December 18, 2018
Growing up in an unstable home, Jamie developed an addiction to drugs as a way to cope with her pain. Her addiction caught up with her when she was pulled over with drugs in her car.
“It was the first time I’d been in trouble. First felony,” says Jamie. Her 5 year old daughter was also in the car when she got stopped, resulting in her daughter’s immediate placement into foster care. Jamie was left feeling helpless and hopeless.
It became a turning point for her and it was the beginning of Alvis’ 180 degree impact on Jamie’s life. Because when she went to court, the judge said that Jamie could go to the Alvis program and complete treatment as an alternative to going to prison.
Jamie arrived at Alvis in July of 2018. Over the next four months, she participated in treatment services, trauma counseling, workforce development programming and more. Along with her two older daughters who were living with other family members, Jamie also completed the Family and Children’s Program. This is a specialized treatment program that helps to reconnect, rebuild and strengthen families torn apart by addiction and justice involvement.
The stable living environment that Alvis provided her and the counseling and support she received from staff turned out to be the change Jamie needed. “I completed all programming in four months,” said Jamie. Alvis also helped to connect her to sober housing that is close to her family in Wooster, so that when she was discharged from Alvis, she still had support for her new way of life.
Jamie’s story isn’t complete yet, but because of Alvis and her commitment to sober living, the odds for success are in her favor. She is working to regain custody of her youngest daughter, has secured employment, and has a whole new outlook on life.
Alvis was able to help Jamie change her story thanks to the investment of others in our programs and services. You can join them and help to change one more story before the end of the year. Please consider donating to Alvis today and giving one more person the tools they need to turn their life around by 180 degrees.
October 10, 2018
Thanks to Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program, Rachel has been clean and sober for more than 3 years.
When you look at Rachel today, she looks like a typical adult student at Columbus State who’s juggling parenting, employment and classes. What you can’t see is the trauma she’s worked through in order to be where she’s at in her life today.
Growing up, Rachel witnessed physical abuse, parental drug use, and much more that anyone so young should have seen. At 15, she went into foster care. By the time she started her senior year in high school, she was old enough to leave the foster care system and was able to begin living with a generous woman from her church. School had become a bright spot and a source of accomplishment. Rachel lettered in four varsity sports.
But the emotional pain that had been with her throughout her young life was crippling. She met someone who introduced her to hallucinogenic mushrooms and she believed that it helped her to cope – for a time. Within five years, Rachel was doing heroin as well as smoking pot and drinking. Because she was unable to hold a job, she relied on theft and other nonviolent criminal activity to pay for her habits.
As a result of her justice involvement, Rachel ended up in drug court. She went in and out of treatment a few times and was able to put together a few months of sobriety here and there. But the treatment she had just wasn’t enough to help Rachel work through the trauma of her childhood. When she was hurting, she returned to old friends, bad habits, and places that led to relapses. Finally, when she ended up in a shelter in June 2015, Rachel hit her bottom and felt ready to go to the Amethyst program.
When Rachel arrived to the Amethyst program, she began an intensive treatment program. This includes classes, trauma counselors, group therapy and other therapeutic activities designed to address behavioral healthcare needs, such as substance abuse and trauma. The dedicated and caring staff finally broke through Rachel’s carefully constructed defenses. One day, she just screamed all of her pain and frustration out while sitting in her car in a parking lot. It was the beginning of Rachel’s new life.
Today, Rachel is in the “Community” phase of the Amethyst program. In this phase, clients are furthering their education, working, parenting, and learning to be productive members of their community. Rachel is living with her daughters in Amethyst’s recovery housing, and applies what she’s learned in the many sessions of parenting classes. Her children are in counseling and programming at Amethyst which is designed to help them heal from their own trauma. They also participate in a range of prevention programming to reduce the risk that they will become addicted in the future.
Today, thanks to Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program, Rachel and her daughters are a family again. Rachel has over three years of continuous sobriety. She is also taking classes to learn to become a trauma counselor and wants to help others heal, just as she was helped to heal. Best of all, Rachel and her children have a bright future because she committed to being a part of the Amethyst program’s community of recovery rather than just attending a treatment program.
Give to Alvis’ Back To School Backpack Drive
Education or Incarceration. Which would you choose?
Education is the single most effective weapon against incarceration. Sadly, as the new school year approaches, as many as 700 children of Alvis clients face a tremendous obstacle to their education. They lack basic tools to achieve their full potential.
You can help remove this obstacle by providing a child with a new backpack full of school supplies. These basic tools are the fundamental first step to improving their chances for success.
You can break the cycle. Studies have proven that when kids have school supplies of their own, classroom behavior and grades improve, self-esteem strengthens and kids develop better attitudes toward school and learning. Transforming not just their own lives but changing the pattern in their families and communities.
Your donation will give children a chance to start the school year better prepared. Thank you in advance for giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential.
May 21, 2018
“Change is possible” is the message Tracy Kirby lives by every day.
Tracy was told that change is possible, but he didn’t believe it until he had been sentenced to prison, served nine years, and found his faith again. Then, he emerged a new man. Growing up in the multicultural streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a single parent house hold, Tracy found ways in which he could be a kid despite his environment. “Kids forget to be kids” and holding onto those memories of just being a kid is an important value that to this day he instills in his own family.
Tracy’s grandparents were major influences in his life and helped shape him into the man he is. Both were heavily involved in church. His grandfather was a minister and his grandmother was a Sunday school teacher. They taught him how to appreciate everything he had and to respect his elders. The “old school principles” eventually came back to him after witnessing the death of a fellow inmate. “You don’t want to be like this,” filled Tracy’s thoughts. Then, he began looking deeper into reasons that led to his incarceration. He had always resented his absent father but ultimately came to the realization that, “He didn’t put me in prison, I put me in here. Everyone is struggling and trying to get it right.” For Tracy, like many others, the process of reentry into the community began by addressing the underlying internal issues. As thoughts and behaviors change, external changes will follow. While incarcerated, Tracy completed 30 different programs. In doing so, he was able to reduce his sentence by two years. More importantly, he learned new ways of doing things and new skills for living.
Tracy came to Alvis on July 3, 2010 and said, “It was the happiest day of my life. Alvis gave me my life back.” He learned how to be accountable for his actions, he practiced humility, and he took to heart the importance of time management. The support he received from the staff and from his case manager, Joy Greer, was particularly inspirational and helped Tracy to believe, “Change is possible.” He also came to believe that in order to get to the top, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. After Tracy’s first week at Alvis, he began working as a dishwasher at Bob Evans. Tracy has found that being honest about his past has been a big factor in his employment success. “Having a felony doesn’t limit your opportunities, if you have the right attitude.” With the help of his case manager, Tracy also became one of the first Alvis clients to get married while still in treatment.
Today, Tracy works as a chef at Coopers Hawk and is a motivational speaker for others who are struggling with addiction and reentry. Tracy credits his success to his recommitment to God and everyone who supported him. He is especially grateful to his wife Angela; his four children, Michael, Destiny, Kelly and Ashanti; and his grandchildren, Dariana and Kaveion. “Them giving me love, allowed me to love back,” said Tracy. “They have played a huge role in my recovery and new life.”
Tracy Kirby is a living testament to the fact that by changing internally, external changes will follow. Reentry can be difficult, but it is not a road anyone has to travel alone. For Tracy, Alvis and its caring staff provided the tools and support he needed to begin doing the work to turn his life around.
Molly Rapp, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this article.
April 25, 2018
Effective reentry is essential for safer, thriving communities
In the United States, roughly 1.7 million people are currently in state and federal prisons. Millions more are on probation, on parole, or are cycling through local jail systems. More than 95% of all the individuals in jail or prison will return to the community. Life after prison is an enormous challenge: justice involvement impacts the likelihood of being hired, being able to get housing, and much more. Reentry programs (or lack thereof) make the difference between a person successfully transitioning back to the community as a law-abiding citizen or committing a new crime and reenters the justice system.
Effective reentry programs, like Alvis, use evidence-informed practices to provide support and to work with individuals and get to the root of why they became involved in the justice system. In a majority of cases, justice involved individuals need treatment services to turn their lives around. More than 80% of justice-involved individuals have substance abuse treatment needs and about 40% have mental health treatment needs.
Therefore, Alvis provides a range of treatment programs. Based on each client’s assessed needs, we create a program plan designed to address individualized needs and help that individual to turn his/her life around. Research has shown that by changing the way our clients think, how they address problems, and to have healthy relationships, our clients will be able to lead more successful lives.
Effective reentry programs are essential in building safer, thriving communities. Each time a person returns to prison, the result is devastating – and not just for that person. It costs our society an estimated $118,000.** In addition, each person with justice involvement has a family and lives in a community that will be affected by the loss of that person’s contributions to their family and community.
Children are some of the most invisible victims of a parent’s justice involvement. “Losing a parent to justice involvement is different and more difficult for children than it is to lose a parent to divorce or even death,” says Denise Robinson, Alvis President and CEO. “People are empathetic when a child’s parents are going through a divorce. School counselors will reach out to a child whose parent passed away. A child whose parent is justice involved has the same emotional shock as a child who has been separated from a parent for other reasons, but they are also ashamed and isolated.”
So in addition to the programming Alvis provides for individuals, we also have a Family and Children’s Program. This program helps reconnect families through educational parenting and coping classes to help rebuild the relationship between the parent and the children.
The people Alvis serves are some of the most vulnerable and misunderstood citizens among us. Our clients cannot will away or punish away their addiction or their disability any more than a person can will away heart disease. But with the right tools, they can change the direction of their lives toward a bright future.
Alvis is proud to have a range of evidence-informed and data-driven reentry programs which address individual, family and community challenges. Most importantly, our programs are effective: Three years after completing our residential program, 79% of our clients were successful in staying out of the criminal justice system. This compares to a national success rate of just 56%.
Circumstances bring people to Alvis. It is our mission and purpose to make a 180 degree impact on their lives, so they leave Alvis with the knowledge and tools they need to create a successful future for themselves, their families and our entire community.
**An Illinois study determined that victimization, system, and economic costs average $118,746 per instance of recidivism. The full report is available at: http://www.icjia.state.il.us/spac/pdf/Illinois_Results_First_1015.pdf
Rev. Foster, whose picture accompanies this article,was profiled in an earlier Alvis Blog. Click here to read it.
Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications, and Molly Rapp, Communications Intern, are the authors of this blog post.
Shannon, a self-described soccer mom, was just trying to be the perfect mother.
Shannon and Phillip have been together since high school. In the 16 years they’ve been together, they’ve had three children, ages 14, 13 and 10. Shannon is a self-described soccer mom who was trying to be perfect for her children, each of whom is involved in multiple sports and other activities. She and Phillip worked full time, but most of the childcare and transportation of the kids to their activities fell to Shannon.
It became harder and harder to keep up with everything, so Shannon started taking Ritalin and Adderall to give her extra energy. In 2014, her best friend was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. In 2016, her mother died after a brief and intense illness. In response to these losses, Shannon began using the Percocet she had been prescribed for back pain to numb her emotional pain so she could keep going and “be there” for her children.
Shannon never used anything other than prescription pills, so she said she didn’t feel like an addict. But things spiraled out of control and in the fall of 2016, she was arrested and charged with having unlawful prescriptions in her car. She was sentenced to 14 days in jail and three years of probation. While on probation, she was unable to leave the pills alone. Shannon’s addiction had convinced her it wasn’t that bad and she was a better mother with pills. She said one set of pills gave her the energy she needed to work and take her kids to up to four different activities a night and the other set helped Shannon to keep her emotional pain at bay and prevent her kids from seeing her grief and sadness.
While on supervision, Shannon tested positive for drugs and as a result, she went to prison. Shannon says that day will be etched in her mind forever as the day she “was ripped out of my kids’ lives.” She also felt certain that it was the end of her relationship with Phillip.
Instead, that day became a turning point. Phillip didn’t leave. He stepped in and became a single father. He and Shannon worked together to ensure their children didn’t suffer as a result of her absence. Shannon actively participated in programs in prison to address her addiction and the pressures she put on herself to be a perfect mother.
Today, Shannon is at Alvis, participating in a transitional treatment program that consists of substance abuse treatment, cognitive behavioral treatment, parenting education, workforce development and other services that have been proven to reduce the risk that Shannon will return to the justice system. Shannon, Phillip and their children are also in the Alvis Family and Children’s program. This is a specialized program designed to help families heal from the trauma that results from having a parent in the justice system.
“I know my kids were impacted by my behavior,” says Shannon. “Before, I was there but not there. Sometimes I couldn’t remember conversations and I would nod off. I was late to some of their events because I was getting pills.” As a result of being in the program, Shannon also knows that even though her kids don’t show it, they are hurt and they need their own time and counseling to heal.
Shannon is grateful for her new perspective. “I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. I wrapped my whole life around my kids,” she says. “I hated asking for help back then. But today I know Phillip is my partner and I don’t have to do everything on my own.”
This is the longest time Shannon has been away from her kids and she is determined never be separated from them like this ever again. When she goes home in a few weeks, she’s taking the things she’s learned at Alvis with her. “I know I have a lot of making up to do,” says Shannon. “But I also need to make a life for myself so the kids aren’t my whole world. That’s healthy for all of us.”
Thanks to Alvis, Shannon and her family have a bright future ahead of them. It won’t be perfect – but today, Shannon knows that’s okay.
Your support of the Alvis Family and Children’s Program makes stories like Shannon’s have a happy ending. Thank you.
Gloria Iannucci, Sr. Director, Communications, is the author of this blog post.