In 1984, nine women in recovery began a peer support program. Their vision identified the demand for integrated behavioral healthcare for women with children who also needed housing.
“It’s difficult to get addiction treatment along with long-term housing arrangements,” explains Heidi Hess, Clinical Director of the Amethyst program. While Amethyst has been around for 34 years, it was only recently acquired by Alvis in 2017. This provided the Amethyst program with additional monetary and administrative support. In central Ohio, the Amethyst program has continued to be a uniquely supportive, holistic treatment center for women with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health disorders, often in conjunction with extensive trauma. A huge factor that makes the Amethyst program distinct from other treatment programs for women is the fact that it allows for women to live with their minor children, and it specifically works to reunite and strengthen families. According to Hess, there are only a handful of treatment centers that work to re-engage children with their mothers. Most residences at Amethyst have more than one bedroom, and the program provides services for women and their children.
The Amethyst program is one of Alvis’ two integrated behavioral healthcare programs. The other one, Recovery Choices, was created to provide behavioral healthcare services to individuals with justice involvement. Many Recovery Choices clients reside in Alvis’ residential reentry centers and rely on vans to transport them between the residential program and Recovery Choices. Women in Alvis’ residential reentry programs and in treatment at Recovery Choices may eventually transition to Amethyst to support their long term recovery.
The Amethyst program provides both an outpatient program and an intensive outpatient program (IOP). The main difference between these programs is the amount of time spent in treatment each week and the overall duration of the treatment, with IOP requiring more time in treatment. Recovery housing is an additional aspect of the Amethyst program model. The primary goal is always a lifetime of recovery.
Amethyst takes walk-ins, and women are able to go directly to the main treatment facility located at 455 E. Mound Street if they are seeking assistance. For contact information regarding intake, click here.
“Clients come to us from all sorts of places,” Hess explains. Many come from the judicial system. “We work very closely with the CATCH court and drug court in Franklin County.” Women who receive referrals from those courts as well as women going through the shelter system are eligible to receive treatment at the Amethyst program. Prior to arriving at the Amethyst program, many clients live with relatives or “couch surf,” unable to get on their feet due to their struggle with addiction. Others are referred by word of mouth.
Effective treatment is always rooted in highly individualized treatment plans and follows a typical process. After a woman first makes the initial contact with Amethyst, she is screened by an intake counselor and recommended for a level of care in accordance with her symptoms. Following the intake, a client is educated in terms of the criteria she meets for the treatment level
of care. If she meets IOP or outpatient criteria, she then attends an orientation, where she learns about all of the programming. After orientation, she’ll be engaged with her intake counselor as her first counselor at Amethyst, and join an entry level group with other clients who are also new to recovery.
Once into the treatment schedule, a client will spend her morning sessions focused on treatment for substance use disorder, while afternoon sessions address mental health treatment needs. There are also lunch groups and specialty treatment groups to address topics such as trauma and parenting. Women who have been at the Amethyst program for a longer period of time attend a group called “Moving Forward,” which focuses on the steps they need to take in order to move forward and live independently.
Outside of the typical day-to-day structure, however, there is even more room for individualized treatment. On Wednesdays, time is given for women to attend outside appointments. On Fridays, women in the Amethyst treatment program attend 9am community meetings, which include all members of the Amethyst community. This is a time to express gratitude, offer words of encouragement, and/or seek help and information from peers and staff. Following this, a 12-step meeting is chaired by one client. In addition to the 12-step meetings, women take turns finding leads and guest speakers to present. For example, Capital University Law School’s Legal Clinic has come to talk about expungement and owners of a therapy farm have visited. “It’s a whole host of experts out in the community in any given field,” says Hess. After that, clients are split into groups oriented around trauma and parenting.
The Amethyst program provides services for both women and children. The Family and Children’s Team are dedicated to helping moms manage their children and care for their needs so the children are happy and healthy. Clients’ school-age children are transported to afterschool programs, which are free of charge, so that mothers can focus on treatment. The SummerQuest program provides kids aged K-12 the opportunity to come to a specialized summer day camp at the Amethyst program and participate in fun and outdoor activities. This year, SummerQuest kicked off on May 31, 2019. Campers go to places like pools, COSI, and the Columbus Zoo. SummerQuest aligns with the summer break of Columbus City Schools, and there are additional camp-type programs for children that occur over other breaks in the school year.
SummerQuest, afterschool, and other youth programs not only provide beneficial experiences for children, but also help to ensure that mothers stay focused on their treatment. Case managers assist clients with any needs for appointments or linkages 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.
Services for children are individualized, so that Amethyst is able to be a one-stop shop for both children and moms. Treatment services are also available for pregnant women, regardless of their stage of pregnancy.
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.
Following the completion of aftercare, graduates of the Amethyst program can choose to stay in treatment for up to two additional years. “The odds of staying with us and being successfully discharged are very high,” says Hess.
Graduations from the program are special events for the graduates and their family members, as well as the current clients. This year, on June 28th, at the Columbus Foundation, 12 women will be graduating from the Amethyst program, a larger than usual class. Hess herself is very excited. “The most rewarding part of my position as Clinical Director at Amethyst is certainly watching a client moving from active addiction and fearfulness, and coming off of the street, into the light of willingness and wanting to recover, and wanting to be a real contributing member of their community and the society at large.” Seeing families reunite, teaching people how to live as adults in recovery, and helping others overcome addiction is, as Hess puts it, “My most joyful experience on a daily basis.”
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.