HAZARD — Kentucky River Community Care (KRCC) held a soft open for their Youth Drop-In Center, named The Sapling Center, on June 1. The drop-in center is located on Main Street in downtown Hazard. It allows a chance for youth to develop their own treatment methods, make new friends, gain new skills, receive support of their peers, set goals and work with others to achieve those goals.
It is dedicated to serving transition-aged youth from the ages of 14-25 who suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Participants of the drop-in center do not have to be a client of KRCC, but membership to the drop-in center is required. It is free to join.
During the membership process teens will explain what type of treatments they would like and set goals for themselves. The youth have a strong influence in their treatment plans.
“Hazard drop-in is our first location,” said Director of Transition Aged Youth Services Brittany Hunsucker.
They will be opening another drop-in center in Letcher County in the Fall.
Hunsucker said it was important for the youth to have a safe space to come too, that they feel comfortable using and make the drop-in their own.
“We’ve already seen a lot of success here,” she said.
“Everyone is chill here,” said a 15-year-old female participant.
One of her favorite activities to do at the drop-in is to play PlayStation 4 with everybody.
She suffers from anxiety and was anxious to come to the drop-in center first, but she said that everyone was accepting of her and that she has made plenty of friends.
Some of the activities that is offered at the drop-in center are: video games, board games, computer lab, watching movies, playing basketball, pool, ping-pong, makeup/cosmetology classes and cooking classes.
For Youth Peer Support Specialist Cody Watts, his favorite activity to do with the teens is to take them to the basketball courts in Hazard.
“They love the walk down there. They love to be active. It’s awesome,” said Watts.
A peer support specialist is an individual who advocates for their clients, or in this case their peers.
More activities will be available when the drop-in center has its much larger opening in August.
He says the drop-in center is an amazing place where teens can come and better themselves.
“I love how the kids open up and be themselves here. They don’t have to hide anything, they can be who they are without any judgments,” Watts said of the importance of the drop-in center and how it affects the youth in a positive way.
Youth Coordinator Courtney Worley feels it is important to empower the youth and make them feel like they have a voice.
“The most important thing about the drop-in is that the youth have a platform to be who they are, be free and to be validated, especially in their decisions and treatments. That way, they know what they say matters and what they feel matters,” said Worley.
Hunsucker said the teens have input about the drop-in center through the youth panel. This lets them decide things such as building decor to activities that they want to take part in.
Some of the tools teens have at their disposal for their treatment methods include group therapy and one-on-one therapy.
A certified therapist is available at the drop-in center for two hours everyday. Clients can choose to either take advantage of the opportunity or not, whichever works best for their treatment method.
In the future, Hunsucker hopes a drop-in center will be available in every county that KRCC operates. She says it is important for youth to have a safe place to go and feel wanted.
She also hopes the drop-in center will help homeless teens get back on their feet.
For more information on the drop-in center, please call KRCC at 606-436-5761.
TJ Caudill is a reporter for The Hazard Herald and he can be reached at 606-436-5771.