Karen Mohammed, MSW, LMHC, Director of the Phoenix House Jack Aron Center Outpatient Program, is leading Phoenix Houses of New York’s work with the New York State Department of Corrections. Karen currently conducts group sessions for the re-entry population at the Bayview Correctional Facility, a medium-security women’s prison located in Manhattan. In a matter of months, her class size has increased to forty members, with many at Bayview enthusiastic to join when it is their turn to engage in re-entry. Karen initially began her sessions in November with a smaller group; the meeting room is now full!
Karen’s group sessions cover many topics: healthy relationships, seeking safety, trauma, domestic violence, health and positive lifestyle, substance abuse and recovery. In addition, Karen also conducts screening and assessments of the re-entry participants. In March, the program will expand to the transitional population at Bayview, enabling Karen to reach a wider audience eager to take control of their lives and become productive members of society. Many of these women are hoping to be eligible to enter our Outpatient Program to regain their lives and live substance-free; many will certainly succeed under Karen’s guidance.
The majority of the female prisoners at Bayview are in their late twenties to mid-thirties who have been convicted of drug related offenses (possession, intent, selling to undercover detectives, prostitution). Many have self esteem issues, depression, anxiety, limited skills and work histories, some come from lives of poverty and homelessness. They are already gaining educational experience from Karen’s groups, the participation is lively and interactive, and Karen can see the changes these women undergo as they regain their confidence and esteem. The work is challenging, though Karen understands the population and sees here role “as doing God’s work. These women want to save their lives. It is my purpose to help motivate them toward treatment, teach new coping skills, and increase their awareness to become self sufficient. At Phoenix House we provide welcome arms, a safe space for rehabilitation, address all of their clinical issues and assist these women to gain skills to become work ready. It is my profound pleasure to be one of the chosen to help make a difference in people’s lives, it is truly amazing work.” We salute Karen and look forward to many success stories coming from this program in the future!