August 2, 2008

$1.5 Million to Help 150 Women

By Alyson Crean, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

Aug. 2--Shantel Scott got what everybody needs at some point in life -- a break.

"I was in Marathon selling drugs -- smoking drugs -- and I ended up catching a charge," Scott told the Keynoter. "The judge sentenced me to the program, and it's the best thing that ever happened to me."

"The program" is Women in Transition, which partners with Samuel's House, Inc., the Care Center for Mental Health and the women's in-house substance abuse program at the Monroe County Detention Center. It was born from a $1.5 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"This grant will affect 150 women a year for the next three years," said Jane Cruz, deputy director of Samuel's House in Key West and the Women in Transition project coordinator. "Eventually we hope to reach 450 women with substance abuse and mental health co-occurring disorders."

Already, she says, 55 women are in the program.

Several, like Scott, have already graduated.

"At first I was resistant," Scott says. "Then everything started happening good. I went to [narcotics anonymous] meetings and group and one-on-one counseling. I found I was ready to change."

Scott started the program in jail. When she left there, she spent 90 days at Samuel's House. Now she's a resident of Kathy's Hope, the third leg in her "continuum of care" where she finds the structure and support to stay clean.

"It's lovely," she says. "I wouldn't be anywhere else right now. It's a strong support group."

Scott, 35, is working at Waffle House and attending classes at Florida Keys Community College where she's working on a degree in business. Her schedule doesn't leave a lot of time for volunteer work, but she's taken it upon herself to beautify the neighborhood. Each day she walks to work she takes a bag with her and collects litter along the way.

On weekends she's attending a course on addiction studies so that she can eventually counsel women facing the dragons she's now slaying.

"Women can enter the program through any of the partner programs," said Cruz.

While many begin the process at the jail, it's just as easy for them to begin the transition to wellness at the Care Center or at Samuel's House.

"This grant helps us provide a continuum of care we have been unable to provide since Safeport folded," said Cruz. "We can provide services for up to a year, which has never been possible. Many of these women are homeless, and even when they get on their feet, they need continued support."

Safeport was a year-long residential program that allowed people to get their lives back together by working in the community while living in a structured, drug-free environment. That Key West-based program was the victim of budget cuts several years ago.


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