PADUCAH, KY – Youth who have a substance abuse disorder or have other behavioral health issues struggle to fit in. They struggle to find a place to go after school. They struggle to find fun things to do that don’t involve bad influences or drugs and alcohol.
In addition, many are working toward improvement but encounter barriers such as a lack of accountability, the absence of a mentor who can help guide them towards establishing and reaching goals, or having a safe place to go hang out and have fun without drugs or alcohol.
These are the voids that The Zone will fill. The Zone is Four Rivers’ newest initiative designed to provide a safe environment for young people ages 16 to 25.
“There are not a lot of places to go if you’re trying to live a sober life. And there aren’t a lot of places to go where kids with anxiety or maybe depression can go where they don’t feel out of place,” Program Director Sarah Puckett says.
The Zone provides a supervised recreation and counseling center for young people seeking to find common ground with others struggling with similar problems. The center offers counseling and clinical services, job placement services, recreational facilities and youth peer support.
Tyler Clark is a Peer Support Specialist for The Zone. “Everyone goes through things in life that are hard to deal with,” explained Clark.
He went on, “Sometimes you just need to talk to someone about it. This can be even harder than the events themselves, because you have to trust the person you are talking to and be confident that will not gossip about your situation, or judge you.”
According to Puckett, that’s why Peer Support is such an important component to The Zone. She said, “When you have someone who is relatively close in age to these young people and someone who has been through what they have been through, talking to them suddenly seems a lot easier than ‘going to counseling’ or talking to a guidance counselor.”
The challenges faced by youth in the program range from low self-esteem to substance abuse to anxiety and depression, impulse control and other related issues.
Pocket saidt, a young person’s lack of confidence can drive them to the kinds of friends they choose, their level of engagement in sports and other beneficial activities, and their willingness to work towards life-improving goals.
“Around the time youth reach high school we begin to see the impact of low self-esteem,” Puckett says.
If not addressed by the time youth reach age 16, they are at risk of taking on a lot of unhealthy habits that can lead to bigger problems in the future. A lack of confidence can ultimately lead to a lack of motivation, a fear of failure and a variety of high-risk behaviors, Puckett says.
“People get the wrong idea about mental health services,” Puckett says. “Our job is to give (young people) a different way to think about things. We are helping them find ways to foster happiness.”
The Zone will be open weekday afternoons from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. There are video games, pool tables, Virtual Reality games, computers, HDTV’s and other activities. It’s a place where transition-aged youth can easily access an array of high-quality, culturally and developmentally appropriate, youth-driven supports and services. These services are designed to help them achieve their goals and reach adulthood successfully.
Youth at The Zone do not have to sign up for specific services, such as counseling, but after their third visit they will be encouraged to do so. They also will be asked to consider setting some goals for the future such as doing better in school or finding a job.
Four Rivers Behavioral Health is a private, not-for-profit agency that for more than 50 years has provided comprehensive mental health, substance abuse and developmental/intellectual disability services to clients in Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, McCracken, and Marshall Counties.
For more information about behavioral health and substance abuse services for youth, contact Four Rivers Behavioral Health at 270.442.7121 or visit the company’s website at www.4RBH.org. Four Rivers Behavioral Health offers several program specifically designed for youth and young adults including Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Therapy for youth with a substance abuse disorder along with a co-occurring behavioral health concern.