By CCIII Carrie Critchlow,
Division of Rehabilitative Programs
The Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP), Central California Women’s Facility, Options Recovery, and Amity Foundation collaborated to help 21 inmates graduate the Offender Mentor Certification Program (OMCP) earlier this year. The offenders are now certified drug and alcohol treatment counselors.
CCWF is one of the three training hubs for the OMCP. This is a unique program that runs yearly in which 24 inmates are selected through an intense and competitive application and interview process to become counselors and help others battling addiction.
Once selected the inmates undergo one year of intense training They start the process by being students for six month in the substance abuse program. They then move on to receive education in areas such as pharmacology, motivational interviewing, relapse prevention, psychopathology, law and ethics, denial management, criminal thinking, neuroscience of behavior and addiction, diversity and culture, early trauma, mindfulness, dysfunctional family systems and counseling theories.
The 24 inmates will then take the exam to become Drug and Alcohol Treatment Counselor Interns. Upon passing this exam the group will complete 2,080 internship hours by helping to co-facilitate cognitive behavioral therapy treatment groups such as Substance Use Disorder Treatment, Criminal Thinking, Anger Management, Family Relationships, Victim Impact, and Denial Management at the four CDCR women’s institutions.
Upon completion of their required internship hours, the offenders officially become certified as Drug and Alcohol Treatment Counselors. This valuable certification allows the inmates to have a career plan in place upon release. When they are released, Options Recovery Services will assist the offenders with job placement so they may utilize their certification.
The graduation began with a prayer from Native American Spiritual Leader Sierra Atkins. After the prayer there were many dignitaries and guest speakers including Chief Deputy Warden Michael Pallares, Director of DRP Brant Choate, Keynote Speaker and former Undersecretary of CDCR Kathy Jett, Associate Warden Michael Dotson, CoFounder of the OMCP program Sol Irving, Executive Director of Options Recovery Services Tom Gorham, Options Recovery Program Director Arnette Dunn, and DRP CCIII Carrie Critchlow.
Melissa Untalon-Espino provided the entertainment when she vibrantly sang a song she had written herself called, “You Never Give Up on Me,” to which the inmates ended the ceremony by singing the chorus to their families. The room was filled with smiles and some tears as everyone celebrated the achievement of these 21 women.
Upon completion of the ceremony the inmates were allowed to sit and visit with their families while staff served them lunch and cake in honor of their achievement. It was a day they all say they will never forget. Many of the graduates said it was the best day of their incarceration. The OMCP graduates expressed their appreciation for the support from their families and staff.