“The Hope House residential program is one of only four in the nation.” – Dominic Johnson, Hope House program director (above, right) with DBHDD Division of Addictive Diseases’ Von Wrighten waving hands in silent “applause.”
Communication: More than a Preference
“The deaf and hard of hearing community is generally not trusting of the hearing community,” says Hope House program director Dominic Johnson. “They would rather be around people they can communicate with, people who are at least fluent in American Sign Language.”
Most people who are deaf are raised in a hearing family where, as a rule, only one family member signs. As a result, from their earliest years, they endure the recurring trauma of not being understood by members of their own family. As they venture outside the home and are not able to effectively communicate with teachers, classmates, and critical service providers like doctors, the trauma is exacerbated.
“When you can’t communicate effectively, you can’t get your needs met,” says Johnson. “We provide full-time interpreting services. We want those who are deaf and hard of hearing to be able to communicate so that they can fully engage in the process of recovery.”
“We are keenly aware of an individual’s need to tell his or her story and be understood.” – Von Wrighten, DBHDD, Division of Addictive Diseases
“Launched in November 2012, our Deaf Services Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program at Hope House meets a critical need for culturally appropriate services for the deaf and hard of hearing in Georgia,” says Wrighten. “Hope House is staffed by a dynamic group of individuals who are ASL fluent and well-versed in both addiction and deaf culture. This team, which is the first in the Southeast, is led by Dr. Carol Collard, CEO of CaringWorks, Inc.”
Deaf Culture: More than Sign Language
“There’s a lot that hearing folks just don’t understand,” says Johnson. Members of the deaf community tend to view deafness as a difference in human experience rather than a disability. When speaking – whether the language is ASL, French, or English – an awareness of conversational etiquette is a necessary part of effective communication. For example, in deaf culture, there are specific ways to politely get someone’s attention or to walk through a conversation between two people who are signing.
“It has been an amazing and rewarding journey,” says Dr. Carol Collard, president & CEO of CaringWorks, Inc., referring to the year and a half since the launch of a residential treatment program for deaf and hard of hearing clients at Hope House. “The complexity related to meeting the needs of this population is great. So much so that for many providers, they are not even on the radar. Probably the biggest ‘Aha!’ moment for us was the realization that despite all our knowledge and experience with recovery, we had quite a bit to learn – and are still learning – in order to become culturally competent to meet the needs of a new group of people who have had to cope with bias and discrimination. The open house was intended to engage the community and make our program more visible to providers who are in a position to refer deaf and hard of hearing clients.”
At Hope House, where the majority of clients are men who are hearing, one of the lounges is set up for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The TV offers closed-captioning and seating is arranged so that no one’s back is to the door. Hope House offers activities including Deaf Church and Deaf Bible Study and a few therapy groups that are designated solely for clients who are deaf and hard of hearing. There are also groups that use an interpreter and integrate both populations.
Six Month Residential Program
Throughout the six month program, eligible individuals:
– Share a two bedroom unit with another client who is deaf/hard of hearing
– Enjoy three meals a day
– Receive 56 hours of treatment weekly
– Have regular case management
– See a therapist twice a month
In the final 8-week phase, clients may begin a job search. They are also given access to vocational rehabilitation services and a job readiness coach.
“It is an honor and a privilege to serve the deaf/hard of hearing community with the services provided through CaringWorks, Inc. This is a continuous learning process that has afforded us the opportunity to bridge the gap to the underserved in the state of Georgia.” – Wanda Reed-Maynard, VP and chief operating officer, CaringWorks, Inc.
Permeating the ethos of Hope House is program director Dominic Johnson’s guiding principle, encoded in a line by Aristotle: Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. In other words, says Johnson:
“Clients don’t care how much we know; they care how much we care.”