News Article Details

Center offers CHOICES to turn to

The Oskaloosa Herald - 11/2/2018

Nov. 02--OSKALOOSA -- A new resource is available for those who may be struggling with mental health needs.

First Resources recently opened CHOICES (Center for Hope, Opportunity, Inspiration and Change in an Environment of Support) at 117 First Ave. W.

CHOICES is a drop-in center, said coordinator Sarah Schlax, for people ages 18 and older. It's all about information and community building.

"It's a place to get some community support, to attend support groups, to get a free meal every day. We serve lunch Monday through Saturday at noon," she said. "Again, it's just a really good atmosphere for building community and taking the stigma away from mental illness."

Schlax said there currently is an addiction support group and a support group on understanding mental diagnoses will be starting.

"I think a lot of people get their diagnosis but then aren't given a bunch of information on it later. So it's really important for us that people understand what their diagnosis actually is," she said. "And again, that takes away some of the stigma because when you get scary diagnoses that you don't know that much about, then it's hard to know how to seek treatment and sometimes, like I said, it can be a little bit scary."

Schlax said the CHOICES grant was for people over 18 in Mahaska County with a mental health diagnosis, but they're unlikely to turn anyone away.

"We also expect there are going to be just people in the community that are interested and want to stop by and see what we're all about," she said. "And we also know that not all mental health issues are diagnosed. So we're available for those people too. So it's literally just a drop-in center. Drop in and out. There's no real requirement other than that."

First Resources, Schlax said is a large mental health organization.

"We do mental health for adults and children, behavioral assistance for children, therapy, family therapy. We're also planning on introducing intensive psychiatric rehab into the Mahaska County Area," she said. "So pretty much mental health-wise, I'd say in Mahaska County, First Resources and Behavioral Health are the places to go to."

CHOICES and First Resources fill a gap in the current state of mental health services in Iowa, Schlax said, and in Mahaska County specifically.

"We're blessed with having Behavioral Health here as well, but we have a lot of people who are looking for that community, particularly people who are hanging out at the mall or are potentially homeless," she said, "or even students from William Penn that don't necessarily understand their diagnoses or feel like they're alone or stigmatized. And so we really want to provide a space for people to go and feel comfortable."

Schlax said she felt the stigma surrounding mental health is getting better.

"You can find 10 TED talks on any mental illness. I think really having access to this information takes the stigma away and it makes it seem like some of those rarer diagnoses like maybe schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, it gets people information and really humanizes the people with those disorders," she said. "So I think that information is really important. And because we do have such great agencies in this community, we are promoting more information and we are kind of reducing that stigma."

Anyone is welcome to visit, Schlax said.

"Even if they don't feel like they need support or even if they need resources that aren't mental health resources to just drop in and see what we're about," she said. "We are pretty well-versed in other resources in the community, so even if they just need a place to go to get information, we want to be the spot that provides that. It's a really fun environment and we hope that people stop by."

Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at aholland@oskyherald.com and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.

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(c)2018 The Oskaloosa Herald (Oskaloosa, Iowa)

Visit The Oskaloosa Herald (Oskaloosa, Iowa) at www.oskaloosa.com

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