LOGAN, W.Va. – It was a picture-perfect day as a group of dignitaries, staff members, program participants and well-wishers joined together on the grounds of Logan Mingo Area Mental Health (LMAMH) at Three Mile Curve, W.Va. Thursday Oct. 22, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, commemorating the opening of the LMAMH Boundless program.
Boundless is a new Intensive Services Program created by LMAMH and funded by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), and, according to Donna Cooke, CEO of LMAMH, it was Governor Earl Ray Tomblin who first got behind the JRI initiative to address the issues of prison reform and reducing recidivism.
“Gov. Tomblin wanted to move toward more aggressive therapies and recovery treatments to rehabilitate individuals who have been released from prison into West Virginia communities, rather than leaving them to struggle on their own, which could include a return to substance misuse, addiction, crime, and prison,” she said.
In 2010, there were 6,681 prisoners living behind bars, 6,876 felony probations, and 1,796 parolees in the Mountain State, and the statistics—only perpetuated by a lethargic economy—continue to rise.
Boundless is designed specifically for individuals who are post-adjudicated felons with substance abuse issues, so this general criterion must be present in order to gain acceptance into the new program.
“The program promotes therapies that improve the quality of behavioral health and increases opportunities to recover for all consumers. Boundless strives to ensure that services meet the complex needs of individuals with co-occurring disorders,” Ms. Cooke said, adding that Boundless is the first program of its kind in the state, as the duration of the program is nine to 12 months and focuses specifically on the factors that increase the likelihood of a return to incarceration, as well as substance abuse issues.
It is projected that the program will ultimately have a positive impact in nearly every community within the county borders of Logan and Mingo.
“When felons come out of incarceration, they face a number of great obstacles,” said Durand Warren, Licensed Professional Counselor and program manager for Boundless. “For example, it can be extremely difficult just to find employment. Therefore, this person who has just been discharged, and cannot locate a job to support himself or his family, may be tempted to reenter a life of crime.”
Thus Boundless was created to move many of the barriers out of the way for those who have been disenfranchised and to prevent program participants from falling back into criminality or destructive behavior, and potentially reentering the prison population.
“It all comes down to effectual treatments, commitment to the program, and life changes,” Warren explained. “For instance, if a person returns to the same associates that he once sold drugs to or did dope with, he is going to soon fall back into old behaviors; so, it is our goal to provide treatment plans that also encourage new ways to approach life. If we can treat such negative thought processes through scientifically tested therapies, then we can build upon this foundation and begin the healing process for these individuals.”
He added that, as social learning theory attests, if a parent, guardian, or mentor is a drug abuser, alcoholic, or criminal, the child coming from such a circumstance will oftentimes fall into similar addictive or criminal behavior, and the cycle courses downward through the generations; so, a reshaping of priorities becomes a necessity to alter the progression of such self-destruction.
For Durand Warren, being involved with the program is more than just a job—for him there is a very personal connection.
“At one time I was a part of the problem; but I can tell you that being a part of the solution is far better than being a part of the problem. It’s not about a paycheck for me; it’s about reaching out to those who have a sense of hopelessness.”
In fact, nearly all the professionals in the Boundless program have had similar life experiences, making them uniquely qualified to treat and provide support to program participants.
“That gives us a buy-in, so to speak, from the time the individual walks in the front door of Logan Mingo, because we can say that we truly understand—we have lived it,” Warren said. “We’ve experienced life on the applicant’s side of things, and now we’re asking them to work with us toward a life that is far better. Our message is that it will be a challenge, but recovery and rehabilitation is indeed possible. A hopeful future and successful outcome can be theirs.”
In addition to treatment, LMAMH has the professional resources to fully assist the individual with an array of rehabilitative and behavioral capacities. “Besides our Boundless team, we have nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, and others ready to serve the specialized needs of our consumers. There is great hope for persons who know the feeling of hopelessness,” Warren added.
In addition to Warren, another important member of the team is Community Engagement Specialist Brad Davis, who, among other things, assists consumers with assessments and referrals, helping them make necessary connections for their transportation and housing needs, educational and retraining options, and local employment opportunities.
Warren and Davis collaborate with the consumer and other treatment providers to identify risk factors that may be contributing to continued substance dependency and criminal behaviors. Treatment plans are then developed once and in-depth assessment is completed, and treatment is specific to each individual’s particular needs.
The team also includes Gabriel Frye, who reinforces the counseling and training efforts, and Jennifer Gross, administrative assistant; also on staff are recovery coaches, Brett Collins and Jamie Jo Goodson—both who have overcome substance abuse issues and have been in sobriety for an extended period of time, serving, in a sense, as the “cheerleaders” that help encourage and undergird the consumer who is in recovery.
The coaches are approachable, even after hours, in a supportive role for accountability with the consumers.
According to Ms. Cooke, the need is great for a program of this nature in our region. “We are in the midst of an illegal drug epidemic. For the president of the United States to come to Charleston to discuss addiction speaks volumes to the enormity of the problem nationally, and particularly at the state level, and validates the need for a program such as Boundless,” she said.
As Gov. Tomblin stated, when the idea of Boundless was in its developmental stage: “We have developed a unified, common sense approach to prison overcrowding and public safety in West Virginia. Substance abuse treatment programs help reduce recidivism and help people overcome addiction as they transition back into society … and we are making justice reform a reality in West Virginia, and are seeing significant progress and early signs of success. Our message is clear: if you commit a crime in West Virginia, you will do your time, and we will take reasonable, responsible steps to rehabilitate you and give you every opportunity to become a productive member of society. We are investing in West Virginia’s future, and making our communities a safer place to call home,” he added.
A consumer referral into the LMAMH Boundless program may come through the court system, the West Virginia Parole Board, an attorney, a social worker, or a member of the clergy. Families can also refer a family member, or the individual can apply to be a part of the program. As long as the applicant fits into the program’s criteria—a post-adjudicated felon with a substance abuse issue—he or she can be deemed eligible. The program, held on-site at the Logan Center at LMAMH, is currently available to Logan and Mingo County residents, and transportation can be arranged, if needed. Treatment sessions are held during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, and are individualized so consumers can move through the program at their own pace. It is estimated that phase I will take approximately 12 – 16 weeks, with phase II approximately three to six months, and phase III being a continuum of care where consumers have access to services and are then tracked for three years to provide data of outcomes. Typical program completion is estimated at six to 12 months.
Ms. Cooke emphasized that there is funding available to qualified participants to cover the costs of treatment, stating, “Please don’t let your lack of insurance or limited coverage prevent you from seeking treatment through Boundless or other programs and services we offer. Reach out to us and let us assist you in accessing the services you need.”
For additional information on the LMAMH Boundless program, or to apply directly to the program, contact LMAMH, Inc., at 174 LMAMH Center Road, Logan, WV 25601; or call Jennifer Gross, at 304-792-7130, Extension 1048.