Salvation Army wins grant to escalate addiction fight
The Salvation Army’s red kettles collect quarters and dollars that may not look like they’d add up to much.
But in the face of Alaska’s drug epidemic, those for whom the bells toll include people in treatment.
Because the Salvation Army has a track record for casting a wide social safety net and delivering addiction treatment programs, it was a logical step to award an Alaska Department of Corrections contract for treatment programs at two of the state’s largest prisons to the Salvation Army.
The prisons are the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, a women’s prison, and the Goose Creek Correctional Center in Point MacKenzie.
The announcement on Dec. 7 means a $10-million, four-year contract was awarded to the Salvation Army by the Alaska DOC. Treatment will be aimed at a total prison population of 2,000 people in its first year, said Autumn Vea, the DOC’s criminal justice planner for substance abuse treatment.
The announcement involves a partnership between DOC and the Salvation Army to provide evidence-based substance abuse treatment services. Another 14 substance abuse counselors and two dual diagnosis behavioral counselors will be added to the Salvation Army’s staff to fulfill the contract.
“The contract is very specific,” said Pat Ventgen, the Salvation Army’s program administrator. “It specifies a pre-selected curriculum for use. All are evidence-based, which means they have research behind them that they are effective.”
Commissioner Dean Williams talked about the epidemic proportions of Alaska’s current plight while making the announcement.
“As a state, we continue to fight high rates of alcoholism and drug abuse — issues that have plagued our communities. Drug and alcohol addiction drives the crime rate, and devastates families. Our inmate population reflects these tragic facts,” he said.
Alaska’s dismal record of prisoner deaths — 25 inmates died in an 18-month period in 2014-15 — has caused the DOC to re-examine the way it handles inmates suffering drug withdrawals and other health conditions related to their addictions.
Williams was the author of the report that analyzed the 25 deaths for the DOC and concluded there were errors on the part of prison officials in several of the deaths. Gov. Bill Walker called the report’s findings “disturbing” in his announcement Jan. 28, 2016, after he had fired former DOC Commissioner Ron Taylor. Williams was named to replace him.
In addition to other named problems, state prisons and jails lost their primary provider for treatment programs in early 2015. Akeela Inc., bowed out of its contract, leaving DOC scrambling.
At the tail end of 2017, they are just now launching a nationally tested treatment program.
Prior to issuing a new request for proposal, or RFP, to gain a new treatment contractor, DOC filled in using professional staff to help offenders complete treatment before being discharged. DOC also split up the RFP by regions so the “whole prison system for treatment doesn’t crash if you lose a contractor,” Vea said.
For the Anvil Jail in Nome, the Norton Sound Health Corp., gained a $300,000 contract to provide treatment. In Kenai, the Cook Inlet Tribal Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse was awarded a $600,000 contract for Wildwood Correctional Center.
Elsewhere in the state, DOC pays fees-for-services but does not contract out treatment, Vea said.
After granting the contracts to the Salvation Army for the two largest prisons, the DOC is starting over implementing a new program for all 12 prisons.
DOC also is training guards and other staff in the new treatment programs, Vea said. Therapeutic communities will be segregated from the general prison population at Hiland and Goose Creek, which will require staff training about what this kind of therapy “communities” entails.
“We’re retraining everyone,” Vea said. “Especially those that work in the segregated housing unit where inmates get the support of other offenders in that same level of care.”
The DOC was granted $1 million as part of the 2016 criminal justice reform under Senate Bill 91. Vea said the $1 million went toward the state contract with the Salvation Army to help fund the $2.5 million allotted for this year. The total budget for substance abuse is $5.572.9 million.
So far, no money was appropriated after the opioid epidemic was declared by Walker or President Donald Trump, Vea said. But new procedures aimed at those who suffered opioid addictions started immediately in the prisons in March after the governor’s declaration, she said.
The Salvation Army contract calls for starting with about 600 women inmates at Hiland Mountain and 1,400 male inmates at Goose Creek. The number of inmates targeted in this first round of treatment ranges from an intensive curriculum aimed at about 364 inmates per year at Goose Creek to another 27 people who are under dual diagnosis in what’s called the Charlie Pod.
About 200 to 400 can be accommodated in a program aimed at opioid addictions, Vea said.
At Hiland, the Salvation Army will be treating women segregated into a therapeutic community.
“Prison is a good place to receive treatment. They aren’t as distracted, though there are times when they will need to mingle with the general prison population,” she said.
The Salvation Army’s Clitheroe Center in Anchorage opened in 1976. Today the facility has 42 beds in a residential program that provided treatment to 221 clients in 2016 and 294 in 2017. The outpatient program treats another 30 to 40 people per year.
Clitheroe operates on a $3 million annual grant from the Department of Health and Social Services, $300,000 from insurance and Medicaid, $150,000 from miscellaneous grants, and $225,000 in cash fundraising. Another $425,000 comes from in-kind donations.
Of the 294 clients receiving help in 2016, 17 percent had opioid dependence as the primary diagnosis, Salvation Army Communication Director Robert DeBerry said. Another 30 percent had opioid dependence as a secondary diagnosis.
The Clitheroe Center has long experience in treatment methods, but in administering this new prison program, it will use the pre-selected DOC curriculum.
Called “A New Direction,” it was developed by the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The individual programs are gender specific.
They all fit in the category “cognitive behavioral therapy,” Ventgen said, which stresses the use of interventions and techniques focused on thinking patterns. As thinking patterns change, so does behavior.
“We bring to the table our emphasis that we reach out to each individual as an individual and integrate them into our network of support,” Ventgen said. “Clitheroe is based in Anchorage but we have offices throughout the state. We can be there to help them in their recovery and other difficult issues as they reenter society, with housing, food, family support.”
The Salvation Army oversees emergency housing for families as one of its most expensive programs. It transitioned 109 families to permanent housing in 2016 after a limited 90-day stay. The cost for that program is $3,700 per individual to stay at McKinnell House, which has 16 units and a capacity of 75 beds.
The ability to continue on helping represents a “warm handoff” from prison to a stable life, he said. “People in recovery need a great deal of support.”
Back to the role the Red Kettles serve in the Salvation Army’s safety net: this year’s goal is $700,000, which would put it slightly better than the collection from 2016, DeBerry said.
At the annual Season of Giving Luncheon, which is the Red Kettle kick off, they raised $164,000.
“That was a fantastic start to the season,” DeBerry said.
Along with quarters and dollar bills, mystery gifts are slipped into Red Kettles ranging from “gold coins and diamonds to large cash donations and even wedding rings,” DeBerry said.
The money goes to operational funds for all of the Salvation Army’s programs, including Clitheroe Center.
“That way no one is turned away because they can’t pay,”DeBerry said.
Donations go a long way because 82 cents on the dollar is put into programs, not administration, he added.
Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected].