RLC and Comprehensive Connections partner to combat addiction, improve local workforce

INA, Ill. (Oct. 20, 2020) — Rend Lake College will join forces with the Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Divisions of Comprehensive Connections in Mt. Vernon to expand services thanks to a new grant initiative.

RLC recently received $100,000 through the Illinois Community College Board Innovative Bridge and Transition Grant Awards. This funding will go towards a new program called Bridge to Your Brighter Future, which will offer increased services for the local adult community, allowing individuals to improve their lifestyle by being drug-free and working toward a gratifying career.

RLC partners with CC News

“Our agency is thrilled to be participating with Rend Lake College and the Bridge to Your Brighter Future program. This program is a perfect fit for our agency mission of connecting individuals to the help they need,” said Debra Holsapple, Executive Director of Comprehensive Connections. “As individuals travel on the path to their recovery, this program will become a bridge to help individuals avoid barriers, pitfalls and stumbling blocks in search of a brighter future.”

RLC already has plans to purchase supplies and establish classrooms at Comprehensive Connections through the grant funding.

“The Skills Center is excited to be part of this innovative transition program. It is all about meeting students where they are in life and helping them make plans for the next step,” said RLC Director of Adult Education and Family Literacy Christina Hutcheson. “The funds received from this grant will allow Rend Lake College to purchase materials to set up two classrooms at Comprehensive Connections including laptop computers, distance-learning equipment, books, pencils and paper, anything students might need.”

Addiction is a very real crisis in the United States and Southern Illinois is not immune to the issue. The national workforce has been on a steady decline for the last two decades, according to a report from former President Barack Obama’s administration, and men 25 and 54 make up the largest portion of that decline. Much of this decline can be linked to addiction. 

The opioid epidemic has created a significant worker shortage in many industries. Factories are having a hard time filling positions. The trucking industry is struggling with high costs of labor because they do not have enough employees.

That is where the local partnership between RLC and Comprehensive Connections plans to make improvements. Comprehensive Connections already works to treat people afflicted with addiction, but RLC can add an extra layer by giving these individuals an education, training and a career path to help avoid any potential relapse. The local community could see benefits as well, including:

  • More workers filling positions, which directly puts more money back into the economy
  • More innovation and bigger, better ideas
  • Improved relationships and the overall mental health and well-being of families
  • More mentors who could help lead others out of dangerous situations
  • Less crime and fewer assaults taking place as a result of individuals taking fewer risks

Comprehensive Connections is a chemical abuse treatment center serving both inpatient and outpatient. They provide a safe place for withdrawal, assessment, education, counseling, linkage and referral to persons in Southern Illinois affected by substance abuse. 

Holsapple has noted the lack of employment and education among those seeking treatment at the center. Holsapple said a majority of the patients served do not have a high school diploma, GED® or basic employment skills. In 2019, between January and June, more than 80% of clients were unemployed while 90% had incomes less than $10,000, Holsapple said. 

“Most individuals are at their lowest when they enter into a treatment program,” she said. “This program will help individuals replace negative behaviors that destroy their self-esteem with opportunities for hope regardless of the career path they choose. Individuals in the program may choose to seek to get their general education degree or explore vocational and academic career paths.”

Overall, Comprehensive Connections services about 1,216 per year. The new partnership with RLC will allow these individuals to seek further education and career options. The RLC program plans to serve 100 students per year to provide basic skills classes integrated with intense career exploration. The goal of increased education and workforce skills is to promote physical and emotional stabilization and to minimize the impact of substance abuse on their lives.

“Rend Lake College staff will conduct academic assessments for all individuals enrolling in the Bridge to Your Brighter Future. The assessment will help determine what services best fit each person, whether it be basic skills instruction, GED® or college classes,” Hutcheson said. “An RLC instructor will provide direct academic instruction along with career exploration and work readiness skills. Participants will develop a career plan to guide them through post-secondary education, training or into an apprenticeship. RLC and CC staff will work together to escort students through their educational journey while troubleshooting life barriers, making referrals to additional community services and providing ongoing support.”  

“Throughout the program, they will receive the support and wrap-around services needed to complete their journey to a brighter future,” Holsapple said. “We are confident this program will make a huge difference in the lives of our clients, their families and communities.” 

For more information on the partnership, or RLC’s offerings in adult education, visit rlc.edu/skillscenter or call the Skills Center at (618) 437-5321 or toll-free at (800) 369-5321, Ext. 1241 / 1244 / 1220, or email [email protected]. Comprehensive Connections can be reached at (618) 242-1510. 

Director of Adult Education and Family Literacy
Phone Extension: 1220
Building: North Oasis
Office: 116
M.S. & B.S. Oakland City University | A.A.S. Southeastern Illinois College
Student Services Coordinator
Phone Extension: 1244
Building: North Oasis
Office: 115
A.A., Rend Lake College

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