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Local nonprofit works to help families dealing with drug and alcohol problems

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More than 30 years ago, Jackie Landler was a teacher at Putnam City North High School. She and Rachel Whelan, a counselor at the school, wanted to help families deal with alcohol and drug problems. Volunteering their time, the women studied a local treatment model and met with the school board, school officials and parents.

With support from various entities, Landler and Whelan developed the Student Assistance Program. Today, that program is A Chance to Change Foundation. Over the years, the programs have expanded and the group has grown, but the focus has remained the same: family treatment. Along with alcohol and drug addiction treatment, gambling has been added to the program.

"We are the state provider for gambling (addiction) treatments," said Jo Ann Pearce, executive director of A Chance to Change Foundation. "We've seen a significant demand for this in the last year."

The nonprofit organization also focuses on education and outreach. One class, titled "Addiction: How It Affects You and Your Family," is free and open to the public. The seminar is held every Monday night from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Last Frontier Council Scout Service Center, 3031 N.W. 64th, and there is no pre-registration. The class is held over a six-week period and addresses six different topics, including enabling and co-dependency. The sessions repeat in order every six weeks.

"It's a 101 course on how addictions affect families," Pearce said. "It's really interesting."

Another free education class is called "A Chance to Succeed." This is a partnership program with area schools to educate families and youth about addiction. The goal is to intervene early because, as Pearce reports, the statewide average for experimentation with drugs and alcohol is seventh grade. Currently, there are approximately 10 schools participating in the program.

Mental health counseling, which is also offered by A Chance to Change, includes stress, anxiety and depression. As the economy tries to stabilize, this can include stress in the work environment. Businesses can contract with the organization to provide counseling for their employees.

Some of the issues that may be affecting employees include marital issues and depression, Pearce said. "About 40 companies contract with us, which is about 30 percent of our clients."

From a school counseling program dealing with drug and alcohol addiction to the myriad programs and services offered in 2009, A Chance to Change has touched many lives, lives that have been changed for the better and will continue to be because of the people at the foundation. The programs, services and education continue to expand to aid the community.

Landler said the foundation gives struggling people hope. "It is never hopeless. Even if the person with the addiction will not get help, other family members can come to class to get information. Our education is free and is available."

For information, call 840-9000 or visit www.achancetochange.org. "Gina A. Dabney

photo Jackie Landler is co-founder of A Chance to Change.

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