After five years of offering help to people recently released from incarceration, Project Fresh Start has finally come to a close.
Thanks to a grant from the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), AIDS Services of Austin, in collaboration with META Inc, aimed to accomplish three goals with the implementation of Project Fresh Start:
- prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance abuse, including underage drinking,
- reduce substance-abuse related problems including the transmission of HIV, and
- effectively assess and evaluate performance data.
We are proud to say that the program was a complete success in each of these categories!
Priority populations for this program included African-American and Latino men and women residing in Travis County. Noting the great potential for self-improvement, Project Fresh Start sought to help these underestimated individuals take charge of their own health. In total, 215 individuals enrolled in the program.
Project Fresh Start offered several services, including assessment of risky activity, HIV testing and linkage to other support services, education for the community about substance abuse and HIV risk, and distribution of risk-reduction kits (condom packs, safer smoke kits, and bleach and water kits.) All of these services greatly helped Project Fresh Start participants evaluate their habits and make changes that improved their mental and bodily health. However, the most liked and successful service was, without a doubt, the one-on-one and group counseling sessions.
Project Fresh Start participants reported feeling accepted by their counseling group, feeling safe to talk openly about confidential and sensitive topics related to substance use and HIV, and feeling supported and empowered to share advice and feedback to other group members. Participants were so happy with Project Fresh Start that 99% said they would recommend the program to a friend.
Involvement in the program resulted in drug and alcohol relapse prevention, as well as significant decreases in stress and depression. HIV knowledge and motivation to change risky habits skyrocketed. Although statistical improvements were great to see, the real success of the program for us lay in the feelings of self-empowerment reported by the participants. These were among the many positive responses we got during our 2014 survey:
“This place helped me when I got out of prison and even gave me hope.”
“The staff is very caring and that’s what I loved the most, more than anything; they always made sure we were ok.”
“I honestly can say that Fresh Start has put me on the path to obtain success.”
Project Fresh Start was a tremendous undertaking and an amazing team effort. ASA is proud to say Project Fresh Start made a difference.
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