When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Howard County, Turning Point staff knew they had to work fast to transition to a virtual format in order to avoid a lull in services for those who relied on them the most.
Before the pandemic, the nonprofit had a steady flow of people coming in for all kinds of assistance, from those seeking housing and support to those struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. The face-to-face support and groups that were being offered, said Jayme Whitaker of Turning Point, were critical to those clients’ recovery and health.
With restrictions instituted due to the pandemic, those groups and in-person meetings had to be put on hold. And that was concerning.
“I think the biggest concern for addiction and mental health is that connection is such an incredibly important part of what we do at Turning Point. That in-person smiling face, hug, loving on people approach is just vital,” Whitaker said. “When you look at addiction and mental illness and the challenges you have around it, even our sign says connection and attachment are so important to create security to counterbalance the challenges people have with addition. That’s really, really important to recovery, and most recovery is done in groups because it builds strong connection and community.”
Immediately, Whitaker said staff jumped into action and connected with others in the community who also led support and recovery groups to create a virtual world of support groups that could be accessed daily. Within 72 hours, they made the shift from being in-person to being virtual. And within the first week, Whitaker said everything Turing Point offered regularly now was being offered online.
Some of the offerings include face-to-face support, a family support group for family members and friends concerned about their loved ones who live with a substance abuse disorder, peer support groups for first responders and frontline workers, and daily recovery groups.
New programs also grew out of the transition to virtual. One of those was a virtual recovery tree.
“We thought, ‘Well it’s great for people to have these meetings, but what do they do the rest of the time? How do we keep connected? So what we did was gathered our coaches together and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to use Facebook messenger, and we’re going to create these little Facebook groups. This will be a place where people can come and join groups, and that way there’s a way they can connect to recovery coaches 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “They can stay connected. These groups talk all day, and it’s just a place to virtually connect where there’s always somebody there you can talk to.”
Then, realizing the success Turning Point was having with adults, a youth group called REACH launched this week for ages 12 to 17. The peer group was designed to give youth a place to “stay engaged and succeed during times when we might feel disconnected.” Participants can chat virtually with a navigator or recovery coach and join daily Zoom REACH groups.
Those programs, Whitaker said, will stick around long after the restrictions are lifted.
“A lot of things we’re doing now, in some way, shape, or form we’re going to continue once we get beyond this,” he said.
Whitaker thanked the many community partners that are helping put on the groups to continue to provide support to those in need.
“We knew that we had a pretty important part to play in helping people find the resources they need, and we partnered with everyone else who’s doing all the amazing work. We knew we had a role for people who struggled with addiction and mental health, so we really wanted to try to get stabilized as fast as we could so we could be a good supporter as people figured out how they were going to deal with this,” he said.
Those interested in joining any of the meetings can find links each day to the current meetings on Facebook at "Turning Point System of Care" and "Pick Yourself UP- Kokomo" or by calling Turning Point at 765-860-8365.