By Peter H. Milliken
Seven people graduated from the residential program at the Community Corrections Association, having acquired skills that will prepare them for employment and independent living.
Graduating from the four- to six-month program Monday were: Sharon Queener, Dianna Howell, Leah Roberto, Tyler Keltz, Stephen Zitello, George Price and Yarnell Green.
“It’s just what you make here,” Zitello said of the CCA program. “If you want to really do your programming, then this will really work for you,” he said of the importance of motivation of participants.
Zitello, who will reside in Austintown and initially work for a landscaping company, said he wants to return to a trade school and become an electrician.
“They help you out. They have a great staff here,” said Green, who will also reside in Austintown. He’ll
work for a local food-service establishment and hopes to return to and complete barber school.
The keynote speaker at their graduation was Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Plouck, who grew up in the northern Trumbull County community of Mesopotamia, has been a member of Gov. John Kasich’s Cabinet since January 2011.
Plouck said the graduates should “reflect on this as a milestone in their journey, but this is not the end of the journey.”
She added: “Each day is a step. Recovery is a life-long process; and every day is not going to be the easiest day.” Plouck served twice as Ohio Medicaid director and has been a deputy director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the Ohio Office of Management and Budget.
She is president of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
As a community-based alternative to jail or prison, CCA’s mission is to help people convicted of crimes to refrain from committing future crimes and achieve their highest potential for success in society.
All participants in the four-to-six-month residential program undergo a course that educates them about the impact of crime on victims and teaches them rational and proper decision-making and avoidance of impulsive behavior.
They also are taught to choose friends wisely to avoid relapsing into criminal behavior, according to Jeremy Simpson, CCA’s chief operating officer.
They’re also taught how to obtain and retain employment.
They must attend GED classes at CCA if they don’t already have a high school diploma.
To graduate, they must have followed CCA’s rules and must have obtained full-time employment upon their departure from Community Corrections.
If needed, program participants undergo substance abuse rehabilitation, anger-management training and parenting classes.
Missy Craddick, Plouck’s deputy director for public affairs, said Plouck chose to speak at the CCA event because of the links between mental illness, substance abuse and crime.
The National Institute of Corrections reports that 17 percent of the U.S. jail population has a serious mental illness and 68 percent of jail inmates have a substance abuse disorder.
Last week, Plouck’s department took over management of mental-health and addiction services within Ohio’s prisons, and Plouck said she’ll increase the staff of prison-treatment professionals by 50 percent.
“People recover. Treatment works. People that recover pay taxes,” said Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, who attended the program.