NEWBURYPORT — In an effort to help provide education and potential job opportunities for adults with disabilities, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office has begun a program in conjunction with the Newburyport-based Opportunity Works.
The goal is to mainstream the individual into his/her respective community whether by attending classes or providing job opportunities.
With the approval of Sheriff Frank G. Cousins Jr., Assistant Superintendent Jason R. Ebacher and executive assistant Judy Lacroix have adapted a program to suit the special needs population. The new program is called “Special Outreach Academy.” Lacroix, a long-time volunteer and member of the board of directors of Opportunity Works in Newburyport, felt the agency would be a good model for this pilot program.
Ebacher, Lacroix and Barbara Cross, the director of Career Development for Opportunity Works, developed the program using the current Citizen’s Academy program as a model. Assistant Superintendent Maurice Pratt, director of Communications, and officer Laura Dow created PowerPoint presentations adjusted to fit the needs of the participants. Ebacher enlisted staff members to help facilitate the program.
The pilot program was held one day per week, for five consecutive weeks and accommodated eight participants. Opportunity Works provided the transportation with staff members accompanying the participants.
Week One: Cousins welcomed the participants. Led by Ebacher, the participants toured the Middleton facility.
Week Two: “K-9 Demonstration” facilitated by Sgt. George Gikas and Sgt. Jennifer Walsh; “What it is like to be a Correctional Officer” facilitated by officer David Fortune.
Week Three: “Staying Positive — Respect, Integrity and Community” facilitated by Pratt.
Week Four: “Self-Defense and Personal Advocacy” facilitated by Lt. Shelly Ehlers, Lt. Christopher Mansur and officer Dow.
Week Five: “Graduation” — Certificate of Attendance — Distinction of being named an honorary deputy. Parents, guardians and staff from Opportunity Works attended the ceremony.
This program is most likely a “first” of its type in the state, unique in that it is geared to the special needs adult population. This program will provide Opportunity Works and similar agencies across Essex County with a more broad knowledge of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.
This program will be expanded to include other special needs agencies in Essex County and will accommodate up to 20 participants.
For information, call Lacroix at 978-750-1900, ext. 3336.