Despite COVID-19, reentry participants continue positive steps

Even with social distancing in place, facilities sheltering at home, and in-person meetings cancelled, GEO Reentry Services programs in most locations are continuing to help participants stay clean and sober, make positive life choices and give back to the community.

In Reading, Pennsylvania, staff at the ADAPPT residential reentry center are engaging with participants in the time of COVID-19 through art therapy exercises that encourage self-expression. At ADAPPT, which provides inpatient and outpatient programming for drug and alcohol treatment, temporary housing and reentry services, participants have been painting cartoons, illustrations and positive, meaningful messages like “Stand Up to Your Addiction and Fight for Your Recovery” on walls throughout the facility.

“One of the things we enjoy most is being able to introduce new ways for reentrants to have a better understanding of their addiction,” said Dawn Martin, Assistant Facility Director at ADAPPT. “Art therapy offers an opportunity for sharing positive expression and establishes a path towards recovery.”

GEO Reentry alumni activities have also continued during the COVID-19 shutdown, albeit in a modified format. After completing GEO Reentry programs, many alumni volunteer as mentors and speakers to share their positive reentry experiences with current participants. Many also continue giving back to the local community, regularly participating in cleanups, fund drives and other charitable efforts.

Members of GEO Reentry’s New Jersey Alumni Services, wearing masks and gloves, recently made a series of food deliveries for the needy in their communities. Alumni Services functions as a local network of former GEO Reentry program participants that offers program alumni access to community resources, prosocial activities and the opportunity to mentor current participants.

Despite COVID-19, reentry participants continue positive steps
Despite COVID-19, reentry participants continue positive steps

On April 23, one alumni group distributed food in Newark and East Orange, and on May 4, another group distributed food in Plainfield at an event organized by the Mount Olive Baptist Church. Juan V. and Darius H., a COVID-19 survivor, were two alumni who volunteered to assist New Jersey Alumni Coordinator Arthur Townes in coordinating food distribution efforts.

“I have been given a second chance more than once, first through reentry treatment and second through recovering from the virus, so I value the message of giving back to others,” said Darius H. “I’m committed to passing on what has been given to me.”

New Jersey Alumni Services has also continued to hold its regularly scheduled meetings, albeit in an online format to enforce social distancing. During the remote meetings, alumni offer counsel and support to current and recently released reentrants, sharing information relevant to the reentry process and offering tips on where to get masks, food and emotional support.

Townes, who purchased a personal online account and set up the meeting schedule, said he knew it was essential to keep the weekly meetings going because former participants, along with the rest of the world, are facing trying times right now, both mentally and financially.

“Seeing the loss of jobs and alumni members being cut off from support networks made the need to stay connected apparent while also staying safe at home,” said Townes. “Our digital meetings have been a success, and we have had a great response from members.”

Although the COVID-19 lockdown has been prohibitive when it comes to gathering for group activities, GEO Reentry Services programs have been able to ensure continuity of service, both by modifying existing initiatives and activities and developing new opportunities for participant engagement.