Potter County’s innovative Women’s Residential Rehabilitation Center has received national recognition at the same time it observes its first anniversary. County News, a publication of the National Association of Counties that’s widely circulated across the country and in the U.S. Congress, featured a report on the facility in a recent edition. It’s located on the campus of the Northern Tier Children’s Home in Harrisburg and is a project of the Potter County Commissioners, in cooperation with the court system, Potter County Human Services and other partners. Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover recently approved a three-month lease extension with the NTCH board of directors, which was a requirement to continue qualifying the center for state funding. More than 90 percent of the women referred there from the courts have met all rehabilitative goals and been released. Director Melissa Gee, Supervisor Matt Shimkanin and caseworkers are responsible for coordinating a comprehensive schedule that includes access to drug, alcohol, mental health and educational services. Work release is available for some residents.
Administrators have revised staff training, admission criteria, disciplinary
procedures, visitation policies and other operational aspects. The center now
accepts referrals from Cameron County for $65 per day, and officials have
approached Tioga County about accepting women from that county who meet
admission criteria. Other counties have expressed interest in studying Potter
County’s center as a model. Most recently, Gary Tennis, Secretary of Alcohol and
Drug Programs, requested more information.
Women who are court-ordered to the Harrison Valley facility receive
comprehensive services designed to reduce their chances of re-offending. The
center is open to non-violent women, many of whom are in need of substance abuse
and/or mental health treatment, employability support, educational assistance
and other services. They’re housed in a residential setting, where families are
able to visit and participate in structured counseling sessions with the
detainee. Potter County Judge Stephen Minor and District Attorney Andy Watson,
along with defense lawyers, confer to determine if a woman offender is eligible
for admission to the center as an alternative to jail. State funding is covering
the majority of costs. “Cost avoidance” is also part of the funding package.
Potter County currently pays approximately $65 per day to send its female
offenders to out-of-county jails, so operating the Harrison Valley center as an
alternative is reducing those costs. Approximately 2,500 jail days have been
avoided as a result of the center’s opening last March.