Huggins settling in as day center director

PARKERSBURG – After about six months on the job, Dennie Huggins, the new director for the Mid-Ohio Valley Community Corrections Day Report Center, is settling in and supervising expansion of the program.

The alternative sentencing program provides assessment, case management, substance abuse treatment, batters intervention prevention programming, life skills training, counseling, and rehabilitation, along with supervised community service to clients assigned through the court system. With offices now housed at 916 Market St., the center currently serves about 334 clients in Wood, Jackson and Roane counties.

The program may be expanding its boundaries soon.

“We are in negotiations to expand into Calhoun County and we also serve Wirt County when the court requests,” Huggins said. Referrals to the program come through the courts, Department of Health and Human Services, law enforcement, Home Confinement Program, probation and parole officials and attorneys.

Huggins has instituted additional procedures and new policies relating to finances, is overseeing expansion of the program into neighboring counties, as well as changes and additions to existing classes offered to clients and expanded community service options since coming on board in January.

“We have changed some of the policies and procedures relating to finance and now have an accountant on staff to handle finances and billing,” he said.

“Dennie came in immediately and went to work. He found areas for improvement, a lot of it related to the office, and getting a tighter handle on things, using his business management experience from the private sector, this agency really is similar to a small business in the way that it operates. He has instituted new policies and procedure to be successful with a client population which, in many cases, does not want to be here. The purpose of the program is to offer them rehabilitation so they will not re-offend. Dennie has made a lot of positive changes,” said Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch who serves as president/county commission liaison to the community corrections board.

“We addressed some billing issues, and personnel issues when I first came in, I really feel we have a wonderful staff now,” Huggins said. The program has 11 employees, some are part-time.

“We have a lot of expertise on our staff,” Huggins said.

The DRC is funded through client fees, drug screening lab fees, grants and funds from the county. The current Community Corrections grant awarded to the program is for $453,955.

In an effort to meet ongoing recommendations by the courts, the program is changing and adding classes for the clients. Some of the new classes being offered include a 12-step outpatient program, preparing for abstinence, life skills and parenting education. In Jackson and Roane counties classes on victim impact awareness are also being added.

“We are also making more classes available in the evening to help with the clients’ work schedules,” Huggins said.

The center director said he’s also worked to expand the community service program.

Center clients contributed more than 434 hours with 39 nonprofit/governmental agencies since Huggins came on board in January for community-service related work including Habitat for Humanity, cleaning up numerous illegal dumpsites in conjunction with the Wood County Solid Waste Authority; helped at the Latrobe Street Mission; assisted the Rural Cemetery Alliance in restoring rural cemeteries; worked at Fort Boreman Park, for several churches, and at Mountwood Park to clean the cabins and mow. Huggins said many businesses and community agencies have assisted with funding, supplies and equipment to help with clean up efforts

“We also work closely with the Home Confinement program,” Huggins said, many of the DRC clients are also on the Home Confinement program.

In conjunction with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department Huggins said free Hepatitis shots are being offered to clients who wish to have them and the latest project was to set up a greenhouse at the DRC facility.

“We will be working with the Master Gardeners and the clients will grow flowers and vegetables. We will be delivering the flowers to area nursing homes, hospitals and others,” he said.

In addition, Huggins said additional security measures were put into place including more security cameras and plans for ballistic windows.

“We want to ensure the safety of staff and our clients,” he said.

“The drug lab is also in the process of expanding. We currently are working with 37 agencies,” Huggins said.