Central Minnesota teenagers who are in treatment for drugs alcohol dependence spent their summer giving back to others less fortunate than themselves!
After being inspired by the Bounce Back project, a local collaboration of physicians, nurses, hospital leaders, and staff who’s mission is to promote health through happiness . Erin Simonson, BA, LADC, Central Minnesota Mental Health Center’s Adolescent CD counselor wanted her clients to experience the joy that comes from doing a “random act of kindness” for someone. As a substance use counselor since 2006, Erin has seen first-hand how addiction can impact individuals, families and the community.
While attending a conference on the Opioid crisis, Erin was educated on the impact of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a phenomenon that occurs when a baby is born addicted to Opioids because of prenatal exposure while in utero. As a part of regular curriculum in chemical dependency treatment, clients (both adult and adolescents) are required to be educated on the impact on of prenatal exposure to substances. When she educated the teenagers in her group about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and discussed the prevalence of this concern since the Opioid crisis has become an epidemic in the US, they were all very attentive and concerned.
“I knew that day (the day they discussed NAS) that was the way that my clients could give back and do a random act of kindness for someone else. A lot of the clients in my group have had trauma in their history, they sometimes have issues at school, in their relationships with others and in the community as a result of their substance use, mental health and environmental concerns. Some of my clients had even had pre-natal exposure to substances themselves. I knew that focusing on these babies helped the clients to feel like they were helping someone more vulnerable than themselves,” said Erin.
The clients agreed that they would spend their group time making hand tied blankets for babies who are impacted by their parent’s substance use while participating in their usual treatment activities throughout part of July and August. A Minnesota-based non-profit that focuses its efforts on gathering collectively to promote international relief across the globe, “Be the Change” charities stepped up to the plate and offered a generous donation that covered the cost of all the materials for the project.
Although this project was lead by Erin, the clients participated in planning it out from the beginning and executing it to the end. They were educated on many skills in the process. They learned about S.M.A.R.T goal setting by working together to set a goal for how many blankets they wanted to complete by the end of the summer. They practiced basic budgeting by calculating how much it would cost to reach their goal and figured out how many blankets they could make each week in order to reach their goal. They also learned how to make a hand-tied blanket. The clients came to group most days eager to see what pattern the fabric was for the blankets that day and took turns cutting and tying while discussing situations they were facing in life, feelings they were experiencing, triggers they had to use substances, high risk situations they encountered, and the coping skills utilized to work through it all. Erin provided educational and skill building topics while there were always one or two clients sitting on the floor making a blanket.
As part of the education involved in this process, speakers were welcomed to the group. A representative from Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) came to provide additional education to the clients on the lifelong impact of pre-natal exposure. CentraCare’s Community Health and Wellness Specialist presented to the adolescents the scientifically proven benefits of “giving back” and doing “random acts of kindness” on our overall health and wellbeing. Additionally, the community outreach provider from Recovering Hope treatment center in Mora spoke to the group about what it’s like for new mothers and their children who have both been impacted by addiction.
The group made over 25 blankets that were donated to the mothers with young children who are in treatment at Recovering Hope Treatment Center in Mora, MN. Recovering Hope is dedicated to providing individualized treatment for drug and alcohol addiction for women 18 years and older, pregnant women and women with children up to the age of five.