Douglas County Jail administrator to be recognized for his work battling mental illness, homelessness and recidivism

Among other things, Mike Brouwer has a hand in helping jail inmates reintegrate into the community and connecting them with social services they might need.

Brouwer plays a key role in the community, said Shine Adams, director of program development at the Lawrence Community Shelter. And Thursday night, he’ll be recognized for his work with a newly created award from the shelter.

“I know (Brouwer) to be a great guy who’s really concerned with helping people get out of bad habits,” Adams said. “It’s so easy to fall back in to a dangerous lifestyle or a negative path when you already have a couple of jail stays under your belt. And we’re all about trying to help people make life choices.”

Mike Brouwer

The award, called the Civic Integrity Award, will be presented by the shelter as a way of honoring those who play a part in tackling some of the community’s most difficult issues.

“There’s this whole kind of interaction between mental illness, homelessness and criminal offenses, and if we can get to the bottom of how to work together on all those topics we can make a change,” Adams said.

Brouwer was the top choice for the inaugural award, Adams said. The two have partnered for years, including when Adams owned and operated Sun Cedar, a now-defunct woodworking company that offered work to the homeless and the previously incarcerated.

Adams said he has wanted to honor Brouwer since his days at Sun Cedar and now his colleagues at the community shelter have helped him realize that goal.

The Civic Integrity Award will be presented each April to one community member who has worked to battle the challenges presented by homelessness, mental illness and criminal justice, Adams said.

“And Mike is an obvious winner on this level because he works with everybody else,” Adams said.

Brouwer’s work and his recognition are points of pride for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said Sgt. Kristen Dymacek.

“Mike and his staff work tirelessly so the Sheriff’s Office Re-entry Program can continue to offer resources to those incarcerated so they can successfully re-enter the community and not reoffend,” she said.

In addition, Brouwer’s work, and that of his staff, is made more effective by the partnerships they’ve sought out, Dymacek said. Including their partnership with the organization presenting the award.

“The Re-entry Program would not be as successful without these important partnerships,” she said.

The Journal-World reported in December that the current recidivism rate in Douglas County is at 31 percent, a sharp decrease from the 43 percent rate noted in 2007 through 2009. The re-entry program’s goal is to ensure the rate stays in decline.

Brouwer said he was surprised to hear he’d be honored with an award and he was quick to share the recognition.

“There are many of us to collaborate together to help people put their lives back together,” he said.

“Collaboration is the work I am most proud of because it creates new ideas, support for each other and sustainability for all of our programs,” he continued.

In particular Brouwer mentioned the program’s partnership with the shelter, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, the Douglas County Citizens Committee on Alcoholism and the Willow Domestic Violence Center.

However, as always, there’s still more work to be done, all of which requires a continued effort from more than just one community organization, Brouwer said.

“In the future I hope we continue to improve resources for the transition from jail to community; transitional housing and substance abuse services specifically,” Brouwer said. “I feel we do mental health transition services really well with Bert Nash, and if we could reach that same level with (substance abuse) and housing we would be highly effective.”

Brouwer’s award will be presented Thursday night at The Oread Hotel during an invitation-only event. There, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson, the Rev. Peter Luckey of Plymouth Congregational Church and Sharon Zehr of Bert Nash will speak on some of the issues they see in the community today.