Monday, June 18, 2018

Veterans getting out of jail with help to have hope

Incarcerated vets get second chance through re-entry program
Times Leader
By Kulsoom Khan - For Times Leader
June 17, 2018

Former Marine Gene Santore had a loving family, a thriving business and “lot of money in the bank.”

He nearly lost all of it three years ago when he got arrested for a drug deal and being involved in a robbery.
Gene Santore, 58, of Clarks Summit is a former Marine. After serving some jail time for a drug-related charge in 2015, he participated in the VA’s Veteran Just Outreach Program and Lackawanna County’s treatment court for incarcerated veterans. He now serves as a mentor for the program. - Kulsoom Khan | Times Leader

The Clarks Summit resident served in the Marine corp and in the reserves for six years. He hurt his shoulder in 1989 and had eight surgeries. Santore’s doctors gave him Percocet and Oxycontin to help him deal with the pain, which eventually turned into a serious addiction and led to heroin use later on.

“I was on a 180 milligrams a day of that and after 24 years, it just doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “You resort to the next best cheaper thing, and that’s heroin.”

After spending six months in jail, Santore began participating in the VA Medical Center’s Veteran Justice Outreach program in 2015. Veterans Affairs started the initiative in 2009 and works in collaboration with Lackawanna County Veterans Treatment Court to help incarcerated veterans and those who have been recently released from prison to transition back into society.

The program helps with assistance in finding jobs, housing and repairing damaged relationships through counseling. There are currently 105 veterans participating in the program, which can last 18 months or longer.

Social workers from the VA and probation officers from Lackawanna County also work with veterans who have issues with drug and alcohol abuse to keep them off of drugs and out of prison.

“What helped me is supervision from my probation officer to my case managers down there,” said Santore while sitting outside the VA Medical Center in Plains Township. “All these people genuinely cared to help me, which I never had happen before.”
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