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Intervention project aims to open doors upon re-entry

December 13, 2016
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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For individuals with histories of substance use disorders and incarceration who are re-entering society, a new intervention program launching in Newark, N.J., could be the cornerstone for rebuilding their lives.

Community Wise, a community-based research collaboration, has launched an intervention to reduce substance use in marginalized communities through a program that can be delivered for less than $250 per participant.

Community Wise was created by the Newark Community Collaborative Board (NCCB), and the intervention will be supported by a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) awarded to Liliane Windsor, PhD, MSW, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Social Work and Ellen Benoit, PhD, at National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI). The University of Michigan School of Social Work is also a partner in the program.

The intervention will start at Integrity House, a substance abuse treatment center in Newark, in January.

“We work with high-risk communities here in Newark, and it’s our hope that this project is going to reveal data that is going to support strategies that will help individuals enter sobriety and sustain their recovery, which is a critical building block to putting their lives back together,” Robert Budsock, Integrity House president and CEO, tells Addiction Professional.

In the program, 528 Essex County (N.J.) men over the age of 18 who have been released from prison within the past four years will be distributed into 16 experimental conditions—all the possible combinations of the following components, both under the direction of a licensed facilitator and a peer facilitator:

  • Critical dialogue: Implemented in a group discussion context
  • Quality of Life Wheel: Individual goal development, implementation and evaluation
  • Capacity-Building Projects: Addressing community health problems with the support of the NCCB and community partners

“Normally you don’t have that many conditions,” Windsor says. “This is a new approach we’ll be utilizing so we can test which of the intervention components seem to be the most effective ones, then come up with different combinations of these components to see if we can deliver the intervention for less than $250 per individual. The reasoning there is thinking about sustainability and how the intervention can survive after the project is over so that it can be feasibly incorporated into agencies.”

One of the program’s notable components to be evaluated will be facilitator training—examining whether peers can deliver the intervention as effectively as licensed clinicians. Windsor says the program’s administrators are being cautious on this front until they can gain a better feel for the level of training and monitoring it will require. Still, if it is successful, it could create needed career opportunities, Windsor says.

“The idea there is that if we can get peers who effectively deliver the intervention, that would be extremely significant,” Windsor says. “It would create new job opportunities for this population, a very marginalized group.”

By partnering with Integrity House, Windsor says the aim is to take a fiscally responsible approach to creating a program that can perform better in actual treatment center conditions.

“What often happens is a lot of tax dollars are spent on interventions that work really well in the laboratory, but when you try to bring them into agencies in the community, they lose a lot of their effectiveness,” she says. “You have to adapt and change these interventions so they can work in the real world. One of the main benefits of this collaboration is that we are bringing the research lab into the community so we can create the intervention with the needs of the real world in mind to make it as successful as it can be, saving a lot of tax dollar money, hopefully.”