Social Work Spotlight: Dean Gregoire


Introduction

To finish up with our social work celebration, we traveled to The Ohio State Universitythis week and got the chance to sit down with the Dean of the College of Social Work, Dr. Tom Gregoire. Dean Gregoire PhD. has been a member of The Ohio State University’s faculty for 22 years, spending the past ten of those in the Dean position. Prior to this, though, he was an academic; after receiving his bachelors at the Marymount College of Kansas, he went on to receive his masters and studied substance abuse treatment. He took a look at how practices were changing and thought we needed more research on the matter, taking it upon himself to earn his Ph.D. so he could complete these examinations himself. He has taken his affinity for research with him throughout his professional career, as we cannot work in the absence of evidence. There are over 30 faculty members at Ohio State dedicating their entire careers to finding the best ways to treat clients as they don’t want people to fund them if they have no evidence to support their claims. Despite this, he feels like there will never be a time to stop studying as nothing is ever going to work perfectly; he is proud of all of the innovative research being done as it is community-based and he encourages all agencies to be more focused on this type of evidence. Above all, we are willing to experiment and advance the science.

Looking to those in the social work profession, Gregoire feels that to be successful, social workers need to be able to network. Having the ability to collaborate, create teams, and think about circumstances differently than others goes a long way when paired with the knowledge of evidence and successful interventions. With limited resources, you have to do things that work. This can require some courage since they commonly work in the cracks that vulnerable people are entrenched in. These social workers can help make a difference in creating one community by knowing that it simply isn’t enough to solve people’s problems. Sometimes, they need to think about one’s personal experiences and take on the roles and biases that create these problems in the first place. Dean said that we live in a world where two people could have all of the same characteristics and live in different communities, causing both people to ultimately have totally different experiences.

When evaluating the profession as a whole, Gregoire feels that the biggest challenge surrounds lack of resources; there is not enough money being invested in vulnerable people, and this causes social workers to wonder how they can become more creative. They have to come up with innovative ways to solve problems and then implement them in interdisciplinary ways. In the next five years, he sees this lack of resources shift. Now more than ever he is seeing a lot of private donations supporting smaller agencies, and this may push resources closer to the client. Very few people can have all of their care needs met in one building, so making resources more readily available to those in need, where they actually need them, is key. From creating internships and jobs in community locations like public libraries in homeless camps to accompanying the people on visits to ensure the well-being of those in the home, he says that we need to begin meeting people where they are. 


Top 3 Skills

Looking to the opioid crises we are immersed in, Gregoire says that they are at ground zero with the substance abuse crisis. Many rural communities are now plagued by addiction, with over 100,000 grandparents raising their grandchildren on account of parent drug abuse. 20% of these caregivers are under the poverty line, and this creates a generational problem as the trajectory usually sees the children of those struggling with untreated addictions simply following in their caregiver’s footsteps. At Ohio State, there is a substance misuse minor for social work students, allowing them to specialize in how to treat those with addiction as a whole, rather than the problem alone. When he looks at how his college is operating, his vision surrounds maintaining community involvement. When the curriculum was redesigned 10 years ago, 300 people from the practice community combined their knowledge to create a continued community partnership and ignite creative problem solving. He wants to ensure that they are educating the student as a whole, enabling them with the survival skills and protections given to fireman and policeman. He also teaches financial wellness to his students as he realizes that higher education does not come cheap. He does a lot of scholarship fundraising to ensure that students who want to commit to helping others do not take a vow of poverty. States across the country are now spending less than ever before on education, and this can cause many students to make huge sacrifices. The school has 32% of first generation undergrads and he celebrates them for taking a chance on themselves, changing their family for generations. He hopes to raise money for all of his students that can follow them into the community, aiding those committed to working in low income areas.

Connecting to Alvis, Gregoire has been involved with our nonprofit for over 12 years. He first visited our facilities for a research project. He says that Alvis’ services are phenomenal as we work with challenging situations. He admires our dedication to those discarded in the community and our commitment to shifting thought processes in order to improve quality of life. He knows that the College of Social Work and Alvis share an understanding of what it means to be helpful to others, holding the same values surrounding dignity, justice, and fair opportunity. Internships are integral to social work student’s training, and they offer great opportunity to grow, develop core values, and prepare to work for vulnerable populations. Through Alvis, interns gain this invaluable experience. He left us with a great quote he feels is applicable in today’s political climate; he says that it’s easy to look at the news and feel depressed or that we are heading in the wrong direction. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr. to say that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bent towards good.” We thank him for taking the time to sit down with us and shed light on this amazing profession.


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.

Social Work Spotlight: Carolann Gregoire

Carolann Gregoire, CSCC Practicum Coordinator

To continue with our celebration of the social work profession this March, we sat down with Carolann Gregoire, Practicum Coordinator for the Social and Human Services Program at the Columbus State Community College. She has been working as a social worker for decades and has received both her Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Kansas, which is her home state. In order to learn more about her work, we did a Q&A session with Carolann! Read on and watch the video series to see what this industry veteran has to say about the ins and outs of her practice!

Trends

You place students in internships. What is the value of practicum?

I work with students before they go into practicum and also while they are in practicum. I would say that one of the biggest challenges that the students experience is not fully understanding what it means actually to work with a client face to face, within an agency structure. That is why we do practicums, because they can have a world of information that they receive in the classroom, which they need and they embrace intellectually, and even on a heart level; but it’s very different than when you are actually in the same room with a client who is sharing their story and looking to you for help. It’s a very humbling experience. If it’s your 1st time in trying to be helpful with a client it takes practice and takes confidence before you feel like that what you know intellectually is something you can translate into practice.

Top 3 Skills

What are the reasons most students select a career in Social Work?

I think Social Workers choose this field in part because of some personal experiences, and it’s important whatever that personal experience is that we have worked with it sufficiently so that we can use it, rather than it using us, and really interfering with the work that we do with clients. So there is a fine line when you feel like you are on the other side of the experience. For me, it was a couple of things that shaped how I looked at the world. Experiences in my life that I had to work with on a heart level before I could really be present with myself and be present for others.

What do you believe to be the Social Workers biggest challenges?

I think for a recent graduate, you need an understanding of how an agency operates and how that impacts what they can actually do with a client. Because when they are in the classroom, it is a lot of information that is very helpful but until you start experiencing it, you don’t fully understand all the different influences that impact what you going get to do with a client. I try to prepare new folks in the field for that thought of “maybe this is not exactly what I thought it was going to be”. There can be barriers to providing good care that come from stigma from society, from lack of funding, lack of resources and I don’t think you really know what that feels like and how it really does impact what you are doing with a client until you are doing it.

Alvis impact in the community

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it be through direct support or through providing resources that find solutions to complex problems. Their dedication to bettering their community facilitates healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices that may not have been a possibility without this aid. Make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog this month to see some great interviews with social work leaders in the community offering direct insight on the who’s and what’s of the profession!

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.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Spotlight


Trip to NY City to see the Yankees

Since March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we wanted to enter spring with a celebration of those in this community both within Alvis and across the nation. This month of awareness first began in 1987 with President Ronald Reagan; in the ‘70s and ‘80s, our country went through a deinstitutionalization movement that promoted great social change, prompting Americans to provide those with developmental disabilities with the resources for success. Today, over 5 million Americans are estimated to have a developmental disability and this term, as defined by the DD Act, refers to a “severe, chronic disability that occurs before an individual is 22 that is likely to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial functional limitations in three or more areas of major life activity” (NACDD). These areas include self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. These conditions typically require the individual to live with assistance, and we commend those who are a part of this community for seeking out the support they need to succeed. 

Though there may be some stigma still surrounding those in the DD community, we at Alvis feel that it is time to blow this stigma out of the water. Through a variety of programs and resources, those in this community are now more equipped than ever to lead healthy lifestyles. Living with developmental disabilities is never a one-size-fits-all experience. Conditions that qualify as a DD can include autism, muscular dystrophy, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder, and many more. You can learn more about these conditions here

This week, we were fortunate to speak with our Managing Director of Developmental Disability services, Sandra Allen. Sandy has been with Alvis for ten years and has used her background in mental health and disability services to work with clients in the Columbus DD community. Through our supported living services to our intermediate care facilities to our Behavior Support Unit, we here at Alvis are committed to improving the lives of those through behavior-based programs so they can become integrated with the community. Our intermediate care facility currently serves 15 individuals and is aimed at equipping clients with the skills and resources to live in the community in a less restrictive environment. This program is based on skill building and has a cognitive focus. Being able to change the thought processes of our clients is the first step to them being able to live a more free, positive lifestyle. From therapy to finance management to medication regulations, our Alvis professionals are there every step of the way. Our supported living program currently serves 44 individuals, and it gives those who are a part of the DD community the ability to live on their own while receiving guidance from our qualified team of DD professionals. We have a couple of individuals in these programs pursuing a college degree, while some are working to receive a GED.  

#DDAwareness19

Though these programs, we have seen our clients hit huge milestones; whether they are riding the bus alone, holding a steady job, or becoming involved in romantic relationships, we are so thankful that we could be a part of their journey to success. In the future, Sandy would love to have volunteers become involved with these programs to help Alvis clients expand their skillsets and add to their activity options. If you or anyone you know might be interested in volunteering to help our DD clients, please contact our Intern and Volunteer Manager at Margaret.Seguin@alvis180.org! 

To be a successful DD professional, Sandy says that those in the field should be dedicated to caring about their clients and be invested in their success. Since this is not the most “cookie cutter” situation, she says that you have to be empathetic to their struggles and be willing to learn how we can make it better for them and the community. The end goal of all DD professionals is to help their clients create a life that they truly want to live and will have fun living. It is extremely important that they invest in their future and that we find out what motivates them. Through a multitude of events like the Harmony Project, Special Olympics, Bingo Night, bible study, and excursions all over the country; our DD professionals are sure to help our clients celebrate their successes, no matter how big or small. They see our clients as family. As Sandy said, “We need to work ourselves out of the job, we want to serve others that need us and celebrate those that don’t  need us anymore”. We thank those like Sandy in this field for all that they do, and celebrate those in the DD community for their commitment to their mission towards a better life.  

The Harmony Project

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

Social Work Spotlight: Erin Michel

Erin Michel is our Continuous Quality Improvement Director at Alvis

To continue with our celebration of Social Work Month, we got the chance to learn more about the profession in action through a conversation with one of our own, Erin Michel. We are fortunate to have Erin as our Continuous Quality Improvement Director and her background in the field of social work has been a great complement to this position. Though she has now been working as a social worker for close to 8 years, it wasn’t always her dream job. When she was in high school, a career assessment projected social work as her best-fit profession and she laughed at the idea of her being in the field. Today, she now calls social work her home; it is not just a career, it is her life and she was born into the professional values held by those in the industry. 

The culmination of all of her personal experiences ultimately led her to her holding a position here at Alvis in a transition that she described as “synchronous”. Her main task is to mobilize managers around making data-driven decisions; she stated that, “In social work, making decisions from your gut is actually not what you want to do. We want to trust our instincts, but when it comes to client interventions, we want to be acting based on research and evidence proven to create results.” Erin is leading our organization in benchmarking effectiveness measures for our programs and in addition to her assessment of this internal data, her department also surveys clients; they inquire about clients’ experience with the programs and if they are making connections between their learning and its real-life application, creating a feedback loop that promotes our ability to provide person-centered care to them.

She has also seen the value of feedback and collaboration first hand as a board member of the Ohio Counselor Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist (CSWMFT) Board. Here, she created and constructed meetings as a combined board in addition to collaborating with other members to align them to a strategic plan while she served as Chair of the Board last year. She is currently working on making big changes in the area of training supervision, as they have recently been receiving  complex hardship requests: social workers looking to receive their license are having a hard time finding independent social workers to supervise them. She recognizes that this supervision is extremely important as it is the main mechanism for how their scope of the practice is formed and how they learn to be an independent practitioner. Since the board does not typically grant these requests, she is now making it her mission to create smart rules around training supervision before her term ends in October of 2020. Lastly, she also serves on the committee for the Association of Social Work Boards where she supports the organization’s annual education conference that reaches all jurisdictions of the US and Canada. Her involvement in these boards shows her dedication to the field since these licensing boards protect the public from harm.

After spending some time with Alvis, serving some of the most vulnerable and complex populations, she knows that being with the company brings high risks with high rewards. She acknowledges the commitment of her coworkers. Alvis has brought her together with some of the “most powerful social workers and counselors that she has ever met.” The main draw of the profession are these dedicated workers that are committed to the mission and know change is gradual. She says that those who come to Alvis will find resilience and excellent clinical judgement, in addition to an amazing new training platform. New this year, Alvis offers continuing education credits for social workers and in the future, counselors.

Erin Michel

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it be through direct support or through providing resources that find solutions to complex problems. Their dedication to bettering their community facilitates healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices that may not have been a possibility without this aid. Make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog this month to see some great interviews with social work leaders in the community offering direct insight on the who’s and what’s of the profession!

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 Social Work Summary

In our modern society, many people experience a plethora of hardships that can be difficult to tackle alone. These include, but are not limited to, poverty, homelessness, physical or mental illnesses, addiction, and/or developmental disabilities. Individuals who are facing these challenges need to find the right solutions for them. This is where social workers come in! Social workers are highly trained professionals whose goal is to help those in need conquer obstacles and lead them to an overall improved quality of life. There are over half a million social workers currently active across the nation and the number is quickly rising. In fact, social work is one of the fastest growing careers in the U.S. This profession requires knowledge of human behavior and development and how these can affect one’s interaction with social, economic, and behavioral institutions. Through their active role in a client’s life, they can provide counseling and crises management to those who need a helping hand in coping with the stressors of daily life. 

Social workers can be found in a multitude of venues, including right here in our Alvis community. From schools to hospitals to agencies serving those in need, social workers make up the largest group of mental health service providers in the nation. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are more clinically trained social workers than there are psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined! This surprising statistic has shed a new light on social work. It is now recognized as one of five core mental health professions by federal law. 

Social work requires a certain level of passion for helping people. Because of this, it is important that those in the profession are more dedicated to the outcome of their work rather than the income that it generates. The contributions they make to the lives of their clients are invaluable, and so being properly trained to provide these services is a must. Typically, social workers have at least a Bachelor’s degree paired with a significant number of fieldwork hours that have been supervised by a practicing social worker licensed for supervision. Those interested in the profession are all working towards a common goal, and do so within one of the specializations within the field. The National Association of Social Workers has identified 11 of these specializations: 1) administration/ supervision, 2) aging, 3) alcohol/ tobacco/ other drugs, 4) child welfare, 5) health, 6) children, adolescents, and young adults, 7) mental health, 8) private practice, 9) school social work, 10) social and economic justice and peace, and 11) social work and the courts. All of these areas can come with varying duties, and can then move into further concentrated categories that help those interested in the profession choose a specific career. Regardless of specialization, most social workers are required to interview clients; facilitate the development of action plans with ample support and assistance; find legal, housing, employment, and transpiration resources in the community that clients can utilize; and provide crisis interventions. 

Experts have identified five important characteristics of a social worker that are characteristic of success: 1) Patience, 2) Perceptiveness, 3) Dependability, 4) Empathy, and 5) Ability to set boundaries. Great time management skills and effective communication skills are essential components of a successful social worker. In a profession where heightened emotions are commonly present, it is extremely important for practicing social workers to be receptive in order to have an insightful, problem-solving conversation with their client. 

As it is for many of those in helping professions, it is extremely important for social workers to practice self-care. Maintaining personal health is not only essential for the well-being of the social worker, but for their clients as well. Stress and burnouts are likely in such a high intensity profession, so the best way to beat job fatigue is to care for one’s own health in the same manner a social worker cares for the health of their clients. 

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it is through direct support or by providing resources to find solutions to complex problems. Social workers are dedicated to bettering their community and facilitating healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices. Without social workers, many people could not resolve their challenges.

As we celebrate Social Work Month, make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog to see some great interviews with leaders in the social work community. They will offer direct insight on the specifics of the profession and in the life at Alvis! 

Meanwhile, check out our newest Social Worker Quiz and see how much you know: https://bit.ly/2UqKYnS

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.