Kelly Myers announced she is leaving Behavioral Research Institute after eight years to take a similar counseling job as a missionary to Prague, Czech Republic. Machelle Johnson will take her place at BRI as well as counseling coordinator for the Targeted Community Crime Reduction grant.
Myers announced her departure to grant partners in the monthly meeting at the Bradley County Juvenile Justice Center. She will be leaving for Eastern Europe in January.
Johnson views the crime reduction grant as a two-pronged approach with BRI helping parents and juvenile court working on children. The goal is to have the family group functioning as a family unit.
“If you can change the parent, the child is more apt to follow what their parents are doing. Right now, the parents are struggling with drug addiction, so if we can help them, we will be helping the family unit,” she said. “That’s the goal of this grant, to help this community be healthier in the sense of drug and alcohol addiction.”
Johnson accepted the position with BRI after 19 years as a youth counselor in after-school and church settings. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Mobile, Ala., and a master of arts in professional counseling from Liberty University.
Myers said BRI provides anger management classes for adults and children. The programs are for individuals in the court system charged with domestic violence and assault.
“The judge will either decide to send them to jail for a period of time or send them to our program to get help with anger management,” she said. “All of us here in this room care about our community — the people in our community — and we know we need to help the people in our community who are really struggling with their emotions, with their anger, with different things like that.”
BRI also goes into the jail and works with inmates on anger management to help them make the right decisions after they are released.
“Hopefully they can learn from their mistakes, learn from their past, and hopefully they’ll have hope that when they get out they can find a job and reconnect with their families,” she said.
That’s also the role BRI will play in the grant.
“We are going to take inmates with a history of substance abuse problems who have gotten out and are re-entering society. We are going to help them with their substance abuse problems and addictions so they won’t have to go back into jail,” she said. “We have such a high percentage of that in our community.”
While she doesn’t have a number to place on the local recidivism rate, she saw people return time and time again during the five years she worked in the jail. Former inmates will go through 16 weeks of individual and group counseling to help them work through addiction.
“There is a lot of emotion that goes into that because you are learning to control yourself,” Myers said. “You’re learning how to have a healthy support system.” The program also includes families and friends, “so we’re not only helping the inmate re-enter society well, we’re helping families know how to support this person.”
Healthy support systems are keys to success. If they fall back into the same patterns, she said they are probably not going to make the transition to a healthy, productive life.
“The people I’ve seen come from very unhealthy support systems and when they get out, they have no money, no car, no job. Where are they going to go? They are going to go right back to that support system they were with when they got [sent to] jail,” she said.
Although cost is not the main reason to reduce repeat offenses, it is a consideration.
“We know as a community we are going to be safer, we’re going to be healthier. We’re going to have fewer people who are addicted and will know how to support themselves and it’s just going to be a better community overall,” she said.
The Targeted Community Crime Reduction Grant is an $800,000 grant funded over a three-year period aimed at reducing crime related to the use of alcohol and drugs, and at breaking the cycle of incarceration and recidivism in families.