Celebrating Graduates of the Amethyst program at The Columbus Foundation

Celebrating the women graduating from the Amethyst program at The Columbus Foundation

Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program, provides integrated behavioral healthcare services specifically designed to meet the treatment needs of women. This unique program also provides supportive housing and children up to age 18 can live with their mothers while the mother is in treatment. The children receive counseling and other supportive services to address issues that may have arisen as a result of having a mother impacted by addiction and they participate in prevention programming designed to break the cycle of addiction.

On June 28th, The Columbus Foundation hosted the graduation ceremony for 12 women who completed all five phases of the Amethyst program. In what was once an annual ceremony, these graduations now occur twice a year because there are so many clients served in the Amethyst program. The room was filled with families, sponsors, community members, and agency staff. After opening remarks from Alvis President and CEO, Denise M. Robinson, each graduate was introduced by their counselor and then shared something about their recovery journey. Many touching, inspirational stories were shared.

“Today, we are celebrating the healing power of recovery, reunited and strengthened families, and hope for a brighter future,” said Robinson. “The fact is, no one comes to the Amethyst program because things are going well. It took strength and courage to get you into treatment. The day you came to the Amethyst program, you let a little sliver of hope into your life. Over time and with the help of staff, the clients who came before you, and others, that little sliver of hope began to grow…Today, your sliver of hope has become a shining star.”

Victoria “Tori” Buck, one of the primary counselors at Amethyst, led the individual recognition portion of the graduation ceremony. Ten graduates were in attendance. A powerful statistic she brought forth was that all of the graduates, combined, had a total of 32 years, 1 month, and 6 days clean and sober.

All of the graduates, and nearly everyone in attendance, was privy to a range of emotions, including lots of laughter and tears. Not every graduate was able to articulate how they felt, but the room felt the sheer impact of their stories, their feelings, and their hope.

“When I came to Amethyst, I thought nothing was wrong with me,” began Jess, one of the graduates. She thought it would be easy to pass through Amethyst, but realized that she needed her perspective challenged. “It’s created a new self-awareness. I’m very aware about the things I do and why I do them.” Now, as she leaves Amethyst, she considers clients and staff as family.

Another graduate, Robin, thanked God, and those who believed in her from the start. “What Miss Denise said about feeling lonely, hopeless—I felt all that. This program has helped me restore everything.” Courtney, another graduate, remembers the exact day she changed her life: April 24, 2015. This was the day she drove herself up to the Amethyst program to enter treatment. “I had to humble myself and ask for help, which still to this day is very hard to do.” While, in the beginning of this program she was doing it for her children, after this program, she now finds that she’s doing it for herself.

Two other meaningful parts of the ceremony involved the graduates giving flowers to others. First, they gave flowers to friends and family members who were especially helpful to them during their time in the program. Then, the graduates gave flowers to all of the women in the Amethyst treatment community in each phase of treatment, descending from Community, Empowerment, Foundation, Hope, and Entry.

Virginia “Ginny” O’Keeffe, one of the founding mothers of Amethyst, was in attendance at the graduation. Because of her shared vision and heart with the other founding mothers, the Amethyst program has saved thousands of lives over the years. Sarah Niemeyer, who retired as Clinical Director of the Amethyst program a couple of years ago, was also at the ceremony, cheering on the clients for reaching this milestone.

Shannon Ginther, Chair of Columbus Women Commission, Senior Director of Community Health Partnerships at OhioHealth, and First Lady of Columbus, expressed her sentiments upon attending the graduation. “It’s even more amazing standing on this side,” she said. “Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.” Ginther’s whole life has been spent learning about women, families, communities, and how to best help them. She stressed the impact of hearing real stories from the women, both as sources of education and inspiration. “You are exactly where you are meant to be. Step proud, step into that. Congratulations!”

Linda Janes, Chief Program Officer of Alvis, closed out the ceremony, noting, “Outside of this room, we hear one story after another about the tragedy of the opiate epidemic. Today, we’ve heard about recovery that works, that lasts, and that is changing the future for these women and their children.” Janes said that all can feel the warmth and hope shine in this room. “The Amethyst program is so much more than a treatment program – it is a community of recovery.” Like other Alvis programs, the Amethyst program remains committed to turning lives around. “We wrap our arms around you and we hold you tight. Our staff never give up.”

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Alvis Wellness 180 Club

Alvis Wellness 180 Club Foundations of Fitness blog post

Alvis’ Wellness 180 Club

Two weeks ago, Alvis had an exciting kickoff event for its new Wellness 180 Club, which sponsors events that encourage general healthiness and wellbeing, such as wellness lunches and upcoming challenges. For example, July’s challenge is a hydration challenge—employees are encouraged to drink 64 oz of water (8 cups) daily for the entirety of the month! The club is designed to encourage wellness amidst the daily demands of life and work, eligible for both full and part-time employees.

Events typically happen monthly. The kickoff event for the Wellness 180 Club occurred on June 14th, and centered on stretches that can be done in the workplace to combat common aches and pains that can come from prolonged deskbound time, such as stiff backs and joints. There was also a drawing, and two winners received free year-long memberships to Planet Fitness.

The Wellness 180 Club is made possible through the Alvis insurance provider, Anthem. For a more holistic viewpoint of our insurance and various benefits (there are many) to employees, click here.

We look forward to the next Wellness 180 Club Event: a lunch and learn on August 22nd, which includes a professionally guided group exercise class focused on safe and proper forms of fundamental fitness exercises.

Alvis genuinely cares about our employees’ physical and mental wellbeing, as we simultaneously prioritize the wellbeing of our clients.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

National Insurance Awareness Day

National Insurance Awareness Day

Happy National Insurance Awareness Day! The largest group of uninsured people are young, working-aged adults under 35 years of age, which has grown since 2016. According to a 2017 report done by the United States Census Bureau, 8.8% of Americans lack health insurance coverage (28.5 million) and private health coverage is more prevalent amongst Americans (67.2%) than government-provided coverage. 56% of Americans are covered with employer-based health insurance.

Alvis offers private, employer-based health insurance, and on June 28th, we’d like to highlight the many perks and benefits that we provide employees through our insurance package.

Most benefits are available for full-time employees at Alvis, and their legal spouse, domestic partner, dependent children up to age 26, and unmarried children lacking means of self-support due to physical and mental disabilities.

Medical insurance consists of 3 possible plans. One of these plans includes an H.S.A. account, in which Alvis contributes $20 per pay to help with out-of-pocket expenses. Dental insurance and vision insurance each offer 2 different plans. Each of these benefits is at shared cost between Alvis and employees. Basic group life insurance, basic accidental death and dismemberment, and long-term disability insurance is covered completely by Alvis. Short-term disability coverage, in addition to accident, critical illness, and hospital indemnity coverage is employee-paid. A 401(k) profit sharing plan, provided by Ameritas, includes a combination of employee and employer contributions that go directly to the employee for retirement. Alvis contributes 3% into the plan each pay period.

Allstate and Anthem are providers for Alvis’ insurance benefits. Anthem, in particular, offers lots of discounts, in regards to vision and hearing, fitness and health, family and home, and medicine and treatment.

In addition to the listed benefits, however, Alvis offers so much more. Through Anthem, counseling, legal advice, financial planning, and identity theft victim recovery services are among the items offered to employees, who are given access to an on-call, 24/7 Resource Advisor, who links employees to support, advice, and contact with licensed professionals. Also covered by Anthem is LiveHealth Online, which offers a similar 24/7 resource that allows for Alvis employees to speak to a licensed doctor, who can diagnose non-emergent conditions and prescribe medication (i.e., pink eye or bronchitis).

Health and wellness programs are also offered online through Anthem, which include resources allowing for future moms to get advice from registered nurses, smartphone apps tracking benefits and wellness, and video visits with nurses and physicians.

Alvis itself has a Wellness 180 Club. The Wellness 180 Club sponsors events that encourage general healthiness and wellbeing, such as wellness lunches and upcoming challenges. The club is designed to encourage wellness amidst the daily demands of life and work, eligible for both full and part-time employees.

This is just an overview (a truly broad overview) of the offerings within the Alvis insurance package. Other perks related to Alvis employment include COESRA discounts on movie tickets, shopping, theme parks, hotels, and similar items, as well as a Verizon discount, free training classes and CEU hours, a management development program, brown bag lunches, and the #OneAlvis newsletter detailing upcoming events and opportunities for discounts and benefits available to Alvis employees. Alvis also offers vacation and paid sick time.

As we strive to help clients make their own lives better, we put that same commitment into our community of employees at Alvis.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

National PTSD Awareness Day

National PTSD Awareness Day: Facing Facts with Dr. Shively

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects 7-8% of the nation’s population, and June 27th draws attention and provides opportunities to educate people about this very prevalent mental illness that can happen to anyone.

Randy Shively, Ph.D., is a psychologist in the state of Ohio and Director of Research and Clinical Development at Alvis. He works directly with Alvis clients who battle PTSD and have criminogenic treatment needs.  At Alvis, he provides treatment to clients, training to staff, and he conducts applied research.

In practice, Shively has found that PTSD is frequently related to individual, case-by-case mental health situations. “Those who have post-traumatic issues also have other mental health disorders that are often co-occurring,” explains Shively.  The other disorders include depression, phobias, and panic attacks. Clients dealing with PTSD are sometimes referred to an outside treatment resource because many are at Alvis for 4-6 months and they need to be connected to resources and treatment that will continue after the client has moved on from Alvis.

Anything that interferes with one’s feeling of safety can lead to trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, or natural disasters. Shively finds that in Alvis’ specific population of clients, physical abuse, severe neglect, and fear of abandonment are prevalent—many clients with justice involvement have undergone relational trauma with members of their families.

 An ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Experiences, Kaiser Permanente and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has found that the more traumatic events a person has been exposed to, the higher the likelihood of a person experiencing mental health illnesses and physical problems throughout their lifespan. “Trauma-informed care has actually become a best practice…we’ve started developing trainings at Alvis to actually give all our staff help in how to respond to clients, universally, that could have trauma history, and we know that a significant percentage of our population who have been incarcerated have experienced multiple traumas within their lives – some within the corrections system.”

Those with PTSD symptoms exhibit discomfort toward a variety of things that lessen their quality of life, and, as described by Dr. Shively, they “often have trouble in relationships because people, places and things can trigger deep feelings of insecurity, so fears often keep them from people who care about them and for them. With this diagnosis, there’s often a lot of avoidance.” This avoidance includes any potential triggers that may conjure up feelings of past traumas. Additionally, sleep problems, startle behaviors, eating problems connected with depression, and nighttime fears may occur.

Above all else, Dr. Shively finds that it is paramount to recovery that staff calmly respond to these exhibited behaviors.  “It’s important to realize and be careful of how we respond to folks when we see abrupt negative behaviors, because often they can be resolved with trauma informed care and their fear, insecurity, and stress is getting played out in the moment.”

There are a variety of misconceptions about PTSD. As previously mentioned, many people with PTSD have anxieties and triggers regarding relationships, which can lead some to incorrectly perceive them as oppositional or difficult. Another common misconception is that PTSD can be entirely cured, or eliminated. Typically, it can be managed, similar to an addiction, but it can also get triggered years later. Immediate results from treatment are not always possible—working through a traumatic experience can take months, or even years.  Some people may be surprised to learn that staff who work with clients in recovery for traumatic experiences can develop trauma themselves from exposure through supporting that client. According to Dr. Shively, Alvis provides mental health supports and community referrals to address the needs of staff.

Over time, Alvis has developed an integrated behavioral healthcare model.  “In the past, we sent clients to another provider, outside of Alvis, and that interfered with the continuity of care,” Shively says. Alvis professional staff, who know the clients well, provide in-house services, allowing better communication and higher quality services.

Being informed about PTSD and its impact on everyday people can be crucial to a person’s recovery. “We could push them over the edge if we’re not being empathetic in how we respond,” Shively warns. He also highlights that education is critical for staff to understand PTSD clients, and for clients to understand their own mental health processes. “When we understand our own underlying problems, it helps us cope in better ways,” says Shively. Connecting clients to outside resources and drawing attention to the reality that other people out there in the world have experienced similar symptoms and diagnoses can help them feel less alone and more empowered to manage their symptoms of trauma.

A key source of motivation for Dr. Shively comes from clients. In a role that he has tailored over the past 28 years, he expresses that 4-5 former Alvis clients from years ago still call him once or twice a month just to check in. “It does matter that you’re present.” The current behavioral healthcare services at Alvis allow clients to receive optimal treatment in an empathetic, understanding environment. “Sometimes staff may not see how important they are in the overall scope of things, but we’re doing things here that other states aren’t even trying.”

People who deal with PTSD face stigmas and societal challenges that can hinder their ability to manage their illness and recovery. Alvis combats these stigmas and encourages everyone to support survivors of traumatic experiences.

Our population [the individuals served by Alvis] are very misunderstood in the community,” Shively emphasizes. “We really do need community support. For some clients dealing with their mental health symptoms is a long-term, lifelong problem.”

The more support that someone has, the more successful they are likely to be in the future.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Promoting Wellness on National Hydration Day

As the weather heats up, it’s becoming more and more important to take care of our bodies, especially if we’re outside. Today, June 23, is National Hydration Day. This day is aligned with National Men’s Health Month and some of the other recent national awareness days we’ve been blogging and posting about, such as Senior Health and Fitness Day, and Call Your Doctor Day. National Hydration Day is exactly what it sounds like—keeping yourself hydrated!

This day is also rather timely, considering that two days ago, June 21, was the first official day of summer in 2019.  June is also the second most popular vacation month in the Midwest, according to a Gallup poll.  

This summer, Alvis is all geared up with various programs that provide opportunities for learning and growth. One area of focus is on youth, who are out of school and looking for ways to enjoy summer fun.  We are also focused on families, as summer is a traditional time for more family activities and togetherness because kids are out of school and have more time.

One of these programs is SummerQuest: a day camp for youth whose mothers are involved with Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program. Funded by the ADAMH Board, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and private donations, SummerQuest allows children to participate in age-appropriate activities, go on educational field trips, and take part in outdoor games, sports, and activities.  Most importantly, SummerQuest provides supportive counseling for children who experienced trauma in their lives before their mothers came to the Amethyst program for treatment.

The Summer Reading Program allows kids aged K-12 who are involved in our Family and Children’s Program, to track their reading progress (similar to reading programs in schools). This program runs from June 15 to August 3. As an immediate reward, they receive one age-appropriate book gifted to them when they embark on their summer reading journey. The children read their books alongside family members and guardians, so the whole family is engaged in the joy of reading. As they come back every two weeks, the children can pick from a batch of prizes when they reach certain milestones. At the end of the summer, they will be able to pick one big prize from a treasure chest.

In addition to our youth and family programs, Alvis staff are committed to supporting mental and physical health and wellness for all clients. Physical health and mental health are interconnected, and Alvis aims to ensure that our clients are able to explore and learn more ways to live healthy, happy lives.

The participation that we see amongst children and families through these programs each year inspires us all to continue in our commitment to making a #180DegreeImpact.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

The Origin Story of Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program

The origin story of Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program

The Origin Story of Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program

In 1984, nine women in recovery began a peer support program. Their vision identified the demand for integrated behavioral healthcare for women with children who also needed housing.

“It’s difficult to get addiction treatment along with long-term housing arrangements,” explains Heidi Hess, Clinical Director of the Amethyst program. While Amethyst has been around for 34 years, it was only recently acquired by Alvis in 2017. This provided the Amethyst program with additional monetary and administrative support. In central Ohio, the Amethyst program has continued to be a uniquely supportive, holistic treatment center for women with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders, often in conjunction with extensive trauma. A huge factor that makes the Amethyst program distinct from other treatment programs for women is the fact that it allows for women to live with their minor children, and it specifically works to reunite and strengthen families. According to Hess, there are only a handful of treatment centers that work to re-engage children with their mothers. Most residences at Amethyst have more than one bedroom, and the program provides services for women and their children.

The Amethyst program is one of Alvis’ two integrated behavioral healthcare programs. The other one, Recovery Choices, was created to provide behavioral healthcare services to individuals with justice involvement. Many Recovery Choices clients reside in Alvis’ residential reentry centers and rely on vans to transport them between the residential program and Recovery Choices. Women in Alvis’ residential reentry programs and in treatment at Recovery Choices may eventually transition to Amethyst to support their long term recovery.

The Amethyst program provides both an outpatient program and an intensive outpatient program (IOP). The main difference between these programs is the amount of time spent in treatment each week and the overall duration of the treatment, with IOP requiring more time in treatment. Recovery housing is an additional aspect of the Amethyst program model. The primary goal is always a lifetime of recovery.

Amethyst takes walk-ins, and women are able to go directly to the main treatment facility located at 455 E. Mound Street if they are seeking assistance. For contact information regarding intake, click here.

“Clients come to us from all sorts of places,” Hess explains. Many come from the judicial system. “We work very closely with the CATCH court and drug court in Franklin County.” Women who receive referrals from those courts as well as women going through the shelter system are eligible to receive treatment at the Amethyst program. Prior to arriving at the Amethyst program, many clients live with relatives or “couch surf,” unable to get on their feet due to their struggle with addiction. Others are referred by word of mouth.

Effective treatment is always rooted in highly individualized treatment plans and follows a typical process. After a woman first makes the initial contact with Amethyst, she is screened by an intake counselor and recommended for a level of care in accordance with her symptoms. Following the intake, a client is educated in terms of the criteria she meets for the treatment level

of care. If she meets IOP or outpatient criteria, she then attends an orientation, where she learns about all of the programming. After orientation, she’ll be engaged with her intake counselor as her first counselor at Amethyst, and join an entry level group with other clients who are also new to recovery.

Once into the treatment schedule, a client will spend her morning sessions focused on treatment for substance use disorder, while afternoon sessions address mental health treatment needs. There are also lunch groups and specialty treatment groups to address topics such as trauma and parenting. Women who have been at the Amethyst program for a longer period of time attend a group called “Moving Forward,” which focuses on the steps they need to take in order to move forward and live independently.

Outside of the typical day-to-day structure, however, there is even more room for individualized treatment. On Wednesdays, time is given for women to attend outside appointments. On Fridays, women in the Amethyst treatment program attend 9am community meetings, which include all members of the Amethyst community. This is a time to express gratitude, offer words of encouragement, and/or seek help and information from peers and staff. Following this, a 12-step meeting is chaired by one client. In addition to the 12-step meetings, women take turns finding leads and guest speakers to present. For example, Capital University Law School’s Legal Clinic has come to talk about expungement and owners of a therapy farm have visited. “It’s a whole host of experts out in the community in any given field,” says Hess. After that, clients are split into groups oriented around trauma and parenting.

The Amethyst program provides services for both women and children. The Family and Children’s Team are dedicated to helping moms manage their children and care for their needs so the children are happy and healthy. Clients’ school-age children are transported to afterschool programs, which are free of charge, so that mothers can focus on treatment. The SummerQuest program provides kids aged K-12 the opportunity to come to a specialized summer day camp at the Amethyst program and participate in fun and outdoor activities. This year, SummerQuest kicked off on May 31, 2019. Campers go to places like pools, COSI, and the Columbus Zoo. SummerQuest aligns with the summer break of Columbus City Schools, and there are additional camp-type programs for children that occur over other breaks in the school year.

SummerQuest, afterschool, and other youth programs not only provide beneficial experiences for children, but also help to ensure that mothers stay focused on their treatment. Case managers assist clients with any needs for appointments or linkages to additional mental health services. Additionally, any type of Individualized Education Program (IEP) and/or specialty services are provided so that children of clients receive all services they would if they were living in the community rather than at the Amethyst program.

Services for children are individualized, so that Amethyst is able to be a one-stop shop for both children and moms. Treatment services are also available for pregnant women, regardless of their stage of pregnancy.

After being discharged, clients enter the “aftercare” phase of the program. During aftercare, clients meet with other recently discharged clients in peer groups, once a week, for 90 minutes.

Following the completion of aftercare, graduates of the Amethyst program can choose to stay in treatment for up to two additional years. “The odds of staying with us and being successfully discharged are very high,” says Hess.

Graduations from the program are special events for the graduates and their family members, as well as the current clients. This year, on June 28th, at the Columbus Foundation, 12 women will be graduating from the Amethyst program, a larger than usual class. Hess herself is very excited. “The most rewarding part of my position as Clinical Director at Amethyst is certainly watching a client moving from active addiction and fearfulness, and coming off of the street, into the light of willingness and wanting to recover, and wanting to be a real contributing member of their community and the society at large.” Seeing families reunite, teaching people how to live as adults in recovery, and helping others overcome addiction is, as Hess puts it, “My most joyful experience on a daily basis.”

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

National Career Nurse Assistants’ Day: Celebrating Direct Support Staff

National Career Nurse Assistants’ Day: Celebrating Direct Support Staff

You probably didn’t know it, but June 13th is National Career Nurse Assistants’ Day! This is a day designed to commend nursing assistants and applaud all of the wonderful things they do. This day also marks the kickoff to an entire week, known as National Nursing Assistant’s Week.

Sponsored by the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, Career Nurse Assistants’ Day, in a more general sense, celebrates direct support staff and the work that they do.

Alvis does not currently employ nursing assistants, but that isn’t going to stop us from celebrating the plethora of medically-related staff we have at Alvis who are dedicated to working with our clients to meet both their daily and long-term needs. These positions include:

  • Direct Support Professionals, who work with clients with developmental disabilities in a capacity similar to nursing assistants by helping these clients to lead lives that are more independent and fully participate in their communities;
  • Cognitive Behavioral Specialists, who work with clients to help them recognize patterns of thinking that can lead to harmful behaviors;
  • Counselors and Therapists, who are making a difference in the lives of clients in multiple Alvis programs, including our Amethyst and Recovery Choices programs, which serve clients with substance use disorders and/or mental health disorders.

There are current openings for some of these positions at Alvis.  If you are a caring and compassionate person who wants to help people transform their lives, Alvis is the place for you! Join our team in doing this life-changing work.

Across all Alvis programs, our goal is to make a #180DegreeImpact and provide our clients with the tools and support to live courageously and change their stories. This would not be possible without our gifted staff. 

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.