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January 2008 Issue

Donna Wynn, a 2006 Alternative Interventions for Women graduate, now works part time for the program.
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'We Do Recover' Therapy Group Helps Local Women Rebound From Troubled Pasts

Published January 2008

“Name and addiction?” That’s how the “We Do Recover” group begins its biweekly meeting.

But the session quickly becomes so much more. It’s a chance to talk about what triggers the desire to drink or use drugs again, a forum for discussing the pros and cons of psychiatric medications, and an opportunity to share news about family, new homes and academic achievements.

The dozen or so recovering women who meet every other week all graduated from Alternative Interventions for Women, also called AIW. Developed by Central Clinic, an outpatient mental health clinic and training affiliate for UC’s psychiatry department, AIW serves women with co-occurring addiction and mental health issues complicated by legal troubles.

Through the program, women who might otherwise end up in jail instead receive an opportunity for a second chance.

Judges refer women into the AIW program where, for six hours each day, five days a week, they attend sessions on a wide range of topics, including anger management, medications, substance abuse, relapse prevention, trauma and women’s issues, among others.

Participants are screened for drugs at random and get help if they relapse. They receive counseling and, in some cases, medication for mental illness.

At any given time, AIW treats about 30 women. Program director Bobbye Gregory says space is at a premium and hopes that the success of the six-year-old program will encourage people to continue to provide support.

“We’ve tracked recovery of AIW graduates and have found that three years after completing treatment, less than 30 percent go on to reoffend,” says Gregory.

A 70 percent success rate after three years, Gregory says, is a tremendous achievement for a recovery program like AIW.

In fact, the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently honored AIW with an award for its substance abuse and recovery support services.

“Women with the dual problems of mental illness and substance abuse are among the highest risk for failure in treatment programs,” says Walter Smitson, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UC and director of Central Clinic.

He attributes the program’s impressive results to the qualified and dedicated female staff who implement practices that research has proven to be effective.

Donna Wynn is just one of AIW’s success stories. She entered the program in 2005 after years of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder, Wynn graduated from AIW the following year and now works at the program’s Court Clinic headquarters in downtown Cincinnati. She serves as a recovery coach for other women with similar experiences.

At a recent “We Do Recover” meeting, the 45-year-old married grandmother reported that her recovery is going well, she loves her job and has few complaints.

For others at the meeting, the update is more complex. Struggles to find housing and urges to use drugs continue to plague many of the women, but each ends their own story expressing her gratitude for the group and the program’s recovery tools.

For more program information, call (513) 651-9300.

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