At the beginning of 2020, we had 3 groups with a group capacity of 10-12 clients. We were able to serve 30-36 clients efficiently and effectively. We were slowly working towards a 4th group, as the group demand continued to grow.
On March 16, 2020, our Beacon of Hope office closed and all clients were moved to phone check-ins until we were able to get our Telehealth service up and running. At this time we had 19 active group members. 19 group members that were at a high risk of relapse and 19 clients that received individual check-in calls by group leaders who had existing relationships with the client. These check-in calls were instrumental for these clients and the benefits unmeasurable.
After about a month and a half of check-in calls, we were able to host groups over Zoom. In order to make sure we were providing our guests with a safe place to share, we made sure to verify a confidential space of each and every client. We offered 3 zoom groups to start but quickly added a 4th as our demand increased. During COVID we were one of the only organizations that offered mental health groups, which increased our referrals and increased the number of probation and parole agents we worked with.
As the summer approached, COVID cases were reduced and our group members were asking to meet in person again, we worked to provide a larger group space and procedures where our group members could meet in person safely. In order to meet in person, our room capacity was 5 group members and 2 leaders. In order to continue to help the population, we were currently serving we needed to add additional groups. In June we had 5 in-person groups and 1 group that met over Zoom. Having a hybrid of in-person and remote groups allowed us to serve our guests that didn’t have internet or struggled with technology, as well as those that had transportation issues.
Having more groups meant we needed more staff and intern power to run the groups. In order to maintain group consistency and quality, as an organization, we began to required staff and interns who ran a group to meet once a week to check-in and help other group leaders better themselves professionally and ultimately bettering their groups, group dynamics, and group members. Taking this time each week allows Beacon of Hope to offer the best services possible. Not only were we growing and meeting the new demand, but we were ensuring to do it effectively with the needs of our guests at the forefront.
As the fall hit and COVID cases in our county started to increase, Beacon of Hope didn’t want to move our in-person groups back to Telehealth, like many of the organizations around us did. Our clients wanted to stay in person and valued the time to connect with others in a safe place. In order to do this effectively, we needed to make sure that we were operating with an abundance of caution and that our staff was prepared to substitute in different groups as needed. Throughout this time we are happy to report that our groups caused no COVID cases and only had to cancel one group session due to a lack of staffing. To have our groups be something our members can count on and be apart of their recovery routine is extremely important and something we were and are continuing to provide.
Overall, our Emotional Support Probation and Parole Group met the need of each and every one of our clients. We provided services that helped clients stay out of prison or jail. Services that gave/give clients a place to be and a routine to keep themselves on track with. When we weren’t seeing clients in person, we were still there to check-in one with them and make sure we could step in and help whenever they needed us. We showed care and compassion to individuals who are often marginalized. We stepped up when others stepped back. We were consistent. We were there in every form. We were Beacon.
Olivia serves as the Group Coordinator at Beacon of Hope. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BS in health professions, with a minor in psychology, and holds an MS in Clinical Psychology with a Specialization in Counseling from Walden University. Olivia started at Beacon of Hope as an intern in 2017 and began serving as our Group Coordinator in 2019. Olivia works with a variety of clients, but has a passion for individuals who are court mandated to counseling and adolescents. Olivia and her husband currently live in West Michigan with their dog. She is an avid runner, but also enjoys doing a variety of outdoor activities: camping, gardening, hiking, biking, and playing on different recreation leagues.