BY KATIE MATTESON
“I like life now,” Kelly Miller said.
The 49-year-old recovering from a substance abuse disorder has been in the Women of Worth (WOW) program since Feb. 1 and has gained a fresh outlook on life.
It’s the sixth alcohol and drug treatment program she’s gotten into since she started using heroin and methamphetamines in her 30s. And this is the first one where she truly feels supported in her recovery and is getting help beyond individual and group counseling.
“They actually take time to listen and help me deal with the trauma, guilt and shame that I’ve been through” Miller said, citing growing up with alcoholism, sexual abuse, the death of her husband from health problems related to drug abuse, giving up custody of her 9-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter after she was incarcerated, suffering two heart attacks and lung removal caused by her drug abuse, as well as homelessness.
“I was feeling hopeless when the drug court referred me to this program, “ Miller said. “But I had to try.”
WOW lead therapist Monique Woods explained that the trauma-focused treatment process considers all the things that have happened in each patient’s life.
“We treat the whole person,” Woods said.
So in addition to individual and group therapy, patients receive individual case management, artistic healing, yoga, women’s health education and financial literacy training. There’s also nurturing and parenting programs, as well as mother-child therapy.
Patients participate in six weeks of intensive outpatient treatment followed by another 12 weeks of continuing care. There’s also an alumni group called Sisters Keeping It Real Together (SKIRT).
“WOW is a forever program if they choose,” Program Manager Claudia Van Koningsveld said.
This fall the program celebrates its fifth anniversary and treatment of it 200th patient.
The program’s impact has been captured through ongoing evaluations completed by the Center for Urban Population Health, a partnership of the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin; Aurora Healthcare; and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.
According to the evaluation team’s data, 87 percent of WOW clients reported a history of interpersonal trauma at intake. Interpersonal trauma occurs when there is neglect or sexual and/or physical abuse inflicted by someone relied upon for survival, such as parents, partners or caregivers.
At the completion of the program, 61 percent of WOW clients had experienced a reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a reduction of addiction severity – with 71 percent reporting total abstinence from substance abuse.
Sixty-one percent of WOW clients completed their courses of treatment, exceeding the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Metric of 51 percent and a similar study (42 percent).
The 15 babies of WOW moms (100 percent) have been born drug free since the program’s inception.
The WOW program was conceptualized and started in 2011 by a group of volunteers under the leadership of Jane Witt through the Racine Interfaith Coalition in response to a community assessment which identified the need for gender-specific substance abuse treatment.
Since then, the WOW program has been supported by the Wisconsin Partnership Program, first with a demonstration award (2012-2013) and then an implementation grant (2014-2017). Leveraging those initial investments, WOW has developed into a self-sustaining program housed by Ascension All Saints, embedded its Counseling Center located at the Wisconsin Avenue campus.
The All Saints Hospital Foundation has served as WOW’s fiscal agent since 2017.
And while insurance, primarily Medicaid, covers the clinical components of the program, WOW relies on grant support and private donations to pay for the non-reimbursable services, such as artistic healing, yoga, women’s health education, financial literacy and parenting classes.
Woods explained that her clients learn the “joy of simple things” during their treatment in the WOW program. Things like Taco Tuesday, art class and getting to pick out scented lotion or nail polish from the rewards cart can make a big difference to women who are just learning how to practice self care.
Van Koningsveld said the women really appreciate donated items such as canvas totes, art supplies, wallets, meditation books, journals, planners, full size hygiene items, gas cards, laundry detergent, fabric softener, diapers, school supplies, receiving blankets, Onesies and Pack ’n Play cribs.
Monetary donations can be made to the Women of Worth ℅ Ascension All Saints Hospital Foundation, 3805 Spring St., Suite 220, Racine, WI 53403.
For more information, call (262) 687-2493 or email email@example.com.