Twenty years ago Don Lamberti, founder of Casey’s General Stores, invested in the future. His son Anthony’s substance use disorder and subsequent involvement in the criminal justice system opened Don’s eyes to the misplaced focus on incarceration instead of treatment. Don and Charlene decided to start Bridges of Iowa, a substance use disorder program in response. In the past 20 years more than 2000 people have walked into our doors, crossed the bridge, and returned to their communities and loved ones having experienced the hope that comes from having an opportunity to get better.
Over the past 20 years Don set up a donor designated fund to support Bridges of Iowa, we started accepting Medicaid, we added frequent accountability-focused drug testing for our guests, we entered into community partnerships with other programs, entities, and leaders, and we overcame public and private resistance to the concept of treating a predominantly criminal justice involved clientele with substance use disorders rather than incarcerating them, creating an endless cycle of recidivism.
Polk County, Iowa is extremely supportive of our mission and recognizes the value our program provides to the community. We operate out of the West Wing of the Polk County Jail to provide treatment to formerly-incarcerated individuals in an unused, unlocked portion of the Polk County Jail that was originally built to incarcerate citizens. Since 2012 it has instead provided independent substance use disorder treatment and re-entry services.
“About 90% of all prison inmates, regardless of the crime they are imprisoned for, misuse alcohol or other drugs. Studies have shown that substance use disorder (SUD) treatment reduces not only drug use but related crime as well. Iowans are safer when offenders returning to their communities have completed treatment.”
– Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) from the 2019 Iowa Drug Control Policy