Meeting the Challenge: Stanislaus County’s Clean and Sober Living Program

April is National County Government Month. During the month, CSAC is producing a series of videos and blog postings highlighting California Counties’ best practices. The programs we are spotlighting are recipients of our annual Challenge Awards, which recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens.  The Challenge Awards provide California’s 58 counties an opportunity to share their best practices with counties around the state and nation. The programs being highlighted are recipients of the 2013 awards. The Call for Entries for the 2014 CSAC Challenge Awards has been distributed; the entry deadline is June 27, 2014. 

To view a video about the Stanislaus County Clean and Sober Living program, please click here.

The county programs CSAC recognizes with our Challenge Awards all have one thing in common: they represent the best practices counties put to use every day serving the people of their community. The award given to Stanislaus County is a little different. It recognizes a truly great program—and also the extraordinary effort made to save the program in the face of severe budget cuts. This is the story of the Stanislaus County Clean and Sober living program.

The program is designed to let mothers who are going through alcohol and substance abuse treatment live with their children in a safe and supportive environment. Keeping these families together is usually far better for the children, and the prospect of keeping their kids often provides moms with the extra incentive they need to complete the program successfully. It saves money for the County because the alternative is often foster care for the kids and incarceration for the moms.

Clean and Sober living was originally run by a faith-based non-profit organization and funded partially by Stanislaus County. The local dollars allowed the program to get federal grants that made up most of its budget. But in 2008, 2009 and 2010 the recession forced Stanislaus County, and many other local governments, to make some difficult decisions. They had to cut sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and other necessities, and eventually, they had to eliminate funding for Clean and Sober Living too.

Without the local input, the federal grants dried up—the non-profit closed up shop and Clean and Sober Living had to shut down for several months. But that’s when the wheels starting turning in Stanislaus County.  Local businesses and community leaders and the faith-based community recognized the need for this program. They also recognized that if they raised a relatively small amount of money, about $150,000 dollars, they could reapply for the federal grants and restart the program. They formed a new non-profit: Valley Recovery Resources and they raised the local funds they needed.  One local business, which prefers anonymity, donated most of the money.

But, there was one additional hurdle. In order to apply for the federal grants, the local funds had to come from a government agency—so the new non-profit had to donate the money to the County. In turn, Stanislaus County promised to use the funds for Clean and Sober Living and cut through a lot of red tape to apply for the federal grants. All the pieces came together, and now the program is back doing what it does best—helping moms get Clean and Sober, and keeping families together. In fact, it has expanded both in terms of the number of women it serves and the services it offers.

The story provides another great example of a county program that works—and a unique example of the community that came together to save it.

About: Gregg Fishman:
Gregg Fishman is the Communications Coordinator for the California State Association of Counties.

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