Breaking Down Silos - STARR Program

Breaking Down Silos: New, groundbreaking behavioral health treatment program launched in Polk County Jails

We're excited to be partnering together with Polk County Sheriff's Office and many other providers in our community to "break the silos" to best serve our incarcerated individuals as they heal, recovery and re-enter successfully in our community!  
The STARR (Substance Treatment Advocacy Recovery and Reentry) program is a new mental health alliance partnership between the Polk County Board of County Commissioners’ Health and Human Services Division; the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Grady Judd, Sheriff; and Tri-County Human Services, Inc.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Unfortunately, the Polk County Jail is the largest mental health and substance use disorder housing facility in Polk County. National studies indicate that as many as 44% of jail inmates have some kind of mental health disorder and 63% of jail inmates have a substance use disorder. Studies show that many inmates released from jail or prison will return to using drugs and alcohol and are arrested again within a few years.

Why should we care about inmates with mental health and substance use disorders? We know from experience that inmates who have untreated mental health issues and substance abuse issues are more likely to commit crime when they are released. By providing inmates with concrete opportunities to improve themselves, we can help prevent future crime and prevent future victims.

“For years we have provided inmates opportunities for self-improvement—from faith-based programs to vocational and educational opportunities, to substance abuse treatment. What we are doing now is visionary in mental health treatment; we are bringing multiple partners together to focus on how we can best reduce the cycle of criminality. We are breaking down silos to provide resources and services to those who end up in our jail and want to live as productive citizens. By doing this, we are improving safety in our community.” –Grady Judd, Sheriff

“Under the leadership of Sheriff Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff’s office is partnering with Tri-County Human Services to deliver essential behavioral health services, empowering individuals to reintegrate into their communities with dignity and support. We’re not just rehabilitating individuals we’re rebuilding communities, one transformed life at a time.” Robert "Bob" Rihn, CEO, Tri-County Human Services, Inc.

“We all probably know of someone cycling in and out of institutions due to their struggles with behavioral health conditions and in need of specialized help and treatment. This expansion of the Helping HANDS program is another example of Polk County’s commitment to innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents. The collaborative partnership further demonstrates how public, private, and non-profit organizations can align efforts to improve the quality of life for our residents, which is Polk County’s mission.” Bill Braswell, Chairman, Polk County Board of County Commissioners


Historical Commitment to Jail Programming

For years, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has been providing prevention and recidivism reduction programs in the Central County and South County jails, including: Helping Hands (mental health services), weekly religious worship services, pastoral visitation, one-on-one mentoring, Faith-Based Dorms (faith-based curriculum, mentoring, Bible teaching, worship service), Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, JASA (Jail Alternatives to Substance Abuse), Polk County jail mental health housing unit, PCSO Jail Medical mental health services, and post jail coordinated follow up with inmates with mental health medications (W/Polk BOCC).

Other prevention and education programs in the jail are: GED preparation courses, educational television, Family Integrity Training (parenting, economics, relationships, decision making, personal integrity, and anger management), job readiness programs, road to re-entry program, CPR certification program, culinary certification program, KNOT Your Average Academy (hair braiding and business course), and Trusty/Inmate Work Program (earn certifications in various trades/labor categories).



The STARR program began with merging the strengths of the Jail Alternatives to Substance Abuse (JASA program provided by Tri-County Human Services) and the Helping Hands program (provided by the Polk County Board of County Commissioners’ Health and Human Services Division) into the new STARR (Substance Treatment Advocacy Recovery and Reentry) Program, now underway at the South County Jail. This partnership between Tri-County Human Services and Polk County’s Helping Hands focuses on individuals in need of substance use disorder treatment who seek to live a life of recovery. Before their release from jail, inmates will take part in group and individual treatment. Plans for successful reentry and support upon release will also be offered. (The program will be expanded through a phased-approach to reach inmates in other parts of the jail system.)


Breaking Down Silos

Breaking down silos is a process of removing the divisions between people and organizations who have similar missions and empowering them to work together to improve outcomes. While there was collaboration in offering programming between the organizations, Tri-County Human Services, Polk County Health and Human Services, and the Sheriff’s Office identified opportunities to improve the sharing of information and resources, especially as it relates to specific people who were in need of services at the Polk County Jail.

By “breaking down the silos” between mental health providers, the STARR program envisions more collaboration, better communication, better decision-making, improved productivity, and the potential for more innovation. Through the STARR Program planning process, the initial partnering organizations (Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Tri-County’s JASA program, and the Helping Hands program) looked beyond the traditional offerings in the jail program dorm. A number of providers in Polk County have enthusiastically agreed to partner in this effort. As a result, in addition to the more intensive programming, the following partners and offerings will be provided to STARR Program participants:

  • Narcotics Anonymous – Bringing Narcotics Anonymous meetings into the jail will help the inmates integrate this into their routine before reentry into the community.
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)-FL – Recovery in Reach Peer Specialist Training – Trainers will provide the 40-hours of training necessary to seek Peer Specialist Training through the State of Florida. This training gives the individuals a potential future career path as the training is good for 10 years, but also introduces them to the language of recovery.
  • Heartland for Children & Neighbors to Family – Fatherhood Engagement – Blocks of instruction will be provided to STARR participants on fatherhood engagement. Although some participants may not be a parent, they can learn skills that will help them be strong role models for others and prepare them for parenthood if/when that occurs.
  • Heart for Winter Haven – Mental Health First Aid – This training will be premiered to the STARR participants, allowing them to be a part of something we will eventually offer to the entire jail. This training will be a force multiplier in our community, but also in our jail – providing additional opportunities to address issues before they reach a point of crisis.


What is Helping Hands?

Helping HANDS is an award winning innovative jail transition program unique to Polk County. HANDS stands for "Healthcare: Access, Navigation, Delivery and Support." It focuses on healthcare delivery and support for Polk County inmates returning to the community from jail. The program focuses on inmates who have had two or more arrests in the previous 12 months and are receiving psychotropic medications while in jail. Referrals to the program come from the jail or via the community partner agencies. Collaboration partners are: Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Health and Human Services Division, Polk County Fire Rescue, Cove Behavioral Health, YesCare (Polk County Jail health care provider), Tri-County Human Services, Winter Haven Hospital Center for Behavioral Health (BayCare), Lakeland Regional Health, Talbot House Ministries, and Peace River Center.

Community Paramedics (CPs) from Polk County Fire Rescue engage inmates prior to their release from jail and up to six weeks after release to ensure the participant connects with a local behavioral health provider and accesses appropriate social services programs. The goal is to have the CPs meet participants in their homes within 48 hours of release to deliver a 30-day supply of all medications and provide an overall health review. CPs are available to respond to the urgent needs of the participants.

Certified Recovery Peer Specialists help participants troubleshoot problems that may arise and encourage them to be accountable to their treatment plans. They assist with ongoing social service connections, advocate for the participants needs and mentor individuals to encourage success.


What was the In-Jail Substance Abuse Treatment Program (JASA)?

The In-Jail Substance Abuse Treatment Program, (JASA), was an award-winning program in cooperation with the Polk, Highlands and Hardee County Sheriff’s Offices. The target population for the program was individuals with admitted substance use problems and co-occurring disorders who were in jail. The program works towards identifying behaviors which cause significant problems in the participant’s life and then working towards helping the person develop a firm foundation for recovery. JASA was provided by Tri County Human Services, Inc.


Partner Organizations:

  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office
  • Polk County Health and Human Services Division (Polk County Board of County Commissioners)
  • Polk County Fire Rescue
  • YesCare
  • Tri-County Human Services, Inc.
  • Winter Haven Hospital Center for Behavioral Health (BayCare)
  • Lakeland Regional Health
  • Peace River Center
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) –FL
  • Heartland for Children
  • Neighbor to Family, Inc.
  • Heart for Winter Haven
  • Florida Department of Corrections
  • Cove Behavioral Health
  • Polk County Probation, Polk County Court Services