Deena C. Bouknight
Sheila Jenkins officially retired last year as administrative officer for senior services at The Crawford Center. Yet, she works tirelessly as a volunteer working to launch an initiative she developed last year called No Wrong Door.
“Before I retired, after 30 years, I had a passion for people dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse,” said Jenkins. “I saw it through the senior side … those struggling to take care of adult children.”
Jenkins’ path crossed with Dinah Mashburn, town council member, who also manages Sharing Our Stories, for families dealing with addiction. “I realized we both had a heart of the same thing,” said Jenkins. Together, with Commissioner Ronnie Beale and County Manager Derek Roland, a program was envisioned that helps pull together many of the resources and support necessary for an individual or a family in the throes of mental health challenges or substance abuse issues.
Currently, Jenkins is in the process of securing 501(c)3 status for No Wrong Door as well as a board of directors.
To determine if No Wrong Door was needed in Macon County, Jenkins and others involved called a meeting in March. Eighty-plus people attended from “all walks of life,” including task forces and private agencies that handle substance abuse issues, private citizens, representatives from the district attorney’s office, and representatives from schools, churches, and Men’s Teen Challenge of the Smokies.
“It was an all-day meeting and we received very good feedback,” said Jenkins. “The bottom line was that something was needed.”
She explains that the goal for individuals struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues is for them to lead productive, contributing lives and for them to know that they and their families are supported.
“A mental health or substance abuse concern doesn’t just affect the one person,” she said. “There is so much involved. No Wrong Door is intended to connect the dots. The intention is for No Wrong Door to make sure there are no gaps. So many people dealing with this are overwhelmed, funds are limited, and staffs are burned out. We want to step in and help … not try to re-invent. Just look at the needs and issues and work together with others to make Macon County a successful county for everyone concerned.”
Jenkins said it is clear that addiction issues, especially, are growing in Macon County. “And it’s not a political problem; it’s a community problem. It will take the community working together to solve it.”
She pointed out that there are many misconceptions and a lack of understanding when it comes to both mental health and substance abuse issues. And often they go hand in hand. Often addiction is the result of a mental health issue going undiagnosed and an individual attempting to self-medicate to alleviate problems; or, addiction happens after pain medication is prescribed for a sports injury.
“These issues don’t affect a certain age group or gender; they are all over the board. And we want to be pro-active. No Wrong Door is going to be for those recovered, those recovering, or to keep people from getting to the point of addiction.”
One role of No Wrong Door is collaborating with existing services, such as a family-to-family class, sponsored by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) that offers education about addiction and mental health. Providing tools and support is key, said Jenkins. Another future offering is to plug people formerly incarcerated for addiction problems back into communities and employment opportunities.
“We want people to know they have self worth … they can be an asset to a community. In their minds, they are 10 times worse than what they think anyone thinks of them. And we want people in the community to know they can help, give back.”
She added, “There might be a lot of bad stuff going on, but there are an awful lot of good people in this community who want to help and who are helping.”
She said that No Wrong Door is taking “baby steps” to become a helpful entity in Macon County, with a near-future goal to have a physical location with volunteers on hand to assist.
“No Wrong Door is not a recovery program,” said Jenkins. “We want to be available to direct, guide, and connect. Stay tuned! We are working out all the details.”