Amethyst Graduation

Celebrating

On February 3rd, we celebrated the graduation of 18 women who completed all 5 levels of Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program. Amethyst has provided treatment services to women and children who need specialized services and a community of support for over 30 years.

A noteworthy fact: this is the largest graduating class that has ever graduated from the Amethyst program!

Linda Janes, Alvis’ Chief Program Officer, welcomed audience members, which consisted of current clients at Amethyst, alumni, and family and friends. The celebration was hosted by State Auto Insurance, who also hosts our annual holiday parties for clients, and generously donated a computer lab for Amethyst. Janes acknowledged Zonta Club of Columbus, a service and advocacy organization whose mission is to empower women. They contribute to Amethyst clients year-long. Studio Fovero Salon and Spa was also recognized for donating hair styling services to graduates.

A special guest in attendance was Judge Paul Herbert, who founded and administers the CATCH Court program in Franklin County. CATCH Court focuses on rehabilitation and reentry services for women trafficking survivors. Three clients graduating from Amethyst are also successful graduates of CATCH Court, and another graduate is a current participant in the program.

When Herbert founded CATCH Court, Amethyst became his first partner. Leaders at Amethyst, like founding mother, Ginny O’Keeffe, helped him understand the significance of clients’ experiences. “This [CATCH Court] is the best thing that happened to me in my career… and maybe, my whole life,” Herbert reflected. “I love each and every one of you, because you’re great.”

“Today is so important, and I want you to really think about how far you’ve come,” echoed Denise M. Robinson, President & CEO of Alvis. “You are different today because you have addressed the demons and the trauma that kept you in the prison of addiction.”

Graduates ranged from ages 28 to 53. Their accomplishments included newfound employment and promotions, regained custody and relationships with their children, exploration of cultural roots, and renewed independence and empowerment. They also overcame a host of challenges, such as intergenerational trauma, homelessness, illnesses, and injuries. Two women even gave birth while in the program.

Following Robinson’s speech was Tori Buck, a Primary Care Counselor at Amethyst who works with the women on a daily capacity. She stressed the importance of support to recovery: “They have all worked so hard to get to this stage. Their journeys came with triumphs, heartbreak, perseverance, and extremely hard work and we could not be more proud of them.” Graduates provided 3 roses to audience members who had guided and loved them throughout their journey. As staff members introduced graduates, it was clear that they had grown on these journeys alongside their clients.

Sharing Stories

Many women overcame personal battles on their journeys with Amethyst. One client, Carla, celebrated her triumph over addiction. From this date, she’s been nearly 2 years and a month clean. “One thing I learned throughout this program was gratitude that I never had before. I never had an appreciation for my life or anything else,” she reflected. “I spent most of my life homeless, but now me and my 5 year old daughter have a home of our own.”

Other clients emphasized the significance of Alvis’ Amethyst staff and community. LaRose, 28, is the youngest graduate in her class. A CATCH Court graduate, she has secured full-time employment and independent housing, rebuilt a relationship with her step-son, and received visitation rights. Her sister, Hollie, a former Amethyst graduate herself, was the one who encouraged LaRose to attend Amethyst and receive help. Hollie runs a non-profit called The Shining Starz, which helps women caught in the throes of addiction, homelessness, and sex trafficking. “CATCH Court saved my life,” she expressed, “and Amethyst showed me how to live life.”

When client, Christine, was recovering at Amethyst, her own son died of an overdose. Additionally, she landed in the hospital for COPD-related concerns. Despite what some would consider to be insurmountable odds, she relied on her community at Amethyst, and her own power, to get her through these experiences. “If it weren’t for Amethyst, I would not be here,” she said. “I was clean in here when my son died. And the first thing I said was, ‘I’ll never go out and use.’” And Christine hasn’t. She’s been sober for 3 years and 9 months, and she recently regained custody of her grandson. “I have a 5-year old grandson who needs me in his life and will never see me take a drink, or use a drug.”

Delisa, a two-time attendee at Amethyst, left the first time to do it “her own way,” focusing less on personal recovery, and more toward fulfilling her court mandate. When that didn’t work, her father helped her move back into Amethyst, and he unfortunately passed away in November. Like Christine, she did not let this tragedy define her ability to recover, resisting the urge to relapse. “I’m glad that Amethyst gave me the foundation to be a healthy adult and be a healthy mom, so that my family could interact as one,” she said. Specifically to the staff in the room, she expressed her gratitude. “Each one of you has touched me. I can really say I have a special connection with everybody.”

Alicia is another client who struggled with the initial addiction battle. “I did not think of myself as an addict. I did not understand what addiction was.” This battle was not without its ups and downs. For Alicia, this meant multiple attempts at getting clean before she could stand before the audience at graduation with the peace and confidence she had attained from her time at Amethyst. She connected her support at Amethyst to her own self-confidence. “I’m so grateful that a staff member told me to shine today. Because I deserve this. My fiancé told me I deserve this. My brother, my sister, they’re here with me today. I am present in my family’s life today. And it’s because of Amethyst, so thank God I made it to Amethyst.”

Self-love and empowerment were present in all of the graduates’ stories, from their words, to their overall demeanor. The emotion in the room was palpable as women shared their own individual experiences, which made real both the immense challenges that addiction and trauma can bring, as well as the shreds of hope that recovery provides.

A Community of Support

Our President and CEO, Denise M. Robinson, visibly moved and proud, summed up the significance of the Amethyst graduation as she concluded her speech. “Because of the Amethyst program, our graduates and current clients have never been alone on the road to recovery, and you never will be. You can carry the positivity and support of this community of recovery with you wherever you go. For the graduates, keep us nearby, in case you need to shout down the voice of addiction when it tries to tempt you into returning to old habits. Know that you will always have a personal cheering section with you as you continue your lifelong journey to reach your highest potential.”

Congratulations to our 2020 graduates of the Amethyst program!

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.

Hire a Veteran Day

Hire a Veteran Day

July 25th is Hire a Veteran Day, serving as a reminder that many men and women who have served in the armed forces are highly trained and qualified for civilian employment. A number of veterans are actively seeking jobs in the United States. Likewise, there are a broad range of civilian employment sectors that are also involved in the armed services, such as information technologies, marketing, and finance. The skills that veterans gain from the armed services can be very useful in civilian jobs.

Alvis currently has job openings, and we are actively seeking passionate, dedicated staff to join our team—including veterans! Our openings include the departments of administration, behavioral health, corrections, developmental disabilities services, and facilities. If interested, we encourage you to apply!

National Hire a Veteran Day was founded by Dan Caporale, Marine Corps veteran and founder of Hire Our Heroes (www.hireourheroes.com), a website that prioritizes veterans seeking employment. Beginning this month and continuing through November until Veterans’ Day, unlimited job openings can be posted to this website at a 50% discount when entering the code, “Hire a Vet”. 

A staggering nationwide trend, according to seniorliving.org, is that America’s workforce is aging, and more Americans aged 65 and older are working than in the last two decades. The 65+ age group is projected to be the fastest growing segment of the workforce by 2024. Not only do we hire veterans (a percentage of whom belong to this age group)—we are also interested in seniors, and actively look for employees with experiences that have allowed them to be dedicated, qualified members of our team at Alvis. 

We stand with veterans on this day, and honor the service that they have shown toward this country, while also valuing them as employees and fellow citizens.

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.

Behavioral Healthcare Position Openings: Family Case Managers, Therapist, Clinical Supervisors

Interested in working in the fields of behavioral healthcare and social work? Alvis has openings for two family case managers and two clinical supervisors at our Columbus locations, and a therapist at our Lima location. These positions work full-time, Monday-Friday, and all of them are tied to Alvis’ person-centered, evidence-based, integrated behavioral healthcare.

For each of these positions, up to a $2500 retention bonus is offered!

The family case manager positions are placed with Alvis’ Child and Family team at our Amethyst location. Amethyst is a uniquely supportive, holistic treatment center for women experiencing co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders, often in conjunction with extensive trauma. Family case managers at Amethyst must be female-only, licensed social workers with at least a Bachelor’s degree. This position links clients and their families to necessary resources in the community, for services such as assessments, child care and education, clothing, food, transportation, maintenance of finances, and advocacy on the family’s behalf. They are also responsible for appropriate programming for women and children, developing treatment plans for women, children, and families, and interacting with fellow staff on a daily basis to provide clients with comprehensive treatment.

The openings for our clinical supervisor positions are located within Recovery Choices, which is Alvis’ other integrated behavioral healthcare program. Recovery Choices was created as a behavioral health agency for Alvis’ halfway houses, and clients have vans that transport them between the houses and Recovery Choices. Clinical supervisors must have a master’s degree, and, at minimum, be a licensed independent social worker or a professional clinical counselor. Their primary function is to oversee and provide integrated behavioral healthcare services, diagnose and treat co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders, and provide case management and treatment planning for clients. The clinical supervisor also directs the day-to-day operations of the treatment program, provides overall clinical management of the program, and provides overall administrative management of the program.

The therapist position at our Lima location, also employed within the Recovery Choices program, must have a Bachelor’s degree and minimal licensures in social work or professional counseling. This person’s primary duties involve providing integrated behavioral healthcare services, including treatment of addiction and mental/emotional disorders, along with case management and treatment planning for clients who have been referred to Alvis for outpatient or residential treatment. Therapists must develop comprehensive care management plans, provide case management services alongside case managers and the courts when appropriate, and follow operating procedures to ensure compliance with OhioMHAS, CARF, and Alvis. They also will be responsible for attending committees, conferences, and other non-routine activities as needed, dictated by the clinical supervisor.

This is just a broad overview of what these positions entail. Alvis is currently looking for many new employees to join the team, and all of our career postings can be found here.

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.

Integrated Behavioral Healthcare at Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program

Addressing Mental Health Issues

Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program, is 34 years old, and a unique program in central Ohio. With its focus on integrated behavioral healthcare treatment, it is unlike many other treatment and recovery programs, because it focuses on both women and their children. Specifically, the Amethyst program allows children up to age 18 to live with their mothers while the mothers are in treatment. Recently acquired by Alvis in 2017, the Amethyst program shares the same “big picture” vision shared among all Alvis’ programs: it focuses on holistic treatment. 

“Our whole goal is always a lifetime of recovery,” says Heidi Hess, Clinical Director of the Amethyst program. Hess highlights that lots of work at Amethyst is “person-centered” and “trauma informed,” that involves “treating the whole person” through “mental, physical, spiritual, and occupational” means. Part of Hess’ job is reviewing data and best practices to ensure that the program’s curriculum and goals are backed by current research, as the program aims to provide clients with the tools for a lifetime of recovery. While the Amethyst program provides services specificly for children of mothers undergoing treatment, the women at Amethyst each follow highly individualized programs that address to each woman’s needs and solutions. 

One of the first things that a woman does upon her induction into the Amethyst program is meeting with an intake counselor and completing a series of assessments. A woman’s intake counselor will be her first counselor while at Amethyst. Once she is oriented with the program and its services, a typical day involves morning treatment groups centering on substance use disorders, and afternoon treatment groups to address mental health disorders. Specialty treatment groups also meet to address trauma and parenting. All clients are involved in treatment teams, which involves clinical professionals working with the client to talk about plans, goals, concerns, progress, and emerging needs. Treatment, as Hess describes, is “solution focused,” and teams concentrate on what they are doing to keep clients moving forward on the path to recovery. 

Mental Health Recovery 

The Amethyst program specifically treats co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders, and all clients are screened by Dr. Sara McIntosh to determine medical needs, including medication. Integrated behavioral health treatment and the use of psychiatric medication is much more advanced than it was 20-30 years ago, and aids to help treat the disease of addiction. According to Hess, approximately 90% of people who have an addiction also have a current mental health diagnosis. Mental health and addiction are, many times, related. The disease of addiction causes depressive syndrome, and often times, it begs the question of which came first. Either way, Hess stresses that addiction is a diagnosed mental health issue that is treatable. It’s brain chemistry. Medications can help clients stabilize the brain’s chemistry, so that recovery is attainable. 

Specifically at the Amethyst program, most clients do have mental health and addiction treatment needs. They all are involved in mental health treatment groups. In addition to the 

sessions addressing substance abuse in the morning and mental health in the afternoon, women are linked with other community mental health treatment agencies to address additional needs. Case managers assist clients with any needs for appointments or linkage 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. 

As individualized treatment plans change over the course of a client’s time at Amethyst, the treatment does not end after discharge. 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. Aftercare continues for an entire year, and it offers support for dealing with the general challenges of life. Balancing work, school, children, and other potential stressors in early recovery can be extremely difficult. Hess cites research which finds that greater lengths of stays in treatment result in higher rates of successful long-term recovery. Keeping someone actively engaged in treatment significantly increases the likelihood of long-term, lifetime recovery. Following the completion of aftercare, graduates of the Amethyst program can choose to stay in treatment for up to two additional years. 

Challenging Stigmas 

Many times, people associate addiction with certain stigmas and some, despite all medical evidence to the contrary, do not see addiction as a disease. Hess finds that many aspects of people seeking treatment for addiction and/or mental health can be stigmatized. There are a range of negative stigmas in regards to addiction, mental health issues, poverty, and justice involvement. Alvis and its Amethyst program advocate against these stigmas through an evidence-based approach to integrated behavioral healthcare treatment. The Alvis vision is that communities believe each person’s potential is more important than their past. “What we know and believe is that addiction is a disease,” Hess says. “Mental health is a disease. When appropriately treated, people recover.” She compares recovery from addiction and mental illness to treatment and recovery from other chronic diseases, like blood pressure or diabetes. The disease may linger, but clients learn to use certain tools to live in society and remain in recovery, leading full and productive lives. Staff at Alvis’ Amethyst program work with clients to combat the stigmas revolving around addiction, mental illness, and people with past justice system involvement. In turn, clients are educated about the capacity for change and growth. The goal is holistic treatment. As Hess explains: “Yes, we treat the addiction, but we also provide basis for education and employability.” 

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 First Step Act

A bipartisan solution to the opioid epidemic

When a parent sees their child take their first steps, it is milestone that fills them with pride and joy. Those first steps lead to many other firsts throughout the child’s life. But infants are not the only ones who take momentous first steps. In a continuing effort to tackle the opioid crisis, the United States is taking its first steps toward new approaches to address this deadly epidemic and acknowledge that addiction is a disease that cannot be cured by locking a person up. 

The First Step Act is new federal legislation designed to help people who are involved in the justice system to obtain treatment for their addiction rather than simply imprisoning them. Signed into law by President Trump in December 2018, the First Step Act is a truly bipartisan piece of legislation with widespread support. It passed the Senate with a vote of 87-12 and the House approved the Senate’s version of the bill with a 358-36 vote. It provides incentives and programs so federal inmates receive treatment and tools to address their addiction. Addiction deserves the care, treatment and attention provided to other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Addiction is deadly. Ohio alone loses an average of 38 people daily to opioid overdoses.

But why should someone who has never been involved with the criminal justice system or opioids be concerned with these kinds of first steps? The long and short of it is that this could be closer to home than you think. Of the 321 million people living in the U.S. in 2015, an estimated two million  – one in every 160 people – were addicted to opioids. The possibility that you personally know someone in the throes of addiction is high. It could be your neighbor, coworker, friend or even a family member. Watching your child take their first steps into toddlerhood can be stressful as a parent. Similarly, if you personally know someone who has battled addiction and justice involvement, then you understand its devastating toll.

Beyond personal connections and its potential to save lives, the First Step Act is also expected to reduce the risk that someone in the justice system due to addiction will return to prison. That will result in significant savings to taxpayers who will no longer have to bear the $33,274 average cost per inmate per year. This adds up to millions of dollars in savings each year.

Decades of experience have shown that our nation cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic. Today, the federal government is taking critical first steps to ensuring that the individuals in our justice system who need treatment for addiction are able to receive it. In doing so, they look to the positive experiences from programs like Alvis’ Recovery Choices. When combined with accountability and programs to address justice involvement, such as Alvis’ Reentry Programs, there is a proven track record of reducing the likelihood that a person will relapse into addiction and return to the justice system.

Everyone has a story. Some people just need to be given the opportunity and tools to take their first steps to change their story and begin their journey to full and productive lives. For more stories about lives changed by Alvis, please click here.

This blog post was primarily written by Douglas Lamont, Alvis Communications Intern, January 2019.