YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Yesterday we learned how mental health is one challenge people face trying to get their lives together after prison. We continue with a look at those challenges, and the next steps for the charity that helps such people – United Returning Citizens. Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford takes us In-Depth with Dionne Dowdy-Lacey, executive director of United Returning Citizens (URC).

Lacey had previously stated the total number in Mahoning County and also mentioned her relationship with Trumbull. What’s taking place in Mahoning County?

“Well, we’re hoping to build a better relationship with Mahoning County Mental Health Board. So we’re just we’re working on that. But right now we have the relationship with Trumbull, and we also have a relationship with Gloria’s counseling. So those are one of our lead counselors that we go to,” said Lacey.

Lacey said individual plans, goals, individual goals and expectations. How do you look at the recidivism rate?

“We look at it day by day. If we look at it as a whole, sometimes it’s discouraging, you know, so that we try to do our best to reduce the recidivism, even if it’s about 12%, 7%. Any reduction is better than no impact, and so we just take that, you know, day by day, and that’s why we’re, you know, pushing the fundraisers that we have. So we have a fundraiser that’s coming up on October 14 and it’s at Stambaugh and it’s a masquerade ball and we’ll have Brandon there from Edwins. Edwins works with people returning home from prison and they do French cuisine, and so it’s going to be a beautiful event,” said Lacey.

Every day is a challenge for Cashara Bradley who entered the program and is now the housing director, to assure that she does not recidivate. What does she say to herself daily to encourage herself?

“Every day is it’s very challenging. Yeah. You know, because life, you know, life hits you in every aspect. But I don’t I don’t let myself get caught up in what’s going on around me and what the cards are dealt. I try to stay focused on the mission and I tell myself that someone else needs me. So I have to be that impact and that inspiration for that next young girl, that young, young man. So that’s what keeps me going,” said Bradley.

What is Lacey’s biggest challenge?

“My biggest challenge is the funding, you know, and that’s why we’re having the fundraiser as we spoke before, and we’re pushing our social enterprise businesses that we have so that we’ll be able to keep people like Miss Bradley employed and continue the services that we do because nothing, you know, runs for free,” said Lacey.

What’s new on the horizon for the programming or other connections in the community?

“So what’s on the horizon? We are still with the URC Grows and that’s where we have the cannabis school that we have for our guys that we have a partnership with Hawthorne and Scotts Miracle, Scotts Miracle-Gro where they’re paying for the guys to be able to go to Cleveland School of Cannabis, which also we have a partnership to know how to grow, grow, clean,” said Lacey.

Lacey said establishing businesses helps fund these programs.

“Then I’ll be able to hire returning citizens. They won’t have to get rescind letters and, you know, have the background, because I know that they already have a background,” said Lacey.