A team of dedicated specialists with A Caring Alternative recently planted a special source of healing for one of their clients, offering support and peace of mind to aid in her recovery.
As part of a holistic health approach, members of the A Caring Alternative ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) Team visited Deborah Finkle’s house Friday and planted a plentiful garden right next to her home.
A Caring Alternative is a mental health and substance abuse agency that provides services adults, adolescents and children in western North Carolina.
ACA Certified Peer Support Specialist Joshua Singleton said he used to struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues himself. He now uses his past experiences to promote wellness and inspire the recovery of others.
Singleton said Finkle struggled with mental illness and substance abuse issues for about 25 years. The idea for the garden came from her talking about memories she has of gardening with her grandfather.
“When she was talking about how she and her grandfather worked together in the garden, she just lit up like a light bulb,” he said. “And that, right there, said we need to get this woman a garden. It was a positive side of her that I hadn’t seen because she’s been through so many troubles. I think this is going to allow her more freedom in life and add to her recovery.”
The garden includes several different types of plants, including flowers and vegetable plants. Painted stepping stones — along with a decorated wooden crate — were donated by Enchanted Art and placed across the soil. Morganton Ace Hardware also donated funds for the project.
Singleton said the team garden project also promotes unity, and having supportive people around is an important part of getting to recovery.
“To be able to see us all working together in one location is amazing,” he said. “It feels good to see us able to do this for someone we’re also serving and helping. It’s beautiful.”
Finkle said gardening has always been a way to help her heal, and ACA providing a garden for her meant the world. She had a big smile on her face as she helped the team dig holes in the soil and picked places for each plant to go.
“I’ve always loved gardening, and after my health got kind of bad, I couldn’t get out much,” she said. “(Now), I can come out to my garden and plant my flowers. It does a lot of healing. It’ll be known as the healing garden.”
Finkle said she thinks it would be good for more people, especially young volunteers, to get together and do similar activities like plant a garden for an elderly person or other community projects to help others.
“It feels good that there are good people who reach out, and all you have to do is ask for help,” she said. “They’ve been wonderful and fully supportive, and I just thank God. It means so much to me.”
ACA Psychiatrist Sharon Willingham said the ACT Team approach is a new innovation in liberal health designed to work with individuals who may need a little extra help. Their goals are to keep people out of the hospital and help them recover.
“Recovery is a whole lot more than just medication,” she said. “It’s helping the entire person and paying attention to what motivates people, encourages them and what helps them take the next step.”
The team goes out to see clients at their homes on a regular basis, where Willingham can also assist in more natural ways to better their wellbeing and recovery, such as healthy eating and exercise.
“I’m able to see what their living situations are and what they need beyond medications,” she said. “I can prescribe a whole lot more than just a pill to help people get better.”
Willingham said each person who is a part of the ACT Team is able to provide a different type of service for clients, such as peer support, vocational housing and substance abuse counseling. The approach that ACA takes not only helps people on the road to recovery, but saves them financial trouble as well.
“It saves money, it saves trips to the emergency room,” she said. “This concept is working amazingly well. It’s everyone working together to give people what they need.”
Singleton said starting this week, ACA will be offering Burke Integrated Health Hub, a walk-in clinic where people can get their medical and psychiatric symptom needs met in one location. This will be one of the first integrated health hubs in western North Carolina.
For more information on A Caring Alternative, visitwww.acaringalternative.com.
BY BRIANNE FLEMING
Source: The News Herald