County Office of Reentry Services Clients Earn Peer Mentor Certificates from San Jose City College

Reentry clients complete the SJCC Criminal Justice Peer Mentor Program Putting them on track to become Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – The County of Santa Clara Office of Reentry Services and San Jose City College presented 15 Reentry Resource Center clients with Criminal Justice Peer Mentor Certifications at a ceremony held on May 22. The students completed four college-credit courses in alcohol and drug counseling through San Jose City College’s Criminal Justice Peer Mentor Certification Program, which prepares individuals reentering community from jail or prison for further course work toward becoming Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors.

“As our county moves in the direction of treatment for those in our jails and prisons with substance-use disorders and away from straight incarceration, there is a growing need for qualified people to fill a vast array of jobs in the treatment and recovery realm,” said Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, Chair of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety and Justice Committee. “Since this approach will depend heavily on evidence-based programs, it is important for recovery and treatment programs to have counselors who are certified. The work and contribution they offer to mentees will be invaluable.”

Peer mentors can play a pivotal role in the treatment process by attending appointments with clients, which sometimes can feel overwhelming to them, and helping counselors with more effective ideas for working with each individual. Peer mentors can often establish a deeper level of trust since they can relate to the emotions and challenges the client may be facing.

“These students have an awesome opportunity to make a mark on the lives of others and the treatment community is very lucky to have them entering this profession,” said Demetria Iacocca, the San Jose City College Professor teaching the program at the Reentry Resource Center in San Jose.

Many of the 15 students who completed the program this year have already obtained jobs and volunteer work in this field. Those include a position as a parent advocate within the Dependency Court System, work with a faith-based reentry program, two positions with the Salvation Army and a position with Goodwill of Silicon Valley’s New Opportunity Work Program (NOW). Three students work full time at the Bill Wilson Center, one volunteers at the South County Reentry Center in Gilroy and the Compassion Center and has also secured an internship. And another student plans to start classes at San Jose State University in the fall. Four of this year’s students are currently working at the Reentry Resource Center as paid interns.

“A large percentage of individuals leaving jail or prison struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. Today our criminal justice system is expanding its ability to address addictions rather than simply incarcerating individuals,” said Miguel Marquez, County of Santa Clara Chief Operating Officer.

Students in the peer mentor program completed four courses: Introduction to Chemical Dependency, Ethics and Personal and Professional Development, Occupational Work Experience, and Blueprint for Progress. The certification they receive will help them secure employment and volunteer opportunities in this field while they pursue the additional education required to become Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors.

“The demand for drug and alcohol counselors is growing and peer mentors can be crucial resources, helping clients feel supported and safe enough to seek help,” said Javier Aguirre, Director, County of Santa Clara Office of Reentry Services. “Without this kind of support, clients may forego treatment because they don’t trust the system or can’t see its value.”

The Criminal Justice Peer Mentor Program lays a path for both clients seeking drug and alcohol recovery services and peer mentors to heal, grow and move forward.

“Having an opportunity to turn negative experiences into positive ones is encouraging change for a better future, said Michael Wright, a student who completed the program in 2018. “Thank you for this opportunity.”

ABOUT THE REENTRY RESOURCE CENTER

The County of Santa Clara Reentry Resource Center opened in San Jose in 2012 and expanded to a second location in Gilroy in 2015. The Centers strive to build safer communities by providing resources to formerly incarcerated individuals and helping them heal and reintegrate back into the community. The Center collaborates with Community-based entities and State and County Departments such as the Sheriff/Department of Correction, Behavioral Health, Social Services Agency, Adult Probation, Office of the Public Defender, Ambulatory Care, Office of Supportive Housing, Office of Reentry Services, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and faith-based community partners. Representatives of these organizations and departments reside in one building and work collaboratively to provide services to clients. Those services include referrals for mental health and substance use treatment, public benefit enrollment, counseling, health care, record expungement services, employment referrals and housing and shelter information.

ABOUT THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA

The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, the sixth largest county in California. With a $7 billion budget, more than 70 agencies/departments and nearly 22,000 employees, the County of Santa Clara plans for the needs of a dynamic community, offers quality services, and promotes a healthy, safe and prosperous community for all. The County provides essential services including public health and environmental protection; behavioral health and medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System including Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (Hospital and Clinics), O’Connor Hospital and Saint Louise Regional Hospital; child and adult protection services; homelessness prevention and solutions; roads, parks and libraries; emergency response to disasters; protection of minority communities and those under threat; access to a fair criminal justice system, and scores of other services, particularly for those members of our community in the greatest need.

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Media Contact:  Lynn Madden, Office of Reentry Services, (408) 535-4277;  Laurel Anders​on​/Marina Hinestrosa, ​Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119.​​

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