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TODAY news for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center news

BMC expands programs for children

A family member’s addiction affects each person in the home, and children are some of the most defenseless sufferers.

With these children’s distinct needs in mind, the chemical dependency staff at LLU Behavioral Medicine Center is doubling program hours for the children of patients in treatment for addictions in 2007.

For the past five years, children ages 5 to 18 have had an hour-long Wednesday night group just for them. Staff teach them about the disease concept of addiction and coping skills that empower them to heal and grow. The program is called CIRCLE, which stands for Children in Recovery: Cope, Learn, Empower.

While the children are meeting, their parents in treatment meet in one of their own classes, and the other adult family members also have a group. Then, for a second hour, all the families come together for group work. Part of this includes the children sharing with their family what they are learning in CIRCLE.

“It’s a powerful program,” says Sue Jackson, MFT, family counselor at the Behavioral Medicine Center. “In the last five years, I would estimate we have had 450 to 500 children come through the program. They have done extremely well.”

But not all the patients’ children are able to reap the benefits. Some live out of town, and others may miss some Wednesdays because of homework or other obligations. “About a year ago, we decided we needed a weekend program, too,” says Ms. Jackson. So BMC staff members created a makeshift two-hour Saturday program.

Now that program will be expanded into a four-hour program meeting every other Saturday. The first hour will be children’s group; the next two hours will consist of family-unit activities that teach them to better communicate and function.

During the fourth hour, all the families will come together for a group meal. This will model a “family night” that the patients are encouraged to incorporate into their home life at least once a week.

The children’s program expansion is possible because of a $12,500 year, 2007 private grant from Fieldstone Found-ation, an organization that provides grants, leadership development, and other services to nonprofit organizations that support the community.

The grant will also help pay for a family celebration day, which will include a children’s graduation ceremony, much like the graduation ceremonies for BMC patients recovering from chemical dependency.

“The staff really felt like these kids do a lot of work and go through a lot of healing. They need a celebration, too,” says Megan Daly, grants officer for the LLUMC philanthropy office. Ms. Daly wrote the grant application. This is the first private foundation grant the Behavioral Medicine Center has received.

“This grant allows us to help our patients’ children even more, and that is very fulfilling,” says Ms. Daly. “There are so many outreach services that we offer at the BMC, and helping raise awareness about them is enriching.”

By Heather Reifsnyder

TODAY news for Thursday, December 14, 2006