OGDEN — Kaycee Scott lost her kids, her house and her car.
When she ended up in jail on a felony drug charge, her circumstances were worse than ever, but it was only the latest thread of a life pattern.
“When you get in jail you have a certain mindset, and when you get out of jail and you haven’t done anything to change, that mindset is still going to be there,” she said.
Meaning there probably will be more trouble again on the outside.
But then a friend in the Weber County Jail told her about the Women’s Improvement Network, a Weber Human Services program that is drawing attention as a potential highly effective model for treating substance abuse patients to keep them from returning to jail.
She signed up, got out of jail, graduated from the WIN program and put her life on an upward path. She recently completed court probation on the drug charge.
“It did wonders for me because I am still clean, I have had the same job for a year and four months and I make more than I ever have in my entire life,” Scott said. “I have custody of my kids back, I have a car, I go to church and I get to be a mom to my kids.”
Weber Human Services officials are proud of the WIN program’s success, pointing to a validating research study commissioned with funds from the state’s 2015 Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
Darin Carver, the agency’s associate clinical director, said the study showed 12% of WIN graduates returned to offending within six months, compared to 30% of similarly situated female offenders.
“We’re not as interested in the study as we are in that one person who now is less likely to reoffend and is capable of surviving and functioning in the community without a substance abuse problem,” Carver said. “That’s what drives this.”
In WIN’s three years of existence, about 300 women from Weber and Morgan counties have graduated.
Patients are referred to Weber Human Services by state Adult Probation and Parole. When the state JRI funds were coming available, the two entities identified the need for a program designed for non-violent female offenders classified as at high risk to commit repeat substance abuse offenses.
“We felt like this would be a daunting group,” Carver said, partly because in general they had been underserved in other programs. Therapies would have to target a range of risks and needs, such as substance abuse treatment, mental health and past traumas.
Jed Burton, Weber Human Services’ clinical director, said the agency is fervent that WIN and other programs they offer include two vital systemic components.
“First, you’ve got to use interventions or treatments that have already been proven to work,” commonly known as evidence-based treatments, Carver said.
But Weber Human Services also applies rigorous follow-up to enforce adherence by clinicians.
“A lot of people say, ‘We provide evidence-based practices,’ but they don’t have the fidelity measures in place to ensure that they’re doing it correctly,” Burton said. “So it’s more lip service than it is actual practice.”
Carver said that means they focus on quality service delivery, which includes thorough, ongoing training of clinicians and monitoring.
Treatment includes life skills training, moral reconation therapy, group sessions, and sometimes antidepressant medications or drugs that inhibit narcotics cravings.
“So they record their sessions, we listen to them, the therapists get a continuous feedback about their use of these evidence-based practices,” he said. “If there’s drift, if we’re deviating from the treatment, the way it was designed, we can get back to delivering it in the way that outcomes were shown in research to make a difference.”
Scott is an example of someone who repeatedly failed to stay off drugs but is now flourishing after WIN.
“This study basically proved that what (we have) been doing for women and this program is successful,” Carver said. “The women who received the WIN program are less likely to go out and create an unsafe community setting, because they’re not be offending.”
He added and said, “Their substance abuse is dramatically reduced, their mental health symptoms decrease, and their overall functioning increases.”
The WIN program was mentioned in a state report this year on promising practices for helping women in the criminal justice system. And recently the governor’s office launched a task force to look at better probation and parole practices.
Scott said at the bottom she used “heroin, meth, anything, drinking — I was just doing anything to keep my mind off what I was going through.”
She said she began receiving WIN treatments while still in jail, which she now sees as a big advantage for anyone in similar distress.
“Take the programs they offer you in jail,” she said.
The same therapist worked with her the entire time, Scott said, and she still calls her when she has a low point.
“They taught me how to handle life on life’s terms instead of just giving up,” Scott said. “I am a totally different person today because of them.”
So far, so good.
“Nobody thought that I was going to stay clean, because I’m known for that,” she said. “But starting treatment in jail gave me a good head start. By the time I got out I was in a whole different spot.”