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Jun 26, 2017

Inmates gain hope, skills from program at Worcester County Jail and House of Correction

By: Melissa Hanson @ MassLive

 

Jose Nieves has been in and out of jail since he was 11 years old. But now, through a program that has taught him about how to handle his anger among other skills, he may not come back again.

“I’ve got to say, it’s been a long journey,” Nieves told counselors, Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis and more than a dozen of his peers. “Before I came to this program, I didn’t know anything about core beliefs.”

Nieves, 41, said that nearly everyone in the program grew up in a tough environment, many in broken homes, and followed a path that led them in the wrong direction.

But being in the STOP program has helped Nieves put himself in the shoes of others.

“It changes your outlook on things,” he said.

The group of inmates in burgundy jumpsuits nodded silently as they listened.

STOP, the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction’s Substance Treatment Opportunity Program, gives prisoners who have put in their time and are near release a high-intensity series of counseling and workshops.

The residential, medium-security program is housed separately from the main jail and holds 36 inmates. With the help of three clinicians, the inmates go through a schedule of classes and counseling that focuses on targeting substance abuse issues and criminogenic behaviors.

For inmate Shawn Jordan, STOP made him realize that his decisions affect more people than just himself.

“All these classes really opened my eyes,” he said. “It really opened my eyes to stop being being so selfish.”

The goal is to help the prisoners stop addiction, learn anger management skills, realize their crimes have created victims who carry a fear of the world around them, and most of all, to prevent them from going back to jail.

Data shows that the program is doing just that.

Director Peter Kosciusko said the recidivism rate for STOP graduates is only 29 percent.

Evangelidis and leaders of the program handed out certificates on Wednesday to members who had completed two of the STOP steps: Anger management and victims’ impact.

As each inmate’s name was called and they walked up to shake hands and grasp their certificate, the cinderblock walls of the small room echoed with enthusiastic applause.

“These guys, I’m proud of them,” Evangelidis said. “We would meet anybody halfway who was willing to put in the work.”

All inmates of STOP go through the anger management and victims’ impact groups. They also have the chance to work with the Education Department to earn their GED or other certifications.

“Both groups are equally important, equally tough,” Andrea Weiss, one of the STOP substance abuse counselors said. “I know you guys put in the work and that gets me excited to keep showing up.”

Inmate Thomas Gray told the group that this time in jail, he made his way to STOP.

“I have more hope this time,” he said.

The anger management group meets once a week for 10 weeks with a mix of psychoeducational and structured group counseling. With curriculum on the relationship between anger and aggression as well as learning their triggers, the inmates learn how to control their anger.

In the victims’ impact group, inmates listen to various guest speakers who explain how becoming the victim of a crime affected their lives. It focuses on property crime; assault; robbery; hate and bias; gang violence; sexual assault; child abuse and neglect; domestic violence; drunk and impaired driving; and homicide. By the end, organizers hope the inmates will be more aware of the victims their crimes created and take responsibility for their actions.

“I hope I don’t see you again, at least not in here,” said David Tuttle, the jail superintendent.

“I look forward to seeing you out there,” Evangelidis added.

When previously touring a plastic factory in Leominster, a former inmate told Evangelidis that STOP was the reason he had his job.

STOP has been going at the jail for more than 10 years, with programs like anger management added over time.

Only four inmates decided to speak up after getting their certificates.

One of them offered a simple, but poignant, message to the leaders: Thank you.

 

May 15, 2017

Milford: County sheriff warns of drug dangers

 

By Zachary Comeau
Daily News Staff – Wicked Local

MILFORD – As the town, region, state and country face a growing opioid epidemic, one state official made a plea to freshman students: do not start down that path.

Evangelidis spoke about the dangers of nearly every drug on the black market, but spoke at length about prescription opiates, heroin and fentanyl, the latter of which he said is 100 times more powerful than heroin.

While he acknowledged that some are predisposed to opioid addiction after being prescribed the pills, Evangelidis said more than 71 percent of people get the pills from a friend or relative, either by stealing them or receiving them.

“They’re making the choice to put it in their mouth,” he said.

His presentation comes during a week when there have already been three overdoses in Milford, including a 30-year-old man who died Tuesday.

A 22-year-old man was revived using Narcan on Saturday, and a 21-year-old man was taken to Milford Regional Medical Center Wednesday morning, according to Chief Tom O’Loughlin.

The culprit, he said, appears to be fentanyl.

So far this year in Milford, there have been 33 overdoses and four overdose deaths, on track to eclipse the 92 overdoses and 15 deaths of last year, numbers that rose dramatically from 2015.

Statewide, the number of opioid overdose deaths is rising exponentially. In 2010, there were 560, but in 2016, there were an estimated 2,069.

Following the typical path to intravenous heroin use, Evangelidis said the high from pills begins to fade and cheaper drugs like heroin and fentanyl back a big punch when used with a needle.

Drug use, he said, almost always results in legal troubles and alienation from family and friends.

“Once you go down that road, it can happen to anybody,” he said.

Apr 24, 2017

Governor Baker praises Webster center that helps bring drug users back into society

Governor Charlie Baker tours the Worcester County Sheriff’s Regional Resource Center with Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis and Program Manager Byron Titus

By Brian Lee, Telegram and Gazette, April 6, 2017

WEBSTER — After Gov. Charlie Baker toured a sheriff’s resource center that supports people who are on probation and trying to stay off drugs, he said it had given him a lot to think about with respect to trying to replicate some of its offerings.

Mr. Baker, who signed landmark legislation to stem opioid addiction last year, was invited Thursday to the Webster Regional Resource Center by Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis.

The center, which reopened in January 2015 after having been closed for about two years, has become a hub for clients from Dudley, East Brookfield and Uxbridge courts. The program has served 202 clients from the Dudley court, 58 from East Brookfield and 30 from Uxbridge. Ten people have attained high school equivalency diplomas after participating in a HiSET education program led by Stacie Norton Bennett at the center.

The three courts that primarily use the program cover 32 towns.

The center serves people who are in the criminal justice system and opted for drug court instead of jail. The partnership between the courts and Harrington Hospital offers case management, educational classrooms, and a community room that’s generally open until 7 p.m., Mr. Evangelidis said. The center tests for drugs and immediately reports an offender back to court.

The sheriff said the program features accountability without judgment.

It also offers van service for people who need help getting to doctor’s appointments, job interviews, substance abuse classes and other services essential to a turnaround.

“No one else has ever done this,” Mr. Evangelidis said of the transportation component.

“We’re all in this together. We need to help each other, and this center, I believe, makes a difference in the entire region, helping people who have had some problems in life,” he said.

After the tour and a private roundtable discussion with four recent graduates, the governor said:

“The interesting thing about this, and part of the reason why it’s working is, you have all of the various folks who touch these people who are trying to make changes going in the same direction and supporting them and staying with it.”

Mr. Baker said all the steps in the process of sobriety, finding and keeping a job, and housing were represented.

“It’s pretty clear from talking to all the folks that are involved that they’re having some real success,” he said.

Mr. Baker said he appreciated the chance to talk to four women who graduated last week.

Chelsea Cole, 27, and Kelsey Violette, 22, both of Northbridge, sat down with Mr. Baker for the roundtable, which was off limits to the press.

Ms. Cole said the center helped her gain a sense of empowerment. She said opioids once ran her life.

“I actually have dreams, aspirations and goals,” she said of enrolling at Quinsigamond Community College to pursue an associate’s degree in human services.

“This program has helped me so much with going back to school and identifying what I want to do with my life,” she said.

Ms. Violette, who works in finance and insurance for a car dealership, credited the program for helping her regain her life.

“I was alive, but I wasn’t living,” she said. “I gained my family back, I gained respect, I gained trust. I’m a positive part of the community. I’m just a normal person now. Being a part of criminal activity for so long and living a life … I don’t know how to explain it. You’re in such a negative place.”

Elizabeth Hopkins, 36, of Spencer, an attendee of the East Brookfield drug court, said she was originally due to graduate in August, but is doing so well that graduation has been moved up to May.

Ms. Hopkins said she has plans to enroll in an online program at the University of Massachusetts at Boston for alcohol and drug counseling.

Ms. Hopkins says she is an alcoholic and heroin addict. She said she began using Percocet nine years ago to treat pain from a Cesarean section. It escalated to using cocaine, crack cocaine and ultimately injecting heroin.

She contracted a flesh-eating bacteria infection, which almost caused her to almost lose her arm, but even that didn’t get her to stop, she said.

Ms. Hopkins called her relationships with the drug court and sheriff’s office center “very calming.”

Ms. Hopkins said she does not have a relationship with her blood family.

“This has been an extended family,” she said, singling out her counselors, Center Director Byron Titus and East Brookfield Judge Maura McCarthy.

The judge returned the compliment.

“They are a fabulous group, and they are doing so well,” Judge McCarthy said.

The judge said one of the biggest keys is the sheriff’s provision of transportation. While it is possible for a client to walk from Dudley District Court to the Webster center, Judge McCarthy said transportation was crucial for East Brookfield clients, who come from rural communities such as New Braintree and Warren.

Of the help the clients get with medical treatment, resumes and job interviews, Judge McCarthy said, “I can’t say enough about the real impact that they have had on human lives. I know kids have been saved.”

The reopening of the center was not without controversy.

Many residents and local officials were against its reopening. They argued that it should be placed in another community, because it was viewed as drawing people in the court system to live in Webster.

Chairman of the Board of Selectman Donald D. Bourque said during the governor’s tour that he was initially against the center’s return to town. But since learning about what the program does, he embraces it.

Mr. Evangelidis, meanwhile, said he stayed the course in the face of pushback from the public because “I believed in what this could do.”

“Every community should have a center like this,” if funding wasn’t a factor, he said.

Apr 24, 2017

K9 Duke gets uniform thanks to Holden Woman’s Club

By:  The Landmark, 

The Holden Woman’s Club with Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Capt. Tom Chabot and Duke, wearing his new vest. PATRICIA ROY PHOTO

HOLDEN – The most recent meeting of the Holden Woman’s Club had a distinctly warm and fuzzy feel.

That was courtesy of K9 Duke, a two-year-old yellow Labrador, who is currently employed as a member of the canine program at the Worcester County House of Correction and Jail in West Boylston.

The club paired up with Mass Vest-A-Dog, an organization that supports police dogs in Massachusetts, the Holden Woman’s Club donated $1000 to buy a basic patrol K9 vest for Duke that will support the dog’s vital areas from ballistic, slash and stab attacks, as well as blunt trauma as he goes about his work in the jail.

The vests are fitted, flexible and weigh about five pounds. They are made of the same material as a human officer’s vests.

“We’re pleased to provide these essential safety vests, made possible with generous donations and tireless volunteers – the community’s support is tremendously appreciated,” said Kathy Hinds, president of Mass Vest-A-Dog.

“We work very closely with them,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis of the group.

The connection between the club and canine came about when Holden Woman’s Club member June Carter attended a red carpet event at the Hanover Theater for the 2015 regional premiere of “Shelter Me: Partners for Life.” The film told the story of Nikita, a three-year-old shelter dog from Sterling by way of Puerto Rico, who was adopted by Sheriff Evangelidis’ department and went to work as a narcotics-sniffing dog. The movie went on to be shown nationally by PBS television for their series on animal shelters.

“That film was spectacular,” Carter said and it piqued her interest in the canine program.

Duke lives with his handler Lt. Thomas Chabot and has a life as a family pet as well as a K9 officer. Duke’s first home was with a former jail employee who lived in Holden and was no longer able to care for him, but knew the pet would have a good life with the Sheriff’s department.

Duke is the third dog that Chabot has worked with; he has a retired German shepherd along with Nikita who is best buddies with Duke.

“I have three dog beds, but Nikita and Duke always are in one bed together,” Chabot said.

Like his handler, Duke is expected to be available for work 24/7 whenever needed and just recently was part of a midnight spot check of prisoners’ cells, Evangelidis said.

As a long-time resident of Holden, Evangelidis noted that having the vest donation come from the Holden Woman’s Club was a particularly meaningful one for him.

The Holden Woman’s Club is a 101 year old organization, dedicated to community service, educational and cultural community programs. They annually award scholarships and provide funds and volunteer service to local charities.

One of the major fund-raising projects for the club is the annual spring raffle. Tickets are available at Jed’s Hardware on May 5,6 and 7. The raffle will be held on May 13. Tickets are also available from any club member.

 

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