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Opening The Next Door in Knoxville

Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske reports on a visit to The Next Door, a transitional residential program in Knoxville, TN that's helping women coming out of incarceration stay clear of addiction and rebuild their lives.

On Wednesday, February 17th, on the one-year anniversary of the Recovery Act, I had the pleasure to help celebrate and support recovery from addiction at the opening of a transitional residential program for women in Knoxville, Tennessee. The program, which received money from a grant made possible by the Recovery Act, will help approximately 45 women each year coming from incarceration to rebuild their lives.

The program, The Next Door, is modeled after The Next Door in Nashville, which has assisted over 600 women transition back to their communities since it opened in May 2004.

Having visited The Next Door in Nashville on the first official trip I made outside of the beltway in May 2009 and learned about the program’s success rate in reducing recidivism, it was especially welcome to see how federal funds were helping to replicate the model in another community.

I also enjoyed reconnecting with some of the remarkable women I met in May. For example, Ramie Siler, Case Manager/Alcohol & Drug Specialist at The Next Door Nashville, told me that her daughter, the inspiration for her own personal recovery, would soon graduate from college. The experiences of new friends proved to be as stirring. One story told by The Next Door Knoxville’s house monitor related the challenges she went through to reopen a bank account and the communication skills and new-found confidence The Next Door program nurtured that helped her triumph. It was also heartening to see the generous support from the city and county of Knoxville for the program - from law enforcement and the drug court to the warm and talented volunteers who created such a beautiful temporary home for residents.

Services provided by The Next Door include housing, recovery support services, and workforce development. The structured curriculum provides job preparation, readiness, communication skills, and conflict management to support retention and career planning. In 2009, 107 out of 143 clients of The Next Door in Nashville received employment.

Reentry programs like The Next Door break the cycle of drug use, crime, and incarceration, reunite families, and make recovery possible for Americans, key focuses of the soon-to-be released Obama Administration's National Drug Control Strategy.

Gil Kerlikowske is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy