Multnomah County treatment program graduates learn life has second chances

May 2, 2012

Seven graduates of a program that helps ex-inmates needing alcohol and drug treatment celebrated their achievement Tuesday night with family, friends and the professionals who have helped them in recovery.

An audience of about 75 people in the Multnomah County board room for the May 1 ceremony also heard inspiring words from the human resources manager of Morasch Meats --one of the local companies that make the Reentry Enhancement Coordination program a success by hiring REC participants.

Morasch Meats human resources manager Sheena Jones said the employees from REC have proven highly motivated, with several already earning promotions.

“We believe in second chances,” Jones said. “They are awesome employees who want to change their lives … Each and every one of you can be anything you want to be.”

Truls Neal, program manager from the county Department of Community Justice, said Jones’ remarks exemplify the types of partnerships that have enabled the program to achieve an 80 percent employment rate within three months of release from prison.

“We couldn’t do that without people giving people a chance to succeed,” Neal said. “You can get a job because there are people out there who are willing to help you.”

In addition to DCJ, the REC team includes Volunteers of America, Bridges to Change and SE Works. The team works to provide treatment and support finding housing and employment.

Staff from all the partner organizations congratulated this group of seven parolees who graduated from the REC program for their perseverance in completing their alcohol and drug treatment requirements after their release from prison.

The program, which dates back to April 2009, always features emotional graduation ceremonies as graduates accept plaques honoring their achievement, while occasionally crying and laughing at the same time as they recall their struggles and triumphs. The May 1 ceremony was no exception.

The seven graduates shared the joy they felt over accomplishing something and re-connecting with estranged friends and family now that they are sober. In turn, each graduate heard praise from their loved ones.

“I really feel comfortable with where I’m at right now,’’ said one of the seven graduates, Brad Moore, 56. “I’m going down a good road.”

Another one of the seven graduates, Tommy Carlson, spoke about his plans to attend college and start a lawn maintenance business so he can be one of the community businesses hiring REC graduates.

“I learned who I want to be,’’ Carlson, 47, said of the REC program, “and who I don’t want to be.”

The ceremony for the next round of REC graduates is scheduled for Wednesday, June 6.