"All the women who participate in this voluntary, two-year program have histories of drug addiction, often with opioids, and have experienced childhood trauma, poverty, homelessness and/or mental health issues. These issues made them particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking.”
The CHANGE Court program is divided into three stages: 1) safety/stabilization; 2) recovery; and 3) empowerment. During the safety phase, participants usually spend 90 days in a jail-based treatment, detoxing from controlled substances and await placement in transitional housing/residential treatment. During the recovery phase, participants stay in residential treatment and are connected to Medicaid to address their often severe physical and mental health needs. During the empowerment phase, CHANGE court offers participants job training and placement, independent housing and assistance with driver’s licenses reinstatement and child custody issues.
Espinola works with CHANGE Court participants during the recovery and empowerment phases. She offers a trauma-informed, culturally sensitive approach to treat CHANGE Court participants’ substance abuse and mental health issues, “while providing them with skills to secure employment, obtain safe housing, live a healthy lifestyle, further their education and develop a strong support system,” she says.
As CHANGE Court Treatment Team’s psychologist, Espinola participates in Judge Russell’s weekly team meetings, where she provides recommendations, psychoeducation and trainings. In addition, Espinola collaborated with Judge Russell to develop a community-based mentorship program to support CHANGE Court participants’ successful reintegration into society.