While incarceration rates for women in Michigan are significantly lower than those of men, the need for women’s alternative corrections and rehabilitation programs is no less significant. Unfortunately, very few programs exist for women.
That is one reason KPEP recently partnered with Lutheran Social Services of Michigan to enhance and expand Heartline, a LSSM residential program that serves Michigan women who are on probation for a criminal offense, completing a sentence through the criminal justice system, leaving a drug rehabilitation program, or seeking to escape abuse.
“We see tremendous opportunity to expand the services we provide to the Michigan Department of Corrections, as well as to the Federal government, through Heartline,” said KPEP president/CEO, Bill DeBoer. “Working with the Office of Community Corrections, the Office of Substance Abuse Services and the U.S. Probation Office, we can provide a quality alternative for probationers, parolees and women in need of substance abuse treatment and programming.”
Heartline was established in 1964 as the Sancta Maria home in Detroit, and the name was eventually changed to Heartline, Inc. In 1987, Heartline became a wholly-owned subsidiary of LSSM. The program serves approximately 130 women from Southeast Michigan each year, with an average of 20 – 25 women in the program at any given time. Current capacity is 33.
Heartline clients can complete their basic education and earn a GED, attend cognitive programming, work on sobriety and drug rehabilitation, acquire vocational training and job-seeking skills, and find employment, all while completing their incarceration period.
They also learn basic independent living skills like meal planning, budgeting and proper dress and grooming for the workplace.
While all these services are aimed at building confidence, self-esteem, health and independent living skills so the women can successfully reenter society, the program has an added benefit: reuniting families.
“Our Children and Families service line mission is to keep families in tact or reunite families,” explained Vickie Thompson-Sandy, president of LSSM. “We are committed to Heartline because 80 percent of women coming into the program have children left behind with family members or others. At Heartline, women can learn the skills they need to be reunited with their children.”
Drawing on KPEP’s strengths, reputation and reach, LSSM and KPEP saw an opportunity to help many more women through Heartline.
KPEP took over management of the program on September 1. As part of the management agreement, KPEP plans to bring expert counseling, specialized treatment for substance abuse disorders and other psychiatric services in house. These services were formerly outsourced and somewhat inconsistent.
“This agreement offers continuity and higher quality services for the women at Heartline,” said Thompson-Sandy. “While we’ve operated Heartline for over 50 years, this type of programming is not our core competency. We wanted to work with someone for whom this is a core competency and who knows this kind of operation inside and out. That’s what KPEP brings to Heartline.”
KPEP will also work to strengthen the program’s financial operations and expand the referral network for Heartline.
“We’ve had a narrow reach,” observed Thompson-Sandy. “While we take Federal prisoners, many referrals have come from Wayne and Oakland Counties. KPEP can help us in two ways. Through stronger management, they can build our capacity to serve more clients, and, because they currently operate in four communities and have strong statewide relationships, they can broaden our reach.”
“We expect to double the capacity of Heartline in the months ahead and serve 40 – 50 women at any given time,” said DeBoer. “The facility has the space available; the need is certainly there; and we have the experience, team and programming to get it done. We’re very excited that KPEP can help Heartline reach its potential.”
According to DeBoer and Thompson-Sandy, KPEP and LSSM will continue to look for areas of synergy.
“All of us at Lutheran Social Services of Michigan hope that this is the beginning of a broader long-term relationship with KPEP,” said Thompson-Sandy.