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Carolanne Wilson

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, July 20, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

CARITAS to open recovery program for women

By Carolanne Wilson, VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – CARITAS, a nonprofit that strives to end homelessness, plans to start a long-term recovery program for women in Richmond after the success of its program for men, The Healing Place. The women’s facility is tentatively scheduled to open in late 2017 or early 2018.

In the midst of what federal and state officials call an opioid epidemic, the new program will allow CARITAS to offer residential treatment for addiction to Richmond-area women for the first time.

Since 2005, The Healing Place for men – a 214-bed residential recovery facility in Southside Richmond – has a success rate of 70 percent of graduates staying sober for more than one year and becoming taxpaying citizens, according to CARITAS.

“In the past, we’ve had to send women to Louisville or Raleigh from Richmond for help. And when they got on their feet, they contributed to those communities and economies,” says CARITAS onsite volunteer coordinator Todd Weatherless. “Now they will be able to get that help here locally and contribute to the communities and local economy they come from.”

The Healing Place is free to Richmond-area residents. For people from out the area, the cost remains minimal especially in comparison with private rehabilitation facilities and detox centers.

Funded through taxes and contributions, a bed at The Healing Place costs $7,200 per year, while the alternative for many clients – imprisonment – can cost taxpayers up to $45,000 a year. A short-term private treatment program can cost $50,000.

“One of the benefits we will see by having a program locally is that we will be returning functional members of society back into the Richmond community,” says Weatherless, himself an alumnus of the Healing Place.

Those who have graduated from the program and those who work there believes the structure of the program, a self-paced, peer-led recovery model, goes beyond just “sobering up.” The facility strives to give dignity back to those who have fallen most vulnerable to addiction.

“They try to stretch and pull you … it’s behavioral modification,” says James, a 2014 graduate of The Healing Place. (Because he is in recovery, CNS is using only James’ first name.) “It’s just not telling you, ‘Don’t drink, don’t get high.’ It’s saying, ‘How do we change your behavior to a point where you’re able to be a productive member of society?’”

James says the Healing Place has taught him more than just how to stay sober, especially with help from continuation programs like CARITAS Works Workforce Development. He benefited from courses ranging from using computers to practicing compassion during his time there.

“At the Healing Place, every single rule, every single time they have you get up, everything is thought out, and there is a reason behind it – and that’s why it is so successful,” James said.

He credits a lot of his achievements to his time in the facility. He has since gone on to work in Richmond-area real estate.

The Healing Place model exists in other cities. Louisville, Kentucky, for example, has a facility for men and a separate facility for women – just as CARITAS hopes to create in Richmond.

Louisville has found that the programs have been equally successful for both men and women. The structure is the same, but women are given, over time, the option to interact with their children at the facility.

Heather Gibson, who oversees all The Healing Place programs in Kentucky, stresses that healthy relationships and confidence are issues that may need more attention for women clients than male ones. As a result, the process for women may take a little longer.

“Men and women are different in a certain way, and they need recovery in a little bit of a different way,” Gibson says. “When women enter our type of recovery process, they’ve probably been out a little bit longer than men, a little more beat up than men, and have a lot of trauma in their background that can’t be ignored.”

The general structure of The Healing Place is a five-phase program, where certain privileges are granted further along each phase. Each phase is self-paced, but clients are held accountable by their peers.

CARITAS is waiting for its Southside building to qualify for both historic and new market tax credits to start renovations. With architectural plans completed, the new CARITAS center will house not only the women’s program but also a furniture bank, a 47-unit sober living complex, a community laundromat and other projects.

More about CARITAS and The Healing Place

CARITAS

Website: https://caritasva.org/

Phone: 804-358-0964

Email: info@caritasva.org

The Healing Place

Website: https://caritasva.org/programs/healing-place/

Address: 700 Dinwiddie Ave., Richmond, VA 23224

Phone: 804-358-0964, ext. 114; or 804-230-1217

Email: thehealingplace@caritasva.org

Schools to help curb human trafficking

By Carolanne Wilson, VCU Capital News Service

Virginia ranked 15th in the United States for the most reported cases of human trafficking in 2016. Last year, the state reported 148 cases with 59 involving minors, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

In response to the issue, Virginia is enacting a new law to the decrease crimes of this nature and help its youngest victims.

House Bill 2282, which will take effect July 1, requires the Virginia Board of Education to develop guidelines for training school counselors, school nurses and other relevant school staff on the prevention of trafficking of children.

Groups fighting human trafficking applauded the move. Creating awareness through education is a tactic many of these advocates have found effective in combating trafficking.

“We are grateful for any new legislation that helps this issue,” said Patrick McKenna, co-founder of the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative. “Having the Department of Education require it helps push the effort forward.”

Virginia is home to several nonprofits that fight human trafficking. Many of these groups and individuals were instrumental in persuading the General Assembly to adopt the legislation. McKenna, an attorney, worked with Del. James Leftwich of Chesapeake to draft the bill.

“We are willing to help with extra manpower and extra information for no cost,” said McKenna, whose group works to prevent human trafficking and to identify and assist victims in Hampton Roads.

HB 2282 is essentially an extension of a 2012 law, Senate Bill 259. That legislationrequired the state Board of Education, with assistance from the Department of Social Services, to provide awareness and training materials for local school division staff on human trafficking. The new law specifies which school professionals must be trained and creates an actual training program, not just materials.

HB 2282 is only a small step, however. McKenna noted that the bill does not set a timeframe for developing the guidelines or explain what the training must cover.

“How the law is implemented is just as important as it being passed,” said Jessica Willis, executive director of the Richmond Justice Initiative, a group related to McKenna’s.

The Richmond Justice Initiative’s national award-winning program, the Prevention Project, has helped over 10,000 youths nationwide since its start in 2012. The project is taught in seven states and has grown from 18 to 60 schools in the past two years. It helps young people recognize and resist the lures of trafficking and develop character and leadership skills.

“The power of education is what can prevent trafficking,” Willis said. “Traffickers prey on those that don’t know.”

Willis hopes schools sincerely follow the guidelines set by the Virginia Board of Education – and not just go through the motions.

“Education with this bill has to be taken with all seriousness. It can either save lives or exacerbate the issue, if not,” Willis said.

Like the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative, Willis said her group is “happy to help” the Board of Education implement HB 2282. She described the Prevention Project’s curriculum as “thorough and schedule-friendly for busy faculty.” The curriculum was developed by survivors, advocates, law enforcement and educators.

Statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline show why the Prevention Project focuses on students. Nationwide, the number of cases against minors has doubled within last four years. In the U.S., 1,016 cases involving minors were reported in 2012 and 2,387 last year.

In Virginia, there was a 168 percent increase in child trafficking cases over the four-year span. There were 22 reports involving minors in 2012 but 59 in 2016.

Victims of trafficking are most commonly forced into sex services. According to the hotline, of the 148 total cases of human trafficking in Virginia last year, over 70 percent fell into that category.

On the Web

For more information on human trafficking, visit:

·         National Human Trafficking Hotline Website

·         The Prevention Project

·         Virginia Beach Justice Initiative Website

·         Richmond Justice Initiative Website

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