National Make A Difference Day

The mantra “pay it forward” has been gaining attention as movements such as random acts of kindness are popping up across the nation. But today, we want to focus on one man who is working to turn his life around and make a difference for someone else. This man is a convicted murderer. 

Windell Drake’s father died when he was young and his mother, grief-stricken, was in and out of mental health institutions. Drake says that when his parents disappeared from his life, so too did all form of discipline. He got involved in minor criminal activity, but he says he never felt totally settled in the lifestyle he was building. 

He was sent to a juvenile facility at the age of 16, where he noticed that the other guys in the facility were enjoyed and embraced their lives in criminal activity. “That was the beginning,” he says with tears in his eyes. “That was the beginning of my destruction.”

“I was in a world of trouble,” Drake says of the next few years when he ended up serving nearly two years as a juvenile after an armed robbery where one of the co-defendants was shot in the head. He says at one point, he would have denied being there that day because he didn’t go inside. But now he recognizes “I was just as much responsible for it as any of them were.” But still, the time he spent in jail was a “badge of honor” to so many of the people in his life and, when he came home, he was asked to be part of another robbery. He agreed. 

“At that point in my life,” he explains, “I probably didn’t even realize that I had an inner-self. Not to mention the string of victims that I left in the wake.”

On the day he would pull that trigger, he says he never planned to use the gun. But the owner was not willing to stand by and be robbed. The owner pulled out a pool stick and Drake panicked. Before he realized what he’d done, he pulled the trigger that would kill an innocent man. But Drake says his intentions on that day do not matter. He never meant to hurt anyone, but he did. “It does no good to the person that I shot nor does it do any good to the grieving hearts of his remaining loved ones who know that their loved one was struck down for nothing. It does them no good.”

After nearly half a century of justice system involvement, Drake says, “it was necessary.” He believes it was “preordained from the Creator for me to go through the experiences I went through in order to be the person that I am.”

And who is that person? A man who has accepted his guilt, accepted his punishment, and accepted his ability to change. Drake believes that people have the ability to turn their lives around and that humans are not the sum of where they came from. “For the rest of my life I will be trying to do everything in my power to help an individual live a little bit better than what they’re living now.”

Drake’s goal is to be part of a reentry program like the one he completed at Alvis. “I would like to continue to work in reentry in a formal type of way. I would like somebody to take a look at me, look at my credentials, look at my experiences… and see if I am who I say I am.”

He sites the 40% recidivism rate in Ohio as being a primary concern as well as the demographic of kids who are growing up in the same situation he did. His goal to be part of reentry comes from his experience with Alvis

“I had nowhere else to go when I was on parole,” he explains. But Mr. Ross, the former director of Alvis, told him, “we are going to give you all the opportunity in the world to succeed and see what you do with it.”

Programs such as Touch have reached him in life-changing ways, and Drake jokes his praise is so strong, “they will have to pay me for a commercial.”

But Drake has seen what a true support system can do for a person. “CPT, Primary Care Solutions Agency, the Nehemiah House, Refuge—organizations and groups like this, people like this, they helped me to want to do the right thing by showing that ‘I believe you can make it.’”

After seeing the difference such programs have made in the lives of others, Drake believes this is his calling. “I want to be able to make a significant influence,” he says. “What you do for somebody else can be grand if you are truly helping them move from one point to another. And that’s what I try to live by.”

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.

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons Alvis Blog Post

Today, July 30th, is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Human trafficking is the illegal transporting of women, men, and children, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sex. It’s a modern-day form of slavery.

The following paragraph consists of information from the United Nations:

The number of convicted traffickers and reported victims is rising, implying that efforts to combat human trafficking and human trafficking itself are both on the rise. Trafficking occurs worldwide, and 58% of victims are trafficked within their own country. Women and girls account for the majority of sex trafficking victims, and make up 35% of those trafficked for forced labor. In response to these staggering numbers, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and a chief provision of the plan allows for victims to receive assistance through grants to specialized NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Another recently-instated New York Declaration, produced at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, includes three concrete actions against human trafficking adopted by the countries in the Declaration.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime created this international day as a means to evoke government action, and stress the responsibility governments have in engaging with this world crisis. According to Human Rights First, approximately 24.9 million people are current victims of human trafficking, and 25% are children. The majority of trafficked persons (64%) are exploited for forced labor, and of those 16 million people, the highest percentage work in construction, manufacturing, mining, or hospitality. 4.8 million people (19% of victims) are estimated to be undergoing sexual exploitation, and the rest are exploited by state-imposed labor. Prosecutions regarding human trafficking are also exceedingly low in comparison to the estimated crimes.

Alvis stands with survivors and current victims of human trafficking. A percentage of our clients are survivors of human trafficking, and we house some of them in our CHAT House, which is specifically designated to provide reentry services for women who have been caught in the system of human trafficking. There are also a portion of human trafficking survivors enrolled in our Amethyst program. Many of these women are graduates of the CATCH Court, which is a creation of Judge Paul Herbert that focuses on rehabilitation and reentry services for women trafficking survivors.

CATCH Court, contrary to a regular court session, does not focus on sentencing, but rather, ensuring trauma-informed, rehabilitative care, so that survivors of sex trafficking are able to escape that damaging way of life. In turn, they receive support and resources so that they are empowered to take life back into their own hands. Alvis commends the CATCH Court for being an effective form of governmental intervention against human trafficking.

We call for increased government action against human trafficking nationwide and worldwide, while also standing with victims and survivors.

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: 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.

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

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.