AWARE Program awaits funding word

By David Pittman, david.pittman@amarillo.com

 

Aware ProgramsOrganizers of a substance abuse halfway house in Amarillo are awaiting word from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on whether their program will receive funding.

 

The AWARE Program held a public hearing Tuesday night January 23, 2008 at its facility, 1201 S.W. Eighth Ave., to gauge public opinion on starting a halfway house for substance abusers on parole, probation or mandatory supervision.

 

The 30-bed transitional treatment center would house 20 men and 10 women at the AWARE Program facility.

 

“By treating these people, we’ll reduce the amount of recidivism,” said Paul Walker, who runs a similar halfway house in Plainview. “We’ll reduce the amount of violence. We’ll reduce the amount of dependence on social services.”

 

More than 30 people attended. Only one person wrote on the sign-in sheet at the front door they were against establishing the house.

 

AWARE should know by mid- February if the nearly $400,000 annual funding for the house is approved, Executive Director Alan Graves said. It will open by mid-April if approved.

 

Organizers of the house hope it will provide substance abusers a safe, structured transition from the criminal justice system to everyday life.

 

If an abuser leaves prison with no place to go, it makes becoming addicted to drugs much easier, supporters said at the hearing.

 

“They have no option to transition out of that system,” Graves said. “This program will allow them to do that.”

 

Carlas Williams said she would have liked to have such a house when she left prison.

 

“I didn’t have nowhere to go,” Carlas Williams said. “My family packed up and left. I went back to the dope house.”

 

At least one couple was concerned that the halfway house would negatively impact the neighborhood.

 

The state Legislature appropriated money to add 3,000 beds for readjustment programs for substance abusers. AWARE hopes Amarillo will benefit from the additional beds.

 

“This is a community problem,” said Joe Sanchez of the Amarillo Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. “It takes a whole community to fight this disease.”

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