Correctional Social Worker Kari Ives from the Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility—part of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC)—has been serving people who are incarcerated for years.
As part of this service, for the past nine years, she has been organizing a tobacco-awareness group and, with support from the UW-CTRI, conducting an annual tobacco-use survey among people who are incarcerated at the Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility. Her work has shed light on the seldom addressed disparity in nicotine addiction treatment among people who are incarcerated.
“Our ultimate goal is to broaden the scope and horizons of nicotine addiction treatment for people who are incarcerated,” said Ives. “We need to change the way it’s currently approached.”
Dr. Margaret Nolan, one of the researchers analyzing Ives’ survey, said that “although the national prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased dramatically over the past decade—to under 15%—that drop has not been seen for people who are incarcerated. It’s closer to 80 or 90%, and we need to better understand why.”
“We also see a high relapse rate after people get out of prison,” said Dr. Jesse Kaye, another researcher working with Ives, “with so many triggers, risk factors, cues and stressors, there needs to be a lot more done to support people who want to remain smoke-free when they leave prison.”
To address this disparity, the Wisconsin Nicotine Treatment Integration Project (WiNTiP) is partnering with several organizations to tackle the high rate of relapse and change the approach to treatment. WiNTiP, which includes the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and UW-CTRI, is partnering with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services-Forensic Mental Health Section (DHS) and the DOC.
Led by Regional Outreach Specialist Allison Gorrilla and Distinguished Researcher Dr. Bruce Christiansen, this partnership is focused on bringing tobacco cessation treatments to people who were formerly incarcerated moving through the DOC’s Opening Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) and the DHS’s Conditional Release programs.
Both OARS and Conditional Release have similar goals: to provide case management, treatment planning and referrals to mental health and substance-use-disorder treatment for individuals who are returning to their communities following incarceration.
The first step of the partnership is to perform a survey of case managers and supervisors within the OARS and Conditional Release programs to get a sense of how they are currently approaching tobacco treatment. The data will help the UW-CTRI’s regional outreach specialists to identify training needs, and provide resources to improve treatment in the surveyed agencies.
The next is to provide a combination of virtual training and technical assistance; the regional outreach specialists will help update the way tobacco use is addressed among people who were formerly incarcerated, assessing tobacco use, integrating tobacco treatment, and referring people to community agencies and the Wisconsin Tobacco Quitline for support.
“Given that many individuals are channeled into the criminal justice system because of untreated mental health conditions or addictions, this work intersects with the mission of WiNTIP, which strives to make tobacco dependence treatment the standard of care within behavioral health care services,” Gorrilla said. “After addressing gaps in tobacco treatment within the agencies, the long-term goal is to continue to develop this relationship with the DOC and DHS and discuss opportunities, through UW-CTRI Outreach or research, to provide tobacco treatment to individuals as they move through the criminal justice system.”