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

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.

National Call Your Doctor Day

The second Tuesday of each June serves less as a celebratory national day than as a reminder to women all across the country to do one simple task—call their doctor—so they can schedule their well-woman exam. Women are encouraged to schedule a well-woman exam once a year, so their physicians can be on the lookout for any preventative illnesses.

While some may deem it unnecessary to have “National Call Your Doctor Day” for what seems to be a simple task, Bright Pink, a women’s health non-profit, founded this day in 2016 because, statistically-speaking, this reminder is entirely necessary. According to a study published by Health Affairs, in 2016,only 8% of U.S. adults aged 35 and older received all of the high-priority preventative services recommended to them. A ZocDoc survey found that this number is even higher in millennials. Beginning at age 21 and onwards, for women in particular, Planned Parenthood recommends regular pelvic exams, Pap tests, and breast examinations—all of which are included in a well-woman exam.

In our fast-paced, busy lives, work, family, social outings, and most other things take precedence over doctor visits unless we are actually feeling physically ill. It can be easy for routine check-ups to fall to the wayside and become shoved to the back of our minds and the bottom of our to-do lists.

While most of us don’t like being forcedto do anything, National Call Your Doctor Day is designed to help women to put their health first and prioritize future wellness—literally, by creating a scheduled time on the calendar. Women should treat this call like an appointment with a valuable customer. “Observing” this day simply requires setting aside a few minutes to call the doctor, or, alternately, to schedule a visit online.

Alvis values all of the women who are participating in our programs and prioritizes their physical and mental health on a daily basis. Our highly-skilled and caring physicians and counselors are trained to respond to each woman’s needs, so that they, too, may not only combat existing conditions, but prevent the emergence of future conditions. We join women across the world in this call to action to combat the preventative ailments that women face.

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.

Men’s Health Month

Apart from being known for iced tea, longer days, and fun in the sun, June is also Men’s Health Month! Alvis celebrates its male clients and the work they are doing on their journeys through treatment, recovery, and empowerment.

Men’s Health Month seeks to raise awareness of the preventable health concerns and diseases that men face, while simultaneously encouraging early detection and treatment of these diseases. June 11th-17th, leading up to and including Father’s Day, has also been designated as Men’s Health Week internationally.

Dubbed a “silent health crisis,” men tend to “live sicker” and “die younger” than women, according to Dr. David Gremillion, of Men’s Health Network. This is influenced by both physical and mental health issues that men, in particular, face. Men have a higher rate of suicide than women, account for 92% of workplace-related injuries, and are more likely to be uninsured. Across all ages and ethnicities, they are more likely to avoid seeking out help from licensed health professionals when they do have physical or mental illnesses. According to an article by Lea Winerman with the American Psychological Association (APA), this is largely due to the way that our society socializes men. The traditional masculine gender role encourages them to hide emotion, lack vulnerability, and “tough it out.” Winerman quotes Jill Berger, PhD, who finds that this masculine role is akin to the “Marlboro man—tough, ideal, and unemotional—that just isn’t compatible with therapy.”

In Ohio, men lead in death rates from cardiovascular disease, cancer, CLRD, injuries, diabetes, flu/pneumonia, suicide, and kidney disease. While not all of these are preventable, regular check-ups can allow for early detection, which can be life-saving. The more that we raise men’s awareness of the importance of seeking out help, expressing vulnerabilities, and practicing a healthy way of life, the more we will empower men to build successful and productive lives.

The positive message of Men’s Health Month is translated through the actions of the many Alvis clients in programs addressing their justice involvement, behavioral healthcare needs (including addiction), and intellectual/developmental disabilities. It can be especially challenging for anyone to seek help and realize the strength within themselves to embrace a #180DegreeImpact in order to turn their lives around. We applaud our male clients who have transformed their lives and who are reentering our community and living healthy, productive lives, while also empathizing and encouraging those who are on the journey alongside them.

We also thank our staff, physicians, clinicians, and therapists for the work that they do to address and combat the various health concerns and to overcome the stigmas that are common detriments to men’s health and wellbeing.

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 Children’s Day

Happy National Children’s Day! In celebration of children and their futures, this day takes place every second Sunday in June.

National Children’s Day was created by Reverend Dr. Charles Leonard of the Universalist Church of the Redeemer in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1856 as a special day to baptize children, but it has recently evolved as a day to honor all children.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have become staples in American culture, and Children’s Day, which takes place in between both days, serves largely the same purpose. Children’s Day encourages us to take a step back, appreciate our families through a new lens, and realize what (or, rather, who) we are thankful for. For some, this might mean spending a little extra time with their children; for others, it may mean showing love for all of the children in their lives, and the potential and hope that they bring.

Not only is National Children’s Day a welcome means to express how much we value our youth, but it is also needed to spread awareness about the struggles that many children in our nation face. In fact, 3.6 million referrals involving 6.6 million children are made each year to child protection agencies, and a historically high 2.6 million children are homeless in the U.S.—that’s 1 in 30 children.

As a human services agency, employees at Alvis are touched by the challenges of the children and families we serve on a daily basis. One of Alvis’ behavioral healthcare programs, Amethyst, specifically targets needs of children whose mothers are in treatment for co-occurring mental health and addictions disorders at the Amethyst program. These children face their own challenges that are the result of living in uncertainty while their mothers were actively using. Staff at Amethyst offer comprehensive services to children, including counseling, academic support, trauma services, substance use prevention and more.  They are able to receive full access to the same opportunities (and more) that they would if they were living in the community instead of at the Amethyst program. The Amethyst program’s SummerQuest camp, which kicked off its 2019 camp on June 1st, is a prime example of how Amethyst and the mothers in treatment are brightened by the presence of children and it shows the program’s commitment to children’s wellbeing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Alvis has Donuts with Dad, which involves children and their fathers getting together for some fun (and donuts!). Alvis will also be hosting a Father’s Day Picnic at Westgate Park in Columbus to celebrate fathers and their families. Recently, our Mother’s Day celebration provided some heartwarming moments between children and their mothers, as they participated in crafts and went “shopping” for Mother’s Day presents.

Many Alvis clients across multiple types of programs are working hard to reconnect and strengthen relationships with their children.  Research and our experience have shown that children are a powerful source of motivation for clients who are working to turn their lives around and make a #180DegreeImpact for themselves and their loved ones all around them.

Across communities, the faces of children stand out as bringing hope to communities and inspiring all to work toward a better future. Alvis strives to create community in every facet of our programs. We provide tools to help clients to re-engage with their families, neighbors and communities.  While at Alvis, clients form their own communities that encourage growth and focus on each client’s potential rather than on their past. The supportive community we form with our clients helps them on their 180 degree journey to return to their families and communities full of hope and promise rather than addiction and despair.

Our children are vital in forming loving, positive communities. At Alvis, we see children as instrumental in our programs and our commitment is extended to them, whether it is through our services for Families and Children or in the services that are dedicated to directly addressing the needs of the children. We warmly celebrate #NationalChildrensDay, and remain aware and grateful for the children who can look forward to a better future because they have been impacted by programs 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.