Alvis Volunteer Spotlight: Rosemarie Geahart

As we continue celebrating National Volunteer Month, we did a series of Q&A sessions with Alvis volunteers. Read on..

Why Alvis? 

My introduction to Alvis was through a sewing group I belonged to about 18 years ago.  One of the women in the sewing group was familiar with Alvis and through her we learned that the ladies of Alvis could use hats and scarves so we made 35-40 sets of hats and scarves for several Christmases. Once our group disbanded, I continued to support Alvis via monetary contributions through work.

I retired in January 2016 and once I had settled in to retirement, I began looking for a way to give time as well as money. I was present at the Martha meeting in 2018 when Alvis gave their presentation. I had previously had contact with Paige so I reintroduced myself to her and asked about volunteer opportunities. I filled out the application, was background checked and here I am.

What is the impact you can make? 

Sewing has been a hobby of mine since I was very young and over the years it has given me a sense of accomplishment as I completed projects. I have learned many skills over the years, not only actual sewing techniques but also intangible skills like problem solving, patience, seeing a project through to the end and the self-confidence to succeed at something. My hope is that through the crafting classes, the ladies can develop a sense of accomplishment in the completion of a project that they can then take and apply to bigger projects or other areas of their lives.

Importance of volunteer work for the community? 

We are all in this world together. Sometimes someone needs a helping hand to give him/her the opportunity to succeed.

Any memorable moment you experienced while working as a volunteer at Alvis that you could share?

My favorite part of the crafting class is seeing how creative the ladies are. Basically, I just provide the raw materials and some basic instructions. They have created some of the most beautiful necklaces, pins, jewelry bags and hats/scarves. The joy I see in their faces when they have created something beautiful for themselves or a loved one just reinforces that I am in the right place.

Any message you want to send to donors? clients? staff? community?

Working with the ladies of Alvis has been a very rewarding and wonderful learning experience for me. I would recommend volunteering to those who might be interested in sharing their expertise or gifts in helping support someone on their path forward.

Thank you Rosemarie! We appreciate all you do for Alvis and the community as a whole!

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

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.