Oak-Leyden Developmental Services conducts fundraising campaign create a new mental health program for adult participants struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Oak-Leyden, a longtime Oak Park-based nonprofit that serves adults and children with developmental disabilities in Chicago’s near western suburbs, is hoping to raise at least $25,000 to support a new position as a licensed clinical professional consultant. conduct group and individual therapy for adult clients.
Oak-Leyden has set up a GoFundMe account to collect donations and the campaign runs through June. The headquarters of Oak-Leyden is located at 411 Chicago Ave.
Elizabeth Loren, development director at Oak-Leyden, said people with intellectual disabilities, including those with limited verbal communication skills, depend on routine for their livelihood. They need “permanent” access to services, she said, such as regular visits to doctors or therapists or attending events with friends and family. And for years, Oak Leiden was a mainstay – until the first wave of the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Lauren told The Wednesday Journal that Oak-Leyden was forced to shut down its daytime programs, which typically offered classes, clubs, excursions, or volunteer opportunities, and due to limited resources, was unable to create virtual options.
“We didn’t really go virtual for several months. We didn’t have technology or [the] an opportunity to go virtual,” Lauren said, noting that Oak-Leyden resumed its daytime programming in October 2020 as Illinois slowly and cautiously reopened. Lauren said Oak-Leyden maintained its community living program even during the onset of the pandemic, but clients who lived in group homes suddenly clashed with their housemates and visitors as they struggled to understand the COVID rules.
Overall, the initial lack of daytime programs, along with the COVID-19 rule change, has created a number of barriers for clients.
“Let’s say you were an employee [and tested positive for COVID-19], and I’m used to you coming in every Saturday, but now you don’t. And now it’s been two months, and I don’t understand why you’re not there, – said Lauren, expressing concern, anxiety. and anxiety faced by clients. “When [our] clients got sick [with COVID]the house should be quarantined, but they will still need staff, which means that the staff has moved to a residential model.”
“[It] it kind of boils down to what you’re used to every day, and all of a sudden it changes right away,” she continued.
Although the safety measures associated with the new coronavirus and the number of cases have changed a lot over the past two years, Oak-Leyden employees are interested in the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic on their customers, Lauren said. The hope for this new program is to provide customers with another level of support. According to the GoFundMe campaign, with the addition of a licensed professional counselor, Oak-Leyden aims to help structured conversation participants feel less alone, reduce their anxiety, and increase their motivation to stick to treatment plans.
Lauren said that once the financial target is reached, Oak-Leyden plans to start the program by July or August.
“We have to launch it. This is a critical service that our customers need right now,” she said.