By Mike Pettinella:
“Let Us Help You Find Your Way.”
This clearly worded slogan printed at the top of the 4- by 9-inch flyer introducing the UConnectCare Reentry Program provides an all-to-often and much-needed message of hope for men and women returning to the community after incarceration.
Managed by a trio of caring and compassionate professionals – two of whom have experienced time behind bars themselves, the new program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse offers the essential services to put former prisoners on the right track.
“Many people getting out of jail or prison have but $2 in their pocket and just the clothes on their backs. Our goal is to show them there are people who care and to help them make a smooth transition back into the community,” said Christopher Budzinack, program coordinator.
Budzinack has been a UConnectCare employee for a couple years (hired September 2018), serving as a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate prior to taking on his current position.
He certainly can relate to the people he is trying to help as he spent time in jail before making decisions that have changed his life for the better.
“As in my case, it only takes one person to turn a life around,” said Budzinack, who has been in substance use recovery for 11 years. “We want to be that ‘one person.’”
The UConnectCare Reentry Program team also includes Alyssa Baiocco, reentry assistant, and Shawn Kitcho, recovery coach.
Baiocco is a Batavia High School graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and human development at Geneseo State College before continuing with graduate courses in social work at the University of Buffalo. She started with UConnectCare in April 2019.
“While Chris will coordinate the case load for the most part, I am handling a lot of the technical stuff,” she said, mentioning grant surveys, intake and eligibility forms and other documentation. “We complement each other very well.”
Budzinack said that Baiocco will be the point person for women entering the program as the client base grows.
Kitcho, a peer recovery advocate working in the jail for UConnectCare for several years (hired February 2018), has been in recovery since 2005. It was during that year that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released after serving eight years.
“This is the perfect opportunity for us to make a difference,” said Kitcho, who has been going into the Orleans County Jail on Saturdays to support, encourage and help those inmates deal with their issues. “We want to help as many people as we can.”
The program’s target population is men and women offenders returning to Genesee or Orleans counties who have been diagnosed with substance use disorders, Budzinack said.
“They have to have that diagnosis, plus they had to have been given at least a sentence of three months and can apply only within four months of their release,” he added.
Services include case management and peer recovery support in the areas of substance use disorder treatment, mental health treatment, housing, food, clothing, employment/job training, childcare, transportation and medical care.
“This is another valuable tool in UConnectCare’s tool box,” Budzinack said. “And it gives people an opportunity to rewrite their life stories.”
For more information about the UConnectCare Reentry Program, call 585-813-6570 or send an email to email@example.com.