BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A center created to help ex-convicts get jobs and make a successful transition back into society officially opened its doors in Bridgeport on Thursday.
The Jay Brothers Unified Resource Center is named for a man who turned his life around after he kicked a substance abuse habit.
Jay Brothers died in December after a battle with cancer. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children, Morgan, Aidan and Austin.
Jennifer Brothers spoke at the grand opening event Thursday and said that as her husband's health declined, he became more focused on his idea to open the center.
"As his health started going downhill ... he became more and more adamant about his idea of connecting all services into sort of a one-stop shop," she said.
As he neared death In December, Jennifer received an email saying that the project was going forward. She relayed the message to Jay, who was bed-bound and barely able to move. She said the news gave him a jolt of strength.
"He sat straight up in his bed and he said out loud, 'They heard me, they actually heard me,' " she said. "Those are words that I will never forget. That is a gift Jay was given that I could never put a price on."
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, an ex-convict himself, told his own story of being granted a second chance. Ganim served seven years in prison after he was found guilty by a jury in 2003 of corruption during his first time in office. He was released from prison in 2010 and made a stunning political comeback by toppling incumbent Bill Finch, a fellow Democrat, in the primary and then easily winning the mayoralty election last year.
Ganim said he had many more advantages compared with other ex-cons trying to lead productive lives.
"The people of the City of Bridgeport gave me a second chance — they gave me another opportunity," Ganim said. "I understand, maybe not to the fullest degree, but to some degree, how challenging it is to come back home and re-enter and to to be well-received even coming from a very large family.
"I come with an academic background, a professionalism and to have people in their own way even not be accepting and allowing another opportunity."
The Jay Brothers Unified Resource Center, operated by Recovery Network of Programs, was designed to serve citizens with past convictions with hopes of ensuring a successful re-entry.
It offers licensed behavioral health services including individual, group and family outpatient treatment; intensive outpatient treatment care; case management; crisis intervention; problem gambling treatment; psychiatric evaluations; and medication monitoring.
Brothers was raised in the New Haven area and enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17. He battled addiction but was able to shake it off in 1988 and became a substance abuse counselor.
He worked throughout the local area, including at Children’s Center of Hamden and moving on to APT Foundation of Bridgeport, the Yale University Forensic Drug Diversion Clinic, the Connecticut VA Healthcare System, and finally the Center for Change of New Haven.
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