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2016-June 20
by Nick Randell, Program Officer

Don Matteson and I had the recent pleasure of attending the grand opening of Roca's satellite office in Lynn, Massachusetts.  The official ribbon-cutting took place on June 13th, with probably 60 or more community stakeholders (law enforcement, courts, elected officials, funding partners) there to celebrate the event.  The grand opening was a busy scene, but Don and I were able to speak with Roca CEO Molly Baldwin; Emily Fish, who will run the satellite office; and outreach supervisor Henry Thai - among others.

Roca's intervention model for young men with felony convictions, many with substance use challenges, is to engage them where they live, on the streets, and, if needed, in court and rehab facilities.  Roca gets these young men on work teams in the community, and provides workshops with a curriculum that recognizes their day-to-day realities.  But most importantly, Roca's youth outreach workers are relentless in maintaining contact and a vital personal connection.  And the commitment is long-term.  Roca's clients stay with the program for up to four years.

The Tower Foundation is about a year into a four-year grant with Roca.  Our grant helps support the expansion of services from an office in Chelsea (a near-Boston suburb) to Lynn.  Last fall, on a site visit, I did a "ride along" with outreach worker Sean Hansen. We drove from Chelsea to Lynn where we picked up a young man who was in recovery and gave him a ride to a local elementary school where he was to meet his niece and walk her home.   He had been a no-show at a work assignment that morning and Sean wanted to check in with him. A lot of the outreach is just the youth worker inserting themselves into the lives of these young men. That morning, Sean had taken another client to the wake of a close friend, a victim of gun violence.

I did see first-hand how much time was taken transporting young men from Lynn back to programming in Chelsea, so I have a sense how nice it will be to have an actual space in Lynn.  Fortuitously, Roca was recently approached by the Lynn Police Department and asked to expand the Lynn caseload.  The resulting agreement made a brick and mortar presence in Lynn a possibility. Within months, a bright and welcoming space was up and running.  They expect to serve 100 Lynn youth soon, up from 42 currently enrolled.

Roca effectively leverages program data to show that its approach works.  Reported numbers from a recent grant report are clear and convincing.  
100% of the young men enrolled 24 months or longer had no new arrests.  86% receiving job placement were still employed after 90 days.  86% of those identified with substance abuse issues were making progress on individual use reduction goals within six months of enrollment.

Here's a link to a recent news item that does a good job describing what the new office will mean to Lynn.

Also, check out Roca's Facebook page for more pictures from the opening.





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