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.

Alvis’ Volunteer Spotlight: Nancy Colvin

Q&A sessions celebrating National Volunteer Week #NVW

Why Alvis? 

I connected with Alvis through Amethyst. Their work with women who are living with addiction saves lives and heals families. I first became aware of Amethyst through Ginny O’Keefe. Her fearless drive and boundless compassion are humbling to witness and impossible to resist. 

What is the impact you can make? 

I work full time and have two children. My time isn’t always my own, but I spend an hour a week providing tutoring support for a woman working toward her GED. It is one of the most impactful things I do and it takes an hour of my time. I walk away feeling as though the world is a little better place than I thought it was. 

Importance of volunteer work for the community? 

Every day we have a chance to leave the world just a bit better, to be kind, to support another person. I want that to be the example my children see. I want them to know in their hearts we all have a responsibility to one another and that they absolutely have the ability to change the world – one action at a time. 

Thank you Nancy!! We appreciate all you do!

Rachel turns her life around

October 10, 2018

Thanks to Amethyst, an Alvis recovery program, Rachel has been clean and sober for more than 3 years.

Rachel turns her life around

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.

Celebrating Success: The Amethyst Graduating Class of 2017

October 27, 2017

A new beginning with a different ending.

Celebrating Success: The Amethyst Graduating Class of 2017

“Nothing is impossible.  The word itself says I’m possible!” Audrey Hepburn

 These inspiring words resonate well with 13 ladies at Amethyst who recently celebrated the completion of all five phases of treatment with a formal graduation on October 20, 2017.  For some, it took longer than others, but all of them came to understand their worth as a result of the Amethyst program, and it kept them pushing forward.

The Amethyst program was established in 1984 and became a part of Alvis in May 2017. Amethyst is a community designed to support a lifetime of recovery through treatment and long term supportive housing for women and their children.  The community that has been built over the last thirty years has been a beacon of hope for women struggling with addiction.  Amethyst shows how important it is to have people who stand behind you when you think you might fall.  Women in the program get to experience the importance of holding onto hope and learning to accept the changes that are going to come in everyone’s life. 

Amethyst makes it clear that everyone in recovery should celebrate how far they’ve come and how strong they have remained.  Positivity and determination can go a long way in supporting recovery from addiction. Beyond that, each client also has the support of their community to ensure they will make it. This support creates the resilience to survive and thrive.  “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” is an African proverb that captures the essence of the program.

Addiction is a disease that cannot be fought alone and Amethyst has built a community of women who respect, support and love one another. Amethyst helps women with substance abuse problems see that they can be happy and deserve a second chance. The 13 women who graduated shared how far they’ve come with current Amethyst clients and how their lives have changed for the better.  The inspiring thing about all of these women is that they never gave up and never stopped fully believing that recovery is worth it. They kept going, no matter how difficult, and became survivors.  In the process, they encouraged current Amethyst clients to stand up and be recognized for all their positive potential and hard work.

In today’s society, we hear a lot about the tragedy of the opiate epidemic, but it is very rare to hear about the successes of people in recovery. If success stories were more common in today’s media, it could help someone who is struggling with substance abuse gather courage to change their life.  Fortunately, there were a lot of success stories to celebrate at the Amethyst Graduation, which will lead to even more success.  It’s because of the Amethyst community that these women are able to see the way out of their previous lives and enter into a lifetime of recovery. Having a group of strong, positive and hopeful women to encourage other women only makes the Amethyst community even stronger.   These women are survivors.  What they thought impossible when they arrived at Amethyst proved to be possible.  By “suiting up and showing up,” they have encouraged other women to keep moving forward toward their own lifetimes of recovery.  

Molly Rapp, Communications Intern, is the primary author of this blog post.