08/30/20: Pender County Empowering Youth and Families Program’s (EYFP) Program Assistant (PA) Traci Spencer is returning from a month long leave of absence. Upon her return, she was impressed to see how the program continued to progress and move forward with its planned goals. Pender County EYFP has been working towards assembling a Resiliency Task Force for their community, and they have recently been accepted into the NC State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues Reconnect to Move Forward cohort. This cohort is centered on supporting mental health and well-being. Traci gives special thanks to their 4-H agent and EYFP facilitator for Pender County, Liz Peterson. Pender County EYFP is also looking forward to resuming programming in the Fall virtually. Traci is very grateful for all of her coworkers and partners who will be assisting her in this newest endeavor as well as all going forward.
Yancey County EYFP has kept busy with new elements of their programming as well as holidays relating to the program such as National Family Fun Month in August. As August came to a close and September began, Niki Maness, PA for Yancey County EYFP, reflected on two conflicting holidays: September 1, the beginning of National Recovery Month, and August 31, International Overdose Awareness Day. These two holidays and their respective themes sit on opposite ends of the same spectrum. For the former, the focus of the holiday is incredibly sad with a tragic ending while the latter holiday is optimistic and hopeful. These two events are tied together by one thing: addiction. Niki goes on to think about the purpose and message of EYFP. She considers how most people one can talk to today have been impacted in some way or another by substance misuse or addiction. This is especially true in her community of Yancey County, more so now than ever during the pandemic. New challenges resulting from COVID-19 such as Stay at home orders, loss of employment, and other stressors have more than likely contributed to an increase in overdoses across North Carolina this year. During a conversation with Cassie Burleson and Cassie York, peer support specialists from Mountain Community Health Partnership which serves Mitchell and Yancey counties, Niki was able to discuss this effect the pandemic seems to be having on opioid overdoses. Burleson stated, “COVID restrictions, less human interaction, and less accountability in people’s lives are causing people’s mental health to deteriorate both in seemingly well people, people who are in active substance use, and people who have mental health diagnosis. We were created to be relational people, and people are suffering. Unfortunately, I know several people who have relapsed during these last few months. Limited transportation has also been a barrier, along with meetings and churches being closed. Speaking only for myself, isolation is a deadly place for me to be. I have lived years in isolation during active use and I treasure my new life I don’t want to escape from!” During this time of isolation, uncertainty, and stress, it is important to not lose touch with your community and to stay connected. One can never know what others are dealing with, now or in the past. Simply checking in on someone might just be the lifeline they need to stay afloat. Together, Yancey County EYFP will stay connected as a resilient community.
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