in the community and to be a self-sufficient, positive member of the community,” Swede said.

“We’re looking for individuals who are coming out of those facilities and who really want to establish themselves, get their lives back together and hopefully reunite into the communities that they originally left from,” Kockler said.

Another piece of the program is helping the residents with their medication. Kockler said they often see people go into psychiatric facilities because they haven’t managed their medications correctly and have a psychotic episode that requires them a placement in the facility.

While in jail, those incarcerated are connected with Pat Harris, the county’s re-entry specialist. He meets with potential residents and provides an application for the program about six weeks before their release date. He’s also in contact with those leaving other facilities. Human Services reviews the application and decide who to accept into the program. Those with serious and/or violent offenses will not be considered, Kockler said.

How long each person can stay in the residence will depend on their treatment plan and goals, as some things, such as finishing a GED, can take longer than other goals.

Kockler said $150,000 from the Human Services’ managed care company will cover this program for two years. After that, it will be part of the department’s budget if the program continues.

For more information, contact Potter County Human Services at 814-544-7315.

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