CompDrug's prison-based treatment program prepares inmates for release

Shannon Shelton Miller
Dustin Mets

It’s the mundane routine of everyday living that makes Charles Wilcox II feel grateful for another chance at life.

At 32, he finally has his own place—a one-bedroom apartment he’s proud to open to his parents and friends. He goes to work with his father each day at a development company building communities throughout Central Ohio.

“I have bills,” Wilcox says. “I can pay my bills. It’s really nice to be able to look and see what I’ve accomplished.”

Less than a year ago, Wilcox was finishing a three-year sentence in Pickaway Correctional Institution for an assault he committed while caught in the throes of drug addiction. At the time of his incarceration at the age of 29, Wilcox had spent half his life addicted to drugs and alcohol, a cycle that dulled the pain of abuse he experienced as a child.

At Pickaway, however, he found an OASIS—Our Awareness of Self Increases Success—a therapeutic community run by CompDrug that works to rehabilitate inmates during their sentences and prepare them to manage the basics of everyday life on the outside after release.

Since the early 1980s, Columbus-based CompDrug has offered an array of drug abuse prevention, treatment, recovery and wellness programs and services throughout Central Ohio. The nonprofit boasts a laundry list of local, state and federal certifications for services that include outpatient opioid addiction treatment, educational programming around addiction, pregnancy and parenting support, and therapeutic communities within the prison system.

“We’re not simply looking at treatment, but the whole individual,” says CompDrug CEO Dustin Mets. “With many treatment providers, their goal is abstinence. Ours is developing a fully functioning adult. A fully functioning adult has their kids. A fully functioning adult goes to school. A fully functioning adult holds a job and is able to do the basic functions of life that we all can do.”

Mets stresses that this process requires a holistic approach that often includes mental health services, community-based support and medically-assisted treatment.

In Wilcox’s case, OASIS was not his first encounter with recovery. He previously completed a rehab program and stayed clean for six months before a relapse launched a renewed addiction spiral that led to his arrest for assault, and eventually jail time.

Wilcox says he learned about OASIS from another inmate. The program consists of 12 to 18 months of prison-based treatment and counseling and offers continuing assistance after release. Graduates can attend monthly meetings with other alumni for support in managing life circumstances and avoiding relapse.

Helping individuals “where they are” on varying stages of the prevention, treatment and recovery spectrum is a key facet of CompDrug’s approach. New partnerships include an expansion of the nonprofit’s pregnancy and parenting programs to include reproductive life planning options, collaborations with Equitas Health’s Safe Point syringe access program and Narcan kit distribution and education.

Through a partnership with Columbus Public Health, CompDrug’s female clients can meet with a nurse practitioner to discuss their family planning options before they become pregnant, including contraception or managing health and wellness in preparation for a planned pregnancy.

“It’s really thinking about where she is with her treatment and recovery and the next steps she wants to take in her life,” says CompDrug chief operating officer Alex Meyer.

The Narcan kits, which feature a naloxone nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an overdose, are available to current patients and community members, Meyer says.

Surviving an overdose or hitting another version of rock bottom is just the first step in a long road to wellness and recovery, and clients like Wilcox know that path well.

Now, he also knows a way out.

“Some days are rough,” Wilcox says. “Some days are miserably rough. But this program does work. It’s given me a second chance.”

Shannon Shelton Miller is a freelance writer.

547 E. 11th Ave., Columbus 43211

CEO: Dustin Mets

Mission: To provide drug abuse prevention and recovery services.

FY 2018 total revenue: $14.4 million

Sources of income: Medicaid, 57%; ADAMH, 21%; contracts & fees for service, 17%; grants, 4%

Employees: 133

CompDrug Inc.