Mia Kern, CJRC Guest Writer
Through the CJRC, I was given an amazing opportunity to intern at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the past year. My main focus was on the Community Transition Program (CTP), which increases both access and quality of mental health and substance use disorder treatments for both currently incarcerated and recently released individuals. The goal of this initiative is to reduce recidivism rates in Ohio, and to help reintegrate released offenders into the community.
As an intern, I was tasked with helping to develop paper surveys in order to determine the effectiveness of the program. These surveys asked questions regarding drug use, social support and mental health. I also gained a great deal of experience in analyzing the preliminary survey results, through the use of excel and statistical software such as SPSS. Through this, I’ve gained a lot of insight on how social policies and programs are researched, created and analyzed. This experience contributed greatly to my interest in social policy reform as a future career path. It is amazing to see all of the work I personally have put into this project finally coming to life.
Through this opportunity, I have been able to speak with individuals who have experience working in prisons or as mental health specialists. This has really helped me learn more about the criminal justice system in an applied setting, as well as in narrowing down my career interests. ODMHAS also gives interns the opportunity to visit prisons along with supervisors to have a more direct role in distributing new surveys and collecting completed ones. Experiences like these help take education so much farther than a classroom could.
I am so excited to have taken part in a project with such a real, positive impact on released prisoners all over Ohio. This experience has taught me how passionate I am about helping underserved populations, and contributed to my interest in earning a dual master's in social work and public administration after I graduate. What I have learned about the challenges facing those in the criminal justice system, as well as what can be done to help, is absolutely invaluable to me moving forward.