Lisa Moon, the Recovery Services Program Manager at the Guidance Center, has only been on the job for six months. She has had a good experience so far – she appreciates the team approach at the Center, thinks everyone is warm and welcoming, and most importantly, knows what she's there to do: "Give the clients the best opportunity for wellness."
Joe Thorne, the Emergency Services and Community Support Services Administrator, on the other hand, has worked at the Guidance Center for more than 20 years, and he first took a position as a stop gap job that he could do while continuing his education.
After a while, Thorne says, "My supervisor said you ought to get into social work and that is what I ended up doing."
But the work has changed.
In the early years, Thorne's work focused on the patients uprooted by de-institutionalization movements – putting patients who may have spent years in hospitals back into communities. Then and now, it is part of Thorne's work to make sure that transition is as easy and functional as possible.
"It felt natural working with folks," Thorne says, "with the challenges, and there was a sense of purpose there."
For both Thorne and Moon, much of their work is about helping people make connections – to jobs, to addiction support services, to therapists, to the help they need.
"As social workers, we look at the person and environment," says Moon. "We have a multitude of services here we refer to … maybe they need an apartment for stability, or they need to get out of an abusive situation, substance abuse, employment. Luckily we're kind of a one-stop shop."
And since the recession, they have seen the demand for all of their services, and especially the walk-in clinic (open Monday through Friday), dramatically increase.
"We're seeing more folks that 10 years ago we wouldn't have seen here," says Thorne. "'I've lost my job, and because I've lost my job, I've lost my wife," and then it just compounds."
"Especially that individual that we were screening for suicide. The pain is so great that they feel like the only thing that can escape it is death. They don't see any other options. And that's us interrupting/stopping that from happening and then working with whatever services we provide, many, many, times, over and over again, to say 'OK there are other ways, there are other ways.'"
To deal with the increased demand, Moon is launching a new program to help better serve individuals struggling with addiction and their families.
The new "Recovering Families Program" is open for sign-ups. It is a three-hour program (with a break) geared to "family members with a loved one struggling with an addiction."
Page 2 of 3 - One half of the program is dedicated to education – getting the facts out about co-dependency, the importance of setting boundaries, and how best to practice self-care when a family member requires so much.
The second half of the program focuses on processing individual experiences and questions, giving attendees a chance to get more specific about what they are going through.
Moon has designed the program to help an addict's loved ones figure out "how best to deal with (an addict/addiction)," says Moon. "If what they're doing is helping or not, or hindering the process. Identifying the co-dependence. Are you enabling them? Are you pushing them towards recovery or away from recovery?"
And, "how best to take care of yourself in the process."
The next session is currently scheduled for Dec. 2, and is open to anyone in the community.
Moon is already seeing success from the program, after just a few months.
"There's a guy that first came to this program – we kind of had like an intervention in group," says Moon. "And he has successfully gotten his daughter out of the house and is setting boundaries. And she has almost secured a job …[its] just having people recognize their part. You're enabling someone at this age. It's not letting them realize that they're capable of moving out, getting a job."
"We talk a lot in this program about raising the bottom," Moon continues.
"Meaning, if we keep it comfortable for them to live in our home, we cook their meals, we pay their cell phone bill, and you have a 28 year old living in your home, chances are they're not going to do much, because they're not going to be threatened by losing this place to live, or there's no consequences really. So, it's about setting boundaries and having consequences."
Soon, Moon is also hoping to start a new recovery group at Leavenworth High to support young people struggling with addictions in a familiar environment.
Thorne is also launching a new program he hopes will bring in members of the community: Youth Mental Health First Aid USA, a nationwide program. Previous incarnations have targeted adults, but the new program is geared to youth.
The idea is to get members of the community who work with youth – teachers, coaches, corrections offices, law enforcement, and church leaders, for example – to take the 8-hour training to learn how to spot a potential mental health problem and what to do about it.
Thorne notes this isn't necessarily about mental illness – because not every problem is an illness. But in young populations, a problem can quickly become a crisis if left to fester.
The idea, Thorne says, is to help people become equipped: "Just as if you were at a restaurant and someone's choking – 'OK I know how to do this,' it's the same principle."
Page 3 of 3 - "If you're out and see an individual who may be having a panic attack, 'I sort of know what to do here.' Or see an individual that is obviously very distraught, you might know what you're looking for or how to handle those situations."
"So often people don't know what to do. And kind of shy away from those types of emergencies – don't know how to handle them. So (the training) is really to help recognize what might be a symptom of a mental health problem."
"I think the thing that a lot of folks are interested in is suicide. How can we recognize warning signs of suicide."
The fee for the course, which can be done over one or two days, is $35 and includes a workbook. But Thorne emphasized that they will work with attendees' budgets – and will happily "go to them" to do the training.
Thorne is hearing success stories from the trainings he's done so far.
"I think we've trained around 16 of the sheriff's staff," Thorne says.
"One of the sheriff patrolmen called me probably three weeks after the course, and just said 'Hey, wanted to let you know I was out on a call, legal matters, but as I started talking to this individual, definitely saw some warning signs of depression, kind of worried about her safety.'"
"And he got her linked with us, and he was just 'Really glad I took the course.' He said 'it was just something I would have brushed off, and just really addressed why I'm here legally,' but he was able to see 'well there is something else going on here.' That was good to hear."
If you are interested in either program, contact the Guidance Center at 913-682-5118.
In addition to the new special programs, both Thorne and Moon will continue their daily work helping Leavenworth residents get through tough times or navigate chronic illnesses.
"Over and over again we are able to help individuals find hope," says Thorne.
"I've had people say, 'Two years ago I never thought I'd be living today, living this life that I'm living today. I didn't see any way out other than death. I now know there are other ways."