By Marc Kovac
One half of Rachael Cook’s artwork was labeled Secrets. That’s the stuff that keeps the 26-year-old Linden-area woman hooked on drugs.
The other half was labeled Depression, another of Cook’s struggles and one that often makes it difficult for her to forgive herself and move past her mistakes.
There was a puzzle piece between the two sides, alongside the word Lost.
“I used to feel like a lost cause, like there was no hope for me,” Cook said Friday from behind the walls of the Franklin County Corrections Center on Jackson Pike south of Downtown.
That’s where Pathways comes in. On Friday, Cook and a dozen other women in the county jail marked their successful completion of a “healthy living” program designed to help repeat offenders prepare for life after jail and avoid a return.
“For once, I actually have sober support, people who are going to be there for me, people who want to help,” said Cook, who will be released in about a month. “It’s given me tools to take outside with me, and it’s also given me support on the outside that I know, even if for some reason I was to relapse, they’re going to be there for me.”
Pathways, launched by the county in early 2016, is designed for women dealing with mental-health and substance-abuse issues who were funneling into and out of jail, said Patrice Palmer, a re-entry social-support specialist at the Franklin County Office of Justice Policy and Programs.
Palmer recounted her own drug addiction and stints in jail and prison over the past 20 years. Her last conviction was about 15 years ago; she’s now a chemical-dependency counselor and a licensed social worker.