On Monday, January 30th, TRI’s Peer Mentor, Dominique, testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Sunset Review on the “work and gain education and employment skills” program. Commonly known as ‘WAGEES’, this program is fully funded by HB14-1355, SB18-1776 and HB18-1176 through the Colorado Department of Corrections in the amount of $211,600 to support TRI’s Welcome Back Center. If the bill were to sunset, the first effect would be the closure of half of TRI’s operation – the Welcome Back Center. Then, our members would be left high and dry to navigate the reentry process on their own. Cascading further, our community will feel the effects when our neighbors are not properly housed, fed, or legally employed because they didn’t get the support they needed. It costs more in tax payer dollars to let people fall through the cracks. Fortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to have a bill introduced to reauthorize the WAGEES reentry grant program. Thank you to Dominique for your advocacy!
“Hello, my name is Dominique Vodicka, For Over 20 years I was known as inmate # 110426. I have lived through incarceration before WAGEES existed and I am only standing here today BECAUSE WAGEES EXISTS.
Since the mid- 90’s I had been in and out of the prison system more times than I could count, and a decade later, I still did not have the tools or skills to understand why I was stuck in the DOC revolving door. I entered the justice system in my early twenties, having experienced a lot of trauma in my childhood – a similar story to many of you in this room. Trauma that was never addressed appropriately prior too or during my time inside, and I coped like most, using drugs and alcohol to take away the pain. Unfortunately, my troubles only got deeper and deeper. By my 30’s, it all came at a cost that I would of never imagined, A Life Sentence On the Installment Plan.
I have sat through at least a hundred, brief mental health assessments, which lead to numerous misdiagnoses, and so many different medications over the years – I can’t begin to name them all. Getting a mental health appointment inside prison was like winning the lottery. Having a consistent therapist, non-existent. Mental health services inside are like Fast Food establishments – A fixed menu of mental health diagnoses- with matching toppings of generic medications. I was not Dominique Vodicka, unique and complex, I was just a number experiencing the same things as my cell mate. After my last failed suicide attempt, I was told that I didn’t have mental health issues, that I was just a drug addict and deserved to be where I was. Locked behind walls, replaying my life in my head like a movie, and trying to understand where did it go sideways?
In 2017 while serving a 6-year sentence, I saw a flier for an Reentry program called TRI that addresses substance abuse, Mental Health and Reentry Planning for Women. I had to fight to get into that class, out of 120 applicants – only 12 were selected. This class was the ticket, and life changing! What started as a class, has evolved into a lifelong relationship. With this program I was given a consistent therapist, whom is now my boss, a case manager who is now my direct supervisor, and a mentor who is now a community partner. Thanks To The Reentry Initiative, this past summer, for the first time in 25 years I am completely off paper. Inmate #110426 no longer exists. Today I call myself a daughter, a mother, a grandmother and the Intake Coordinator and Peer Support Specialist at TRI.
TRI is not only my support system, but they are my work family. They taught me the true definition of second chances by giving me the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder – including supporting me here today to make sure my voice is heard loud and clear! We are breaking down the barriers to help our community address their trauma, find their unique potential and live fulfilling lives post incarceration. But it is through the funding of WAGEES – that this is possible. I sincerely request you approve the WAGEES funding so we can continue to impact so many people in need. ”
Powerful public testimony. Kudos to a dedicated staffer willing to share how TRI & WAGEES made and will continue to make valuable life changes for those ignored, misdiagnosed, impoverished, addicted, and traumatized seeking help. Very inspiring! Thank you for sharing.
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