There is a growing need to help family members affected by a loved one’s addiction. Westmont Family Counseling Ministries offers the Sanity Group, a support group for people in this situation. The group, which is free and confidential, is facilitated by Michele Thomas, a certified drug and alcohol counselor.
Addiction, whether to alcohol or prescription or illicit drugs, has long been a problem in American society. But addiction to opioids is growing, especially in Pennsylvania. The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that there were 4,642 fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2016, a 37% increase from the previous year – a significantly higher rate than the rest of the country.
Governor Tom Wolf declared the heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency in January 2018, and there are a variety of local agencies working to combat the issue – including the Cambria County Drug Coalition. As local and national efforts focus on prevention, law enforcement, and treatment, support groups like the Sanity Group can play an important role in helping family members.
“Addiction is really a ‘family disease’ – families are a key part of the puzzle,” Michele explains. “Our discussions focus on how to cope, and help everyone involved.”
The group meets the first Tuesday of the month from 6:00-7:30 pm at Westmont Family Counseling Ministries. It’s free and confidential, and you need not have any prior association with Westmont Family Counseling Ministries to take part.
“Many times, people feel ashamed of the situation, which can make it hard to seek support in daily life,” Michele adds. “But in this group, everyone’s facing similar challenges – and everyone who attends finds that reassuring. It’s a wonderfully supportive atmosphere.”
In Michele Thomas, the group has a trained professional to facilitate, which differentiates the group from self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon. Michele is a licensed professional counselor with extensive training in chemical dependency, and has been practicing in the Johnstown area for more than 20 years.
Thomas says heroin addiction is increasingly prevalent in suburban areas. Many people who attend the Sanity Group are from that demographic, but Thomas emphasizes that people from all backgrounds dealing with addiction to any substance are welcome.
“As a caregiver, you need to care for yourself first,” Michele says. “Participating in a support group can help you gather the emotional strength you need to help your loved one.”
Anyone who would like to take part in the Sanity Group is welcome to attend on the first Tuesday of the month, from 6:00-7:30 pm. There is no need to RSVP, but if you’d like more information about the group, please call us at 536-0798.