Whether it be undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions or neglected substance abuse concerns, the state of Arkansas has more than its share of clinical mental health issues, a burden almost too large to shoulder for state behavioral health officials.
According to Resources to Recover, a digital database by Laurel House, Inc., approximately 5 percent of Arkansas adults live with serious mental health conditions, representing tens of thousands of Arkansans struggling with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and more. Of those who are diagnosed, less than half receive any form of treatment from either the public system or private providers.
The remaining 53.5 percent receive no mental health treatment. Factor in those Arkansans dealing with unmitigated substance misuse problems or undiagnosed mental health conditions, and it’s easy to see why many refer to this as a “health crisis.”
But hope is not lost. In addition to ongoing efforts by state-level stakeholders, there are a number of Arkansans working tirelessly to bridge the gap to critical relief and resources for those in need. Notable individuals have embarked on noble work to address needs in their communities, spurred by their experiences and the experiences of those closest to them. Their work through local organizations, even amid a global pandemic, are driving positive impacts among those in need.
Northwest Arkansas-based Center4Soul is touching the lives of those dealing with mental and emotional health issues through positive therapy, led by the efforts of Bella Vista resident Pam DeRossitte.
DeRossitte describes the organization as a “soul-based, recovery-oriented, positive therapy experience” that is designed to bring healing to mind, body, heart and soul.
“Our mission is to provide alternative and complementary solutions to traditional therapies for people experiencing emotional distress and other mental and emotional afflictions,” DeRossitte says. “We offer personal consultations, of course, but also events, workshops and seminars. We believe that our goals are just as much educational as they are therapeutic, and we incorporate a variety of options and activities to meet peoples’ needs.”
DeRossitte saw in her community people suffering. She launched Center4Soul in an effort to help address their needs by applying what she had learned from years of studying and practicing in her own life.
“I began thinking of ways that I could help individuals and groups learn how to master their minds and find healthy methods for dealing with mental and emotional suffering after finding solutions that worked in my own journey,” DeRossitte says. “My friends, classmates and work colleagues all, at some time, had experienced depression, anxiety, grief, PTSD or the other numerous mental disorders. Some got better — happier, more stable — and some didn’t. I decided to go back to school, study everything I could find, earned two master’s degrees and then put my research into a plan of action. This plan worked for me, and it could work for anybody.”
Key facets of this program include the events and workshops developed by DeRossitte, which play a vital role in helping those dealing with mental and emotional health issues. She has been fine-tuning them for years, the result of research and application.
“An example of one of our events,” she says, “is a mindful meditation class. I’ve studied mindful meditation for well over a decade, including an intensive with Tibetan monks. My study and practice have shown me the power of mindful meditation, and how that practice can help us calm our minds. More specifically, it teaches us to be in control of our minds and not be controlled by unwanted thoughts. It’s a powerful skill.”
Workshop at Center4Soul, according to DeRossitte, includes the work they do in small groups to create a sand mandala, which, she says, is an ancient ritual developed by Tibetan monks and indigenous Americans.
“By participating in the sand mandala ritual, we make a connection to a deeper level of ourselves, our soul,” DeRossitte explains. “The ritual provides active sustenance for the soul in dealing with loss, grief and new beginnings. It is fun, memorable and healing all at the same time.”
At Center4Soul, DeRossitte also works to bridge the gap for patients who are receiving more traditional mental health treatments, having been trained in both clinical applications and holistic approaches. “I think humans are too complicated to benefit from just a one-sided therapeutic approach, so we strive to provide clients with talk therapy as well as soul-based educational activities for their maximum benefit.”
Another key facet of Center4Soul is DeRossitte’s work educating the community she serves on topics of mental health, an effort she hopes removes some of the stigma often associated with various forms of diagnosis and treatment.
“We are dedicated to increasing mental health education in our community,” she says. “We meet with groups such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, Pathways, businesses, various groups and organizations and schools.
“An additional part of our education goal is to provide uplifting, inspirational videos, memes and messages on our website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We are a nonprofit, registered in Arkansas, and our way of saying ‘thank you’ to our sponsors will be to include them in a tagline in our inspirational videos. We are beginning to tentatively meet with potential sponsors to ask for donations to help us carry out our mission.”
But the COVID-19 pandemic has made DeRossitte’s work difficult. As the world slowed down, so did her ability to connect with members of her community to provide educational outreach and pursue critical sponsorships. “We held off on seeking sponsors because so many have been so economically impacted by the COVID situation, and we don’t want to put any undue pressure on the businesses in our community,” she says.
“We were just up and running not long before the COVID-19 pandemic began, so we had to stop all events, workshops and seminars for now. Because so much of our business is based on meeting with individuals, groups and businesses, we have put all that on hold. Instead, we have been offering consultations through teletherapy, which is convenient for clients and very secure. And we are offering our consultation services for free.”
Pandemic or not, DeRossitte is determined to carry out her mission to provide care and meet the needs of those in her community faced with mental and emotional struggles.
“My hope is that the guidance, care and education provided by Center4Soul will reach many people, and that by providing workable, natural, healthy solutions to those in need, we can increase our understanding of mental illness, the psyche — the soul, the deeper levels of consciousness — and by sharing the steps and methods for overcoming suffering, lives will be made healthier, happier, wealthier and wiser. By serving our local Northwest Arkansas community and beyond, we hope to continue into the future sharing strategies for happiness, health, wisdom and wealth.”
To learn more about Center4Soul or to schedule a consultation, visit www.center4soul.org.
Matt Adams Foundation
The Matt Adams Foundation (MAF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to combat the opioid and addiction epidemic through education, harm reduction and assistance for those seeking recovery. In doing so, MAF breaks down the damaging stigma associated with substance use and encourages hope, healing and second chances.
The organization’s approach is one of compassion and inclusivity in the community to provide life-saving resources to those in active use. Concurrently, MAF fosters partnerships to offer access to recovery support when, and if, its clients are ready to seek it.
Like DeRossitte’s Center4Soul, MAF was founded to meet a need in a community and spurred by the experiences of its founders and those closest to them.
MAF was founded in memory of the late Matt Adams, fiancé to MAF co-founder Heather Starbuck and brother to co-founder Brittany Kelly. Adams lost his addiction battle on Sept. 12, 2017, in Boulder, Co., when he was 30 years old. The family resides in Fayetteville, where they honor his legacy through their work for MAF.
“Matt was and remains our greatest inspiration,” Kelly says. “Matt would give the shirt off his back to help someone less fortunate, even in the darkest days of his addiction. He was always my hero I looked up to growing up, and he continues to give me the energy I need to help those that need it. I’ve heard from so many that we’ve been able to help through our organization who never met Matt, that they’ve felt his encouragement and support. And hearing those things makes this work so entirely worth it.”
At MAF, Kelly, Starbuck and their team provide critical harm reduction services to those at risk, while also meeting people where they are in their battle with addiction.
“We supply the lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug, Naloxone, free to the public,” Starbuck says. “In the case of an overdose, having Naloxone administered temporarily blocks opioids from the opioid receptors of the brain, buying the bystander and person overdosing critical time for medical attention when every second counts.”
In a span of 18 months, this service alone has saved a reported 90 lives, and likely many more than were not reported. The organization also offers free Fentanyl testing strips to allow those who use drugs to test them for Fentanyl, the drug responsible for more than half of all opioid-related overdose deaths. “Having given out now thousands of kits, we’re so grateful that the community has embraced this program and saved so many lives,” Starbuck says.
MAF’s work toward harm reduction helps bridge the gap to recovery for many Arkansans who might otherwise find themselves struggling alone. Harm reduction, according to Starbuck, is about meeting people where they are, without judgment, an agenda or conditions.
“Harm reductionists believe that each and every person deserves access to adequate health care, lifesaving tools and dignity in these exchanges regardless of their background or lifestyle,” she says. “Our harm reduction program provides a safe, non-coercive, space for those both in active use and their friends and family to confidentially obtain these services. Through education and awareness, we seek to equip those who use drugs to do so as safely as possible and ultimately, bring down preventable overdose deaths and the spread of life-threatening diseases in our community.
“There are many myths when it comes to Naloxone (brand name Narcan) and access to harm reduction, but the research and our clientele base shows that if you treat people with respect, regardless of their current circumstances, they are more likely to take precautions with their use, and also, ultimately, find recovery down the line if that is their path. All we do is keep our clients alive and safe along the way. Harm reduction is an act of radical love.”
In addition to its work in harm reduction, MAF recently launched a partnership with Ozark Guidance and the Cigna Foundation to provide Peer Recovery Support Specialist (PRSS) services, specifically for evenings and weekends and in times of severe crises (such as after an overdose) to ensure that patients have access to treatment when timing is most critical. The PRSS will navigate clients through the full spectrum of care in treating substance use disorder, from detox to treatment to transitional programs, and finally, into recovery.
“We look forward to announcing more information on this program as we roll it out in the coming months,” Starbuck says.
As those at MAF fight to save lives with their resources and harm reduction, they also wage a battle against the stigma of addiction. They recognize that those battling addictions are more than a statistic, and prior to the pandemic, they traveled the country speaking out on the stigma.
“Of course, with COVID-19, events have slowed down,” Kelly says. “But we go to speak in groups that are very diverse in opinions, and we work to make them understand how important compassion is in addiction. We have spoken at events in Chicago; Knoxville, Tenn.; Cherokee, N.C.; and all across schools in Benton County and to hundreds of first responders and [emergency medical services] across the state. We actively work on changing the way people speak, substituting words in their vocabulary with ones that are less harmful to those in active addiction, working with folks at the state level to see the human behind the addiction, and how they’re so much more than their statistic.”
You don’t have to work for MAF or start your own organization to help bridge the gap to recovery for those battling addiction. Want to help? “Carry Naloxone,” Starbuck says. “It’s our mantra. You never know when you could encounter an overdose. Particularly now, with overdoses on the rise more than ever due to COVID-19, the more people equipped with Naloxone to act when every second counts, the better.”
Naloxone can be obtained from MAF or its partner organization, the Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project.
“Education is another way our community can assist this work — understanding harm reduction, the facts, not the myths, and educating those around us is critical to help us turn these horrible overdose rates around,” Starbuck says. “Our website is full of research and information for anyone interested.
“As a grassroots, community-based program, we are always seeking volunteers to help grow our reach and expand access to these critical resources. Additionally, our harm reduction program is funded primarily by donations, where contributions can go a long way toward our efforts and keeping this program alive. Above all else, we ask for our community to spread compassion and shine light, even in the darkest of places; you may never know who you’re saving.”
For more information on MAF and its resources, visit www.mattadamsfoundation.org. Anyone seeking its resources in Northwest Arkansas can contact the hotline, confidentially, at (479) 222-0532. Those in Central Arkansas can reach out to its partner organization, Central Arkansas Harm Reduction Project, by visiting www.arkansasharmreduction.org, or by texting the hotline at (501) 438-9158.