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  • Writer's pictureKevin Phillips

From Prison to Service

Updated: Apr 25

Al Roensch is a certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor working at our residential facility in Napa. Al is appreciated by our staff and patient for his patience, the depth of his empathy, and his therapeutic insight.


Meeting Al for the first time, you would never know that he has spent most of his life behind bars. In a recent email to the ARS staff (used with his permission) he wrote:


Some of you may know, but incarceration factored into a significant part of my life. In fact, I tell people that I grew up in prison because I spent most of my 20s and 30s in prison, and it is where growth and healing happened. 


Al is not the only member of our staff who has experience with the justice system. A number of our Counselors, Managers, and even Directors may be lifted up as examples of the power of recovery. This is why we say, “For us, addiction defines no one.”


Substance Use Disorder destroys people’s lives. It undermines the health of families. It leads to the loss of financial stability. And, for many, it results in arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. But even in prison, the hope of recovery includes the promise of new life. Al wrote:


During my time of incarceration is also where I studied, learned and trained to be a drug and alcohol counselor. I was part of a pilot peer-to-peer mentor program called The Offender Mentor Certification Program (OMCP). We were taught and trained in the counseling field, and the prison setting was our training ground. As inmates, we were counseling other inmates. Indeed, it was an incredible opportunity and experience. 


Al shared his story with us to let us know that he participated in an experiment that had been conducted by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He was one of the “first 50” people who successfully completed OMCP. A documentary has been released that tells the story of “The 50”.


Al wrote, “I am one of the subjects in this documentary, and I wanted to share the story with you.”


We are grateful for Al’s contribution to the ARS mission. Like many other justice-involved men and women who work here, his ongoing work as an AOD Counselor is a testimony of both the power of SUD to destroy a life, and power of recovery to restore it.


We can watch The 50 now on Amazon Prime or Apple TV. Find it here.


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