Mentoring Month Spotlight: The Whats and Whens of Having a Mentor


Whether you are a young student looking for guidance or an established adult in search of the same, using a mentor can provide inspiration and a safe space for you to grow without judgement. Though mentors can be used in a variety of different settings, their central function is essentially the same: to guide you to becoming your best self through a strong partnership. If this sounds like something you may need, you may be wondering where to find a mentor. These guides can be found in anyone you identify with in relation to your current struggles, from hardships in the office to battles with addiction. It is extremely important for these advising minds to cultivate positive relationships with their mentee, and for them to be friendly, knowledgeable, and committed to their success. According to Mentor.com, young, at-risk adults who have had mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 78% more likely to be regular volunteers. Of those with mentors, 90% were interested in also becoming a mentor and 130% are more likely to hold leadership positions. Having more than one mentor can be beneficial to provide guidance in multiple facets of life; and this mentorship can be crucial to one’s personal improvements.

Now that we know a little bit about mentorship and its general importance, let’s examine what exactly these mentors do. In short, they generously lend their knowledge, wisdom, insight, and counsel to those experiencing challenges that the mentor is familiar with. The invaluable skills and lessons they teach can greatly alter the journeys of those they are helping, and they generally are able to see areas in their mentee’s lives where there is room for some sort of improvement. They function to offer helpful encouragement, keep the spark, and push for confidence from their mentees. They also commonly create reasonable boundaries and goals for their mentees as they have typically been in their shoes at one point or another. They have the experience to ensure that the mistakes made in the past will not be made again, shifting the mentee’s focus on how to prioritize and formulate strategies surrounding their growth. This can facilitate positive personal advancement, giving the mentor and mentee both a chance to celebrate their achievements.

So, when do people use mentors? Whenever they need outside direction! You may have already had someone like this in your life without even realizing their impact, whether it be a family member, teacher, or professional colleague. Many people use mentors when they are confronted with an unfamiliar situation that seems impossible to navigate on their own. Business people in new positions, students needing academic guidance, those in recovery needing a pillar of strength, and many others find solace in knowing that mentors are available to them when they feel the challenges they are facing are insurmountable. Stars from Oprah Winfrey to Clint Eastwood have even spoken fondly of their times with mentors, and claim that encouragement from these sources early in their lives contributed immensely to their long-term success. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, you have many options regardless of your age, lifestyle, or profession.

After speaking to Harry Cox, who has experience in the mentoring community, it is evident why the practice is so important to both these guiding hands and those they are advising. He works with three separate mentorship companies, including working with first generation college students as well as working with his nonprofit benefitting the elderly. He ultimately helps thousands of people annually through mentorship opportunities. He meets with people daily and with groups of up to 16 individuals for him to support. Getting his mentees to open up “their can of worms,” be comfortable, and be willing to work with him is crucial to their growth. He is so dedicated to their success that offers his resources to his mentees as often as necessary. He himself was brought through Alvis following release from incarceration and credits a mentor from an Alvis program as being crucial in helping him to completely change his life. His mentor told him that you need to be able to separate your wants from your needs and he challenged him to find 90 organizations in 90 days to support those needs. Since then, Harry has used these resources to obtain his Master’s Degree and various other certifications. He credits his mentor with his great success today.

With those seeking peer mentorship following to incarceration, it is important for their mentors to be aware of the trauma associated with this experience.  In order to reach self-actualization, he says, “Mentors need to help them become resilient.” Mentors should look at their personal experiences and how they directly relate to their mentees, showing how they can overcome barriers based upon the way they personally worked through them. To Harry, mentorship is putting away personal vices in order to help a person ultimately get where they intend to go. It is about individuals and dedication to fulfilling their needs. Harry also feels that mentors can be any age because wisdom and knowledge knows no bounds.  He believes a person can learn just as much from a 15-year-old as they could from an 80-year-old.

No one should feel ashamed about seeking outside help through mentors or through other types of supportive programming.  At Alvis, we encourage everyone at any stage of life to care for their personal, mental, and professional health in the most efficient way that their lifestyle permits. We celebrate mentors for all that they do, and praise those aware enough of their own struggles for reaching out and utilizing this great resource.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 51 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. 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.

In Celebration of Reentry Week: How Alvis is helping individuals overcome their past justice involvement

April 25, 2018

Effective reentry is essential for safer, thriving communities

In Celebration of Reentry Week: How Alvis is helping individuals overcome their past justice involvement

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. 

Notes:

**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.

You didn’t do the crime, but you’re still paying for the time

March 12, 2017

Would you be shocked to see this bill in your mailbox? Would you be even more shocked if you knew you’ve been helping to pay for it?

You didn’t do the crime, but you’re still paying for the time

The bill pictured above is the estimate of ONE person’s time in prison. This amount takes into account room and board, security, health care, operations, administration and other services. This is completely covered by taxpayer dollars, to the tune of more than $25,000 a year, per inmate (Vera Institute of Justice, Price of Prisons in Ohio, 2012). That’s like sending one of your children to a public university and paying tuition and rent for a year. Add on a court room, price of lawyers, and the average taxable income loss, and the price tag begins to equal a sizeable down payment on a new home. These “hidden” bills don’t just affect one person. They’re paid for by every tax-paying citizen in our nation. Even worse, these are only the short-term costs.

The long-term costs of imprisonment are even more expensive. Even after completing a sentence in prison, the transition back into the community is not an easy one. After release from prison, many people convicted of crimes have no place to live, no means of transportation and no money. They may have not have access to a change of clothing, a shower or even food. They may not have a family support system to help them start over, and if they do, many families don’t have the financial means to support anything beyond their most basic necessities.  Having been out of work while serving time in prison takes a significant toll on both the offender and his or her family, as well as the community. Finding a job with a criminal record is exceedingly difficult, and can become an impossible task, given the barriers that are created when an applicant is lawfully required to disclose felony convictions on job applications. According to studies by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), this requirement alone reduces the chances of a person being hired by as much as 50%.  

The result is like a risky game of dominos. One piece falls and the others fall soon after. No employment means no income and no income means relying on governmental and community funding. The cumulative related expenses are paid by taxpayers in the form of social services and public assistance, but the emotional toll is paid by the families and neighborhoods that are powerless stop the cycle.

These factors need to make us all deeply reconsider how our society handles low-level, non-violent crimes, and the people who commit them. The reality is that community corrections programs, like those offered by Alvis, are both cost efficient and have been proven to be more effective in preventing a person’s return to the criminal justice system when compared to a prison sentence.

The per-person cost for treatment at a community corrections facility, like Alvis, is around $6,000 per year. That’s a $19,000 difference from the cost of sentencing the same offender to prison for a year. That’s a significant savings that captures only a small portion of the overall savings opportunity that comes with community corrections programs.

Community corrections programs also offer intangible forms of return on investment. The reality is that individuals who spend time in our state’s correctional system are our neighbors, our family, our friends and our community members who have made mistakes. Many suffer from addiction and/or mental health issues. Community correction programs understand the factors that often drive criminal behavior, and they offer a safe, stable environment where individuals can address the issues that led to their crime, so they can work on creating a new path forward.

Clients in Alvis residential reentry programs live in a dorm-like environment while participating in evidence-based programming. Our trained professionals provide cognitive behavioral treatment and substance abuse treatment.  Being at Alvis means our clients have the opportunity to stay connected with their family and with the community. Alvis offers programming that reconnects and rebuilds healthy relationships between parents and children, preparing them for moving forward together, after Alvis. Our reentry services team works with a plethora of companies that hire our clients during their stay in our program – providing invaluable job experience.  We mentor and coach clients on how to address the “convicted of a felony” box with potential employers. We offer job training and certification programs to increase employability and to widen career opportunities for clients after leaving the program. 

Why does this matter? Because we not only prepare clients for a successful transition back into the community, but while clients are involved in our programs, they earn more than $2.5 million in taxable wages and pay over $100,000 in child support, restitution, fines and court cost each year. These milestones help clients continue to be productive members of our community during their stay with us. That doesn’t happen in prison.

Community corrections programs have also proven successful in reducing recidivism, which saves taxpayer dollars.  Each instance of recidivism costs taxpayers, on average, over $40,000, which includes costs for the arrest, trial, court proceedings, incarceration and supervision. Adding in the costs of future victimization and indirect costs takes the total to nearly $120,000 per incident of recidivism (Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, 2015).

Ohio’s recidivism rate is only about 28%, compared to the national average rate of recidivism of almost 50%.  Many believe this dramatic difference is the direct result of Ohio’s commitment to evidence-based programming. As Director Gary Mohr, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), notes, “We know treatment in the community is twice as effective and one-third of the cost as comparable treatment in prison. The relationships with our community partners are critical as we work further to reduce Ohio’s already low recidivism rate.”

A felony is expensive. And not just for the person who committed the crime – it’s expensive to all of us.  Knowing the facts, what would you choose? To pay less for programs that are about twice as effective; or pay far more for a program that is much less effective?  At Alvis, we believe in paying less and getting better results. That’s the impact of turning lives around – by 180 degrees. 

Mariah Haitz, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this blog post.