BSH Companion Program

By James Rioux

Companion

An Inmate Companion provides guidance to a visually impaired patient during NAMI walk

Over the past few years a select group of inmate workers incarcerated at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) have volunteered their time to provide companionship and support to civilly committed patients.

The ‘Companion Program’ was first developed by former BSH Deputy Superintendent of Patient Services and current Superintendent of MCI Pondville Pamela MacEachern, based on a compelling need to assist those patients who continued to experience difficulty meeting their individual treatment goals despite receiving increased clinical support.  Treatment goals consist of improving personal hygiene, improving social and communication skills, increasing attendance in therapy, program, recreation, and leisure activities.

Inmate Companions are carefully screened by a multidisciplinary team of professionals which include the Deputy of Patient Services, IPS Team, Unit Psychologist, and Chaplain.  When approved, companions participate in a comprehensive training program where they will learn how to effectively communicate with patients living with mental illness and will learn how to maintain appropriate boundaries.  Inmate Companions also receive weekly supervision and support from clinical and security staff.  Although Inmate Companions do not provide any clinical services or treatment they do play a significant role in providing patients with the skills needed to tolerate and thrive in less secure settings i.e. minimum security housing units, traditional penal facilities, and facilities managed by the Department of Mental Health.

Patients and their Inmate Companions can frequently be seen exercising in the gymnasium, listening to music in the clubhouse, or reading in the library.  Inmate Companions also facilitate smaller groups for patients including: Music, Arts & Crafts, Bingo, and Horticulture.   Of the fourteen inmates who are currently enrolled in the Companion program, ten are serving either 1st or 2nd degree life sentences.  Although there may have been some apprehension in allowing ‘lifers’ to assist patients at BSH in the early going, Denise McDonough, Deputy Superintendent of Patient Services for BSH states, “the Companion Program has provided them opportunities to contribute to the hospital community and community at large in a positive and meaningful way.  For instance, one of the patients who has required maximum security housing placement since his commitment to BSH several years ago due to his assaultive history, is now socializing more with others and participating in off unit recreational and leisure activities without incident.   His progress can only be attributed to the combined efforts of security and clinical staff and to our inmate companions,” McDonough explained.

Since BSH staff has developed individualized de-escalation plans for each patient, re-purposed areas to create therapeutic environments on each unit called Quiet Rooms and Comfort Rooms, and formalized the supportive role of inmates via the Companion Program, BSH has become a safer more stabilizing environment for patients in need of enhanced clinical services and support.

An Interview with Ellie Clodius

By Carol Thomas

On December 12, 1982, the Sentry Armored Car Company in New York City was robbed of $11.4 million from its headquarters. It was the biggest cash theft in U.S. history.  On a positive note, also on this date Elena “Ellie” Clodius came to work for the Department of Correction as a Senior Clerk and Typist and now, just over three decades later, she has stepped into the position of Acting Deputy Superintendent at the Pondville Correctional Center.

Ellie is a first generation Italian, born in the U.S. and comes from a tight-knit family who still practices the Italian tradition La Viglia di Natale.  On Christmas Eve, Italian families all over the world gather together for La Viglia di Natale – the Christmas vigil – where fish is on the menu instead of meat. Also called The Feast of the Seven Fishes, the ritual of La Viglia has been handed down from generation to generation over the centuries.

After spending some time with Ellie discussing various topics, it quickly became apparent to me that she has a story to tell therefore, it is my extreme pleasure to present to some and introduce to others…An Interview with Ellie Clodius.

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CT: Who has influenced you the most?

ELLIE: My grandfather who was very positive. Although I had a short time with him he told me that I could do anything I put my mind to – he encouraged me to work hard and be responsible. The other person who influenced me the most was Lisa Mitchell who was the Deputy Superintendent at Southeastern Correctional Center at the time. I was the Records Manager and Lisa said she was impressed with how I kept the staff’s morale up. She encouraged me to seek promotional opportunities because she said I had so much more to offer the DOC.

 

CT: Why did you choose to do what you do for the DOC?

ELLIE: I came from the private sector and I was interested in doing something new and finding out what the DOC was all about.

CT: In my opinion you are a success, what dreams and goals inspired you to succeed?

ELLIE: I came to the DOC at a time when it was difficult for women so I wanted to make a difference and be a leader for other women. I took on challenges that were outside of my comfort zone. For example, I was known as one of the few Date Computation Specialists and was called upon numerous times to go to other facilities to provide a foundation for their processes and conduct agency-wide training at the intermediate and advanced levels.

CT: What characteristics or skills do you think you have that set you apart from some of your peers and enabled you to be so successful?

ELLIE: I was willing to help others and travel to other sites. I always gave 110% and took pride in my work to ensure that I turned out the best product possible. I also took on extra positions when needed.

CT: What do you see as upcoming trends in corrections?

ELLIE: I see us being more proactive with greater involvement in re-entry, seeking alternate ways to handle parole violators, more education-oriented, dealing creatively with the mentally-ill population without the use of restraints and establishing a specialized facility for our aging population.

CT: Any final words?

ELLIE: I really enjoy working for the DOC and I encourage all females to seek career advancements because you can do it.

This article is dedicated to the individuals who dream of making a positive impact at the DOC but still don’t think that they are good enough or smart enough. Ellie is an example of an ordinary person whose great dreams have been fulfilled due to her courage, commitment and willingness to pursue the dream. It is my hope that, from this personal story, we will all look for ways to make an indelible impression as we embark on this journey into the future together.

Drugs recovered from cell after suspicious behavior was noted during a visit

On May 24, 2016

MCI-Concord Inner Perimeter Security team conducted a search of an inmate’s  cell after suspicious behavior was noted during his visit the night prior. The search resulted in 205 Suboxone strips being recovered from inside a peanut butter jar.  These types of recoveries are made weekly in our state prisons.  Security staff work diligently to keep our prisons safe.

317th Industrial Instructor Recruit Training Class Graduates

On Thursday, May 19th, 2016, the 317th Recruit Training Class graduated.  There were 9 Industrial Instructors who graduated; Steven Comeau – MCI Shirley, Alan Consolmagno – MCI Shirley, Stephen Ford – MCI Norfolk, Aaron Inacio – MCI Norfolk, Dana Johnson – Milford, Robert Leurini – MCI Norfok, Patrick Reid – MCI Shirley, Daniel Weber – NCCI Gardner, Mark Wile – MCI Shirley.  The Commissioner’s Award for Highest Academic Average was awarded to Daniel Weber.  The class banner was presented to Director James Karr of MassCor.  These Industrial Instructors were certainly a welcome addition to the correctional industries workforce.  Welcome to team DOC, we expect great things.

Research Releases Study: Massachusetts Department of Correction One-Year Recidivism Study: A Descriptive Analysis of the Calendar Year 2013 Male Releases to the Street and Correctional Recovery Academy Completion

This study is a Descriptive Analysis of criminally sentenced male offenders released to the street from the Massachusetts Department of Correction during 2013  and their recidivism rates.  The focus of this study was to identify and describe differences in the recidivism rates of offenders who completed the Massachusetts Department of Correction Correctional Recovery Academy.

Click below to view the report

2013_CRA_1Yr_Recidivism

Team DOC volunteers at the Mass Hospital School Prom

Many times per year for various events, members of Team DOC volunteer their time and talents.  One of our favorite places to volunteer is with the kids at the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton.  We’ve taken part in wheelchair basketball, football and sled hockey games there.  We used to play against the students, but they were too good and dominated, so in recent years we learned to mix in.  We provide gifts and spread cheer during the holidays and put on big screen movies during the summer months.

One of our favorite events is the Mass Hospital School prom.  At age 22, students at the Mass Hospital School graduate and move on from the school to a community setting.  The prom is very well attended and is like most proms with a few exceptions.  The first thing that strikes you as you walk in, is that there are very few chairs around the nicely  decorated tables.  Most of the kids at the school use wheel chairs to get around.  The next thing you’d notice is the army of volunteers and staff who attend to all of the prom goers needs.  Some need help with eating, many can’t swallow very well, so they have special meals that are brought in.

The kids are all excited, they are dressed to the nines and are there to strut their stuff.  As they get off of the caravan of buses and vans, they come in and have professional photographers take their photos as they enter the decorated hallways and ballroom of The Lantana in Randolph.  They roll in to the ballroom with lists of songs that they’d like to hear and smiles on their faces.

These are your typical young adults, they come as couples or singles.  They sit in their cliques and chat each other up, but after dinner the festivities really commence.  With all of the physical challenges these kids have in their lives, it does not effect their spirit one bit.  They get on the dance floor and move to the best of their ability, whether it’s one hand or simply rocking to the music.  The hospital school staff take every opportunity to get the kids up out of their chairs if they’re able so that they can show off their dance moves.  They hold couples up so that they can slow dance together.  The excitement is contagious.

What is not lost on anyone who attends is that these kids have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as people without the physical challenges these kids endure on a daily basis.  They laugh, cry, love and hope.  They enjoy each and every song, but have their favorites.  The staff and volunteers have as much fun as the kids.  It truly does fill your soul when you see the broad smiles as a couple struggles to find each other’s hand during a slow song, finally grasping each other as they sway to the music.  Their sheer determination is inspiring.

Team DOC provides the music, the kids at the Mass Hospital School provide the joy.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to volunteer there in the past, please take the time to get there for an event, you’ll definitely get more out of it than even the kids do.

Huntington’s Disease and Patient Care

by James Rioux, Director of Classification and Treatment

On Wednesday, March 9th a multidisciplinary team of professionals at Bridgewater State Hospital took part in a thoughtful, educational and enlightening discussion about Huntington’s Disease (HD).  Allison Howland, who is employed by Massachusetts Partnership for Correctional Health (MPCH) as a Mental Health professional in one of the maximum security units of the hospital coordinated this discussion to facilitate education and awareness around this often unfamiliar disease.  She invited Jim Pollard, a national expert on HD, and well-known patient advocate to speak. Howland works directly with a patient who is afflicted with HD and mental illness.  She states that she was determined to gain more knowledge of the disease and educate staff on how to better assist her patient and other patients who may develop HD in the future.  Although Howland’s main role is to help patients understand the legal process, educate them about their mental illness, and help them to engage in treatment, she admits that managing someone with HD presents a set of unique challenges which require the support of correctional and medical staff.

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Mr. Pollard educated staff on the cause, symptoms, and stages of Huntington’s Disease.  According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure. HD is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of carrying the faulty gene. Today, there are approximately 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease. The rate of disease progression and the age at onset vary from person to person. Adult-onset HD, with its disabling, uncontrolled movements, most often begins in middle age. Some individuals develop symptoms of HD when they are very young, even before the age of twenty.

During the discussion, Mr. Pollard played a pivotal role in providing staff with helpful suggestions on how best to interact with HD patients, improve the quality of their life, and allowed staff to participate in exercises that would simulate the struggles someone from HD experiences in order to give them a deeper more intimate understanding of disease’s progression.

Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease include changes in thinking, movement, and mood.  The order and progression of these symptoms are not always the same for all HD patients.  Some of the cognitive limitations include slower thinking, difficulty staying focused, and difficulty organizing information or answers.  Pollard recalls working with a patient named, Tommy who he had met after HD began to affect his speech and thinking.  “One evening he was reminiscing about his family with me.  He told me about his daughter’s childhood. He spoke one sentence at a time with extended pauses before he shared his next thought.  As tactfully as I tried to keep the conversation going, I sensed that Tommy was becoming increasingly exasperated with me.   Unnerving tension began to replace the warmth of his reminiscences.  He told me about his daughter’s first day of school which occurred decades ago. He paused.  I waited for his next thought.  I waited a bit longer but not long enough.  At the moment that he began speaking again, so did I.  As soon as he heard me speak, he stopped.”  Pollard states when he interrupted Tommy his brain essentially hit the ‘reset’ button and prevented him from resuming where he left off in their conversation, a common problem for patients living with HD.  Pollard adds that he still has difficulty waiting through silent pauses in conversations but realizes that listening and patience are your best attributes when caring for someone with HD.

Symptoms of HD are not limited to cognition.  The physical and movement elements of the disease include dystonia or weakness in facial muscles, difficulty changing posture, and impaired balance or depth perception to name a few.  Patients with HD commonly lean or slouch, their head may fall down to their chest, and they may exhibit bursts in movement or in voice.  Although it may be difficult to witness some of these physical movements, Pollard suggests that providers should allow the patient some freedom in determining the type and level of exercise they can tolerate.  Pollard believes that despite HD being a fatal disorder, providers should whenever possible strive to create the least restrictive environment, one that makes the patient feel part of a larger community and improves their overall quality of life.

The third component that is affected by Huntington’s Disease is mood.  HD patients often present with irritability, fatigue, and apathy.  These symptoms are also present in someone who is depressed.  Pollard explains, “They may appear disinterested, angry or resistant and actually be thinking and feeling very differently. It’s challenging for providers, despite our best efforts and wealth of experience, to look beyond their appearance and behavior, to see through this “disguise,” that the cognitive and physical features of HD present in the person”.

Understanding the conditions and challenges of each patient at Bridgewater State Hospital is a key component to positively and proactively managing the care of our community.  The staff at BSH is always learning more about the individual challenges both physical and mental that each individual patient faces on a daily basis.  Knowledge is critical to helping the population of BSH live a safe and well-managed life while at the hospital.  BSH would like to acknowledge Ms. Howland for her recognition of the need to educate not only herself, but the staff and BSH community to better understand HD, and for facilitating this discussion.   The Bridgewater State Hospital community would like to extend their sincere thanks to Mr. Pollard for sharing his experiences and knowledge about Huntington’s Disease and helping the staff more effectively meet the needs of its patient population.  If you would like to learn more about HD visit http://www.hdsa.org.

Victims’ Rights Commemoration: Focus on Domestic Violence

On Thursday, April 7, 2016, Director Sheila Creaton Kelly of the Victim Services Unit (VSU) recently hosted the second annual Victims’ Rights Month Commemoration.   The event was very well attended and is a testament to the DOC’s commitment to protecting the rights of victims and the important work that the VSU does on a daily basis.

Commissioner Carol Higgins O’Brien welcomed the attendees and spoke about the DOC’s zero tolerance policy for domestic violence.  The Commissioner also took the opportunity to ask staff to remember the victims.

The staff at Old Colony Correctional Center (OCCC) in Bridgewater received a special recognition at the event for their work to assist VSU throughout the year.  In addition, OCCC helped to facilitate a victim/offender months ago; this required a great deal of compassion and hard work from many staff.  Superintendent Lisa Mitchell and some of her staff were in attendance to accept the award.

Deputy Commissioner Kathie Chmiel spoke about the importance of having a balance between the deference we show the victims of violent crime and the offender rehabilitation.

Danielle
Danielle Sicard: Keynote Speaker

Assistant Deputy Commissioner Carol Mici recognized the VSU staff for their difficult job and acknowledged the importance of treating each victim as an individual.   Director Kelly echoed the sentiment and remarked that each case the VSU handles is unique and difficult and requires personalization.  Victims are often forced to relive perhaps the most difficult moments of their lives each time an offender is moved or considered for parole.  She read a review from a victim thanking the VSU from the bottom of their heart for taking the time to listen to their concerns.OCCC

The keynote speaker was Danielle Sicard, a survivor of domestic violence.  Ms. Sicard shared her personal experience and how she escaped an emotionally and physically abusive relationship that escalated to an attempt on her life.  Ms. Sicard shared her insight regarding how the violence she endured has permanently impacted her daily life and how it affected her family and relationships.  Ms. Sicard also gave the audience information regarding the myths that surround abusers while educating the attendees about the characteristics often found in abusers.  Her words were riveting and she graciously took time to answer all the attendees’ questions about her ordeal.

The event was truly poignant for all who attended.

A New Dog In Town

Last July “Project Good Dog” began at NCCI Gardner.  It started as a means to help shelter dogs with behavioral issues, become more adoptable. The dogs that enter the program are shelter dogs that have been surrendered by their owners, come from animal control, or were transferred from another shelter.  Kristen English, a Correctional Program Officer C at NCCI Gardner and Project Good Dog coordinator, states the facility can accommodate five dogs at a time and has had a total of 19 dogs that have completed the program since July.

Project Good Dog Collage PNG copy

Dogs are paired and housed with an inmate handler for a 6 – 8 week period during this intensive curriculum. They learn to become house broken, basic obedience, kennel training, socialization, leash training, and a few simple tricks.

The program is organized by the Second Chance Animal Shelter in East Brookfield, Ma. They are a nationally recognized organization that provides innovative programs and services to help animals.

If you would like to adopt a dog or support Project Good Dog please contact:

CPO Kristen English @ NCCI Gardner

Phone: 978-630-6000  x119
Email: kristen.english@massmail.state.ma.us

Or the Second Chance Animal Shelter

Phone: 508-867-5525  Good Dog

Email: info@secondchanceanimals.org

Web: www.secondchanceanimals.org