The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 12, 2014

A great partnership

ATS Counseling-Focus Institute, DOC relationship perfect in recidivism battle

Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — For four years the Standing Tall Addiction Recovery program has been helping non-violent inmates with substance-abuse problems transition into a monitoring program or halfway house.

ATS Counseling-Focus Institute Executive Director Becky Kroeker said most of those in the program are in prison because of substance abuse problems.

“The goal is so they can discharge right after the class, either on a monitoring program or a halfway house,” she said. “They have the mindset for change because they are tested for this program.”

ATS Counseling-Focus Institute Assistant Director Brian Wright is a licensed professional counselor and licensed drug and alcohol counselor who works with the inmates in the program.

He said the program uses two curriculum: Thinking on Change and Cognitive Behavioral Prevention.

“We teach a whole gamut of skills, from A to Z, not just relapse prevention but the skills to cope with emotions, to deal with depression, how to talk to your mate, dealing with your wife or your kids,” Wright said. “A lot of those situation that would lead up to abuse. It’s a preventative measure.”

Wright said he meets with the groups, which typically average 12 inmates, for nine hours a week for 22 weeks.

“It’s an intensive out-patient program,” he said. “It’s about a total of 200 hours of treatment.”

He said progress is measured with testing.

“They take an assessment three times to show positive change throughout the class,” Wright said. “As they go through the class, if they’re not progressing as I feel that that should be I work with them on those areas.

“I want each one of them to pass and be successful. If some need more help than others I definitely try to do that.”

Inmates in the STAR program all are at Enid Community Corrections Center.

Kroeker said she and Wright work closely with Department of Corrections, and she sees them as community partners.

“I have meetings with them every week,” Wright said. “We have a really good relationship with Department of Corrections.”

Wright’s commitment to those in the program goes well beyond the 22-week course.

“I talk to a lot of them,” Wright said. “After they leave I give them all my contact information. It’s a little bit different than they experience anywhere else.”

Wright said he had a graduate from the program who was having a hard time and was contemplating suicide. The man contacted Wright, and Wright was able to get him the services and help he needed where he was.

“I try to go way past the minimum care, and I try to do whatever I can for these guys,” Wright said. “Just whatever is best for them.”

Kroeker said the program began when she was approached by DOC District Supervisor Mike Carr about obtaining services.

“A huge motivator for us, too, is the passion of the DOC staff,” she said. “These people are so passionate about helping these inmates reintegrate into the community, and they are so passionate about that.”

Kroeker said there is a misconception about funding programs to help inmates.

“I think there is a general perception by the community that funding for offenders is pointless and not the best use of funds,” she said. “If we can keep these guys from re-offending and as good neighbors in our community and as good citizens that benefits us all.”

John Lipsey asked, “Do you want them to have treatment or have then come out just like they went in?”

Lipsey said he works with Wright to ensure the right inmates are given the opportunities to work with the program and see the greatest amount of success.

“There are people who have worked their way to this level of security and appreciate being there and want to do things right. Those are the people we are trying to help,” he said. “Then we have people that are just assessed as this level of security and some of them don’t want to participate in the programs.

“With Brian’s help and my staff’s help we really try to put the funds on the right offenders.”

Lipsey said most of the inmates in the program are not used to having someone wanting them to succeed.

“I don’t know if they’ve ever had anyone invest in them or believe they can be somebody,” he said. “Just being in contact with Brian and his staff just really boosts their success rate.”

The first program began in March 2011 and overall has since had about 150 graduates, with two classes currently being held.

Lipsey said the last time the figures were run, the program had a 95 percent success rate and a 5 percent recidivism rate.

“There is no doubt we have good numbers,” he said. “We can’t brag on ATS enough for our guys, because it’s rare.

“Good providers are hard to find, and when you find them you want to keep them. You want to expose your offender to the best possible treatment you get for your dollar.”

Lipsey said there are a lot of providers but not many that care as much about the Department of Corrections population as ATS Counseling-Focus Institute.

“Brian works so good with our guys,” he said. “They’ve just done so much for us. They’re a great partner for us.

“I don’t see a better program in the state.”