Supporting Mental Health in California's prisons.
After many years of providing workshops, programs and information to lifers, Life Support Alliance, like the rest of lifer-world, was forced to reevaluate and reinvent much of what we do when the CoVid virus stopped direct interaction dead in its tracks and brought programming, as we had all long known it, to a standstill. But as we were pivoting to create ways to continue bringing lifers help and information, we were contacted by a staffer at one of the prisons, who had discovered a correspondence curriculum for in-cell study, created by one of CDCR’s own mental health providers.
This concerned staffer alerted us to both the curriculum (two, actually, one on Anger Management and one for Depression), and the fact that these professionally written programs were not being distributed by CDCR, despite being available and the need for self-study being accelerated because of the CoVid lockdown. We were able to obtain the curriculum, more than 125 pages of solid self-help work and began to lobby CDCR to make these, and similar courses, widely available throughout the system, to any prisoner who asked. After all, we got it from a CDCR staffer who got it from a CDCR clinician. What could go wrong?
We went so far as to contact the Director of CDCR’s Mental Health Division, who had one question for us: “How did you get these programs?” That was it—no interest in providing the courses to men and women sequestered and isolated, just how dare we question CDCR?
We did more than question CDCR, we showed them how to do their job, making both Anger Management and Depression in-cell study courses available to any inmate who requested them. We even added a course on CoVid Stress management we found at the Veteran’s Administration bringing this packet to just about 200 pages, or 100 sheets of paper. Because of the bulk and size of the courses, we discovered we would need to use the Media Mail system of the USPS to get the workbooks to prisoners—each Mental Health packet weighs nearly a pound and even at Media Mail’s reduced postage rates, mailing is expensive. All-in-all, printing and mailing expenses work out to just about $10 per packet.
Life Support Alliance started sending out our Mental Health Packet in Mid- 2020, by request and for free. – just after CoVid hit. We reached out to friends and family through crowd funding platforms as well as requesting donations to help defray the costs of sending to their loved one, and our ‘family’ responded wonderfully, often providing funds to send a packet to their family member and some extra, to provide the materials to those prisoners who were not fortunate enough to have friends or family to do so. We worked with psychologists to train volunteers to check the homework sent in by those taking the Mental Health courses, so that we could send successful students certificates on completion—something to acknowledge their efforts and success and keep hope alive during the pandemic lock-down.
We even provided the curriculum to a few prisons, where more forward-thinking individuals reached out to us asking if they could share the courses with their ‘residents, students, clients.’ And we were happy to share, especially if it meant more prisoners would be able to benefit from the programs—and we had to make fewer trips to the post office, lugging pounds of workbooks to mail.
In the first few months we raised over $7,000. Often times donors would nominate a recipient for their donation but just as often no recipient was requested. We were busy making and mailing packets and prisoners were getting much needed relief in a timely fashion. And the popularity of the Mental Health Project continues today.
To date, we have sent out over 1350 Mental Health packets and the requests continue to come in. And we have issued over 900 certificates of completion. And we don’t just slide people through, they have to do the work! The tragedy is that the Mental Health Project is far in the red. Life Support Alliance cannot afford to finance this worthwhile endeavor alone. We need your support.
Our goal is to raise enough to cover the nearly $7,000. deficit and fund the next 800 packets for a total of $15,000. What’s this mean to you? You can give ten dollars today. That will cover one Mental Health packet. You can commit to a monthly gift of $10. which covers a packet a month and we will send you a gift to honor your generosity. If you commit to a monthly gift of $20. or more we will send you an LSA T-shirt and you can get your picture on our website along with dozens of other supporters wearing Life Support Alliance T-shirts.
The point is, this will only continue at the hands of contributors like yourself, so Give Today!
Click Here to Donate, or you can text the word “Give” to (916) 702-7344
Be the Change You Want to See!!