By Don Mowry
JONAH’s work around the criminal legal system has been evolving since its merger with the Chippewa Valley Justice Action Team (which is the name we have taken on as well). We have gotten to know each other and have been discussing which projects to work on together. With a key focus in the intersection between poverty, mental health and carceral issues, we have also been connecting with new partners. Below is some news from our efforts.
Tanya Lee from Epic Epiphany’s was a recent guest attendee.Epic Epiphany’s has received a grant to provide Mental Health Services to the DOC 16-County northwest region.Tanya has hired one mentor and will be hiring one more as well as a Social Worker. Epic Epiphany’s also has a Resource Specialist who is pulling together a resource directory for this 16-county area. Tanya has also been hired as the Program/Site Manager for Roundtable Revival’s Women’s Mentoring Program which started this fall utilizing the in-kind donation of spaces by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire spaces.
The Homeless Outreach Transition Team (HOTT) is a collaboration between the Police Department of the City of Eau Claire, Western Dairyland, and the Eau Claire Department of Human Services. So far 58 individuals have been served. This team operates in the locations where homeless persons can be found.
Roundtable Revival’s Women’s Mentoring Program has been meeting weekly this past fall and will have a final session on December 11 th. A new cycle will begin on February 5 th and a second site serving men will be added. Volunteer Mentors are needed who are willing to go through Mentor training and commit to attending 12 weekly sessions in the spring. The Women’s Mentoring program will continue to meet on Sunday evenings from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm and the Men’s Mentoring program is tentatively scheduled to meet Tuesday evenings in a different site but with the same hours. In addition to volunteers who would like to become Mentors, please refer people who are in the process of reentry and recovery as possible participants. Also needed are peer mentors/peer support from persons with lived experience and individuals or teams who can sign up to provide meals or parts of a meal.
The JONAH Mental Health Task Force shared the Green Bandana initiative. This is a national project that distributes green bandanas and a card with referral information to resources. They also shared they are working with Milkweed Connections to provide a training program to develop more support for people struggling. The new training they are certified to offer is called Emotional CPR, and it is trauma informed, peer led, and focused on relationship, which is different than many mental health trainings out there.
Peter Moreno joined the group and shared information on the Odyssey Beyond Bars
(https://odyssey.wisc.edu/beyondbars/) project which delivers college courses to persons who are incarcerated in state prisons, currently 4 prisons offer the program. Most of the men enrolled are taking college jump start classes such as English 100. They are also offered wrap around support. On the horizon are more classes as well as certificate and degree programs. Programs are not currently offered at DOC facilities near Eau Claire (Stanley, Black River, CVCTF).
The Justice Action Team is continuing work on a project to connect UW art students and stories of EXPO members. JONAH will keep its followers updated on all these projects as they develop. Anyone passionate about these issues are welcome to attend these monthly meetings.