By ANGELA FARR KING
Never let it be said that a few people with a calling to minister can’t make a difference. There are currently four people involved in Shai Ministries, Inc. and they are on a mission to help those who struggle to help themselves due to drug addiction or mental illness, which are usually closely tied together. When they talk about their ministry, their passion is evident and they are just getting started.
Karla McCall, from Granite Falls, is a Social Worker and Counselor at Frye Regional Medical Center South Campus. Her work focuses on mental health and psychosis. She works with many patients who suffer from Schizophrenia and/or substance addiction. She says it is difficult to determine whether or not her patients are truly Schizophrenic or are suffering from the results of methamphetamine use. She says meth damages the brain so badly that those who use it often develop Schizophrenic symptoms.
Stacie Parson, from Hildebran, is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Addiction Counselor. She works for ICGH (Integrated Care of Hickory) Treatment Centers in Hickory, but she is excited about a branch of ICGH that will soon be opening in Taylorsville. She said an office has already been purchased. This is the mission statement on the ICGH website: “Our mission at ICGH as providers in recovery ourselves is to lift up others struggling from every type of behavioral health condition by offering or securing every possible intervention needed to achieve lifelong recovery, from the highest quality of medical and behavioral health services to peer support, recovery housing, and much more. Because of this, our motto has always been Recovery – not treatment.”
Kenneth Fox, from Bethlehem, works with Cognitive Connections in the area of Peer Support. He recently attended a SUD (Substance Use Deterrent) Coalition meeting in Alexander County to share the backpacks Shai Ministries offers to those who are unsheltered.
Derrick Chalfant who owns a painting business in Hickory serves on the board of Shai and is also on mission to help a population of people that is often ignored or shunned.
Karla and Stacie used to work together at Frye Regional and it was there that they began to see a troublesome gap in treatment for those who were released from the hospital before they could receive the medications and services they needed to be successful in recovery. For this reason, they could see that many of their patients were on a revolving door: making progress in the hospital, being released without their needed medications and having to wait to see a primary care doctor for weeks, thus relapsing and returning to the hospital.
They particularly noticed a problem for their patients returning to Alexander County because they had no mental health resources in their immediate area. They were expected to travel to Hickory or other counties to seek treatment and these ladies explained how impossible that is for most of their patients. Many of them are unsheltered. They have no jobs or transportation so they could not get the treatments and care they desperately needed.
Karla referenced Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which explains in pyramid form that physical needs and safety are at the bottom of the pyramid and the first priorities for any human being to survive. Without those needs being met, their patients were returning to drugs as a means of coping. They explained that the Lord placed a burden on their hearts, along with Kenneth and Derrick, to find resources to fill these gaps in treatment.
Stacie, Karla, and Kenneth do not work in the same facility any longer, but they believe that is by divine design. Karla uses her knowledge and perspective from the inside of the hospital, while Kenneth and Stacie are able to use theirs working with patients in outpatient settings. Karla said, “God put us together so that we can see both sides: outpatient and inpatient.”
These individuals began pooling their own financial resources under the leadership of their Heavenly Father to try to fill in the gaps for their patients. Thus, Shai Ministries was born and has been in existence for a little over two years. The word “Shai” means “Gift” in Hebrew. Stacie said that God gave her the name for the ministry.
So what do the workers of Shai Ministries do for their patients? The answer is anything and everything they can to meet their needs during the gap time between being released from the hospital to receiving treatment from a doctor, which can sometimes take six weeks or up to two months to happen. Stacie explained that there is grant money available to pay for Opioid medications for those addicted, but their patients often need basic medications for blood pressure or mental health struggles. Shai Ministries helps them apply for NCMedAssist to receive their medications, but in the meantime they also purchase what they need. They call this assistance program “Project Script.”
The backpacks given out by Shai Ministries are helpful for those who are unsheltered. The backpacks include items needed to survive, including blankets, toilet paper, toothbrushes, socks, antibacterial soap, shampoo, deodorant, and a brochure for Shai Ministries giving them contact information and encouragement to seek the ultimate gift, Jesus Christ. They also give out tents and sleeping bags.
The Shai Ministries Team believes that God directed them to focus on Alexander County because of the vast needs they have seen in this county due to a lack of resources. Stacie said they have big dreams for Alexander County, including creating a Community Center, assisting with transitional housing, and helping to heal generational trauma.” Stacie said “The ideal goal would be to have a place for whole families to receive treatment because treating the children is futile unless the parents are treated as well.”
The ministry team admits that there are certainly stigmas attached to drug addiction. Most people view it as a choice and they agree that initially, the choice to use illegal and harmful drugs is a choice, but many people experiment due to living in continuous trauma. As Karla said, “No one wants to be a drug addict.” They encourage people to look beyond the outside of a drug addict and to have compassion for their struggles and the illness they are enduring. They also seek to educate the public about the connections between emotional trauma and drug use that their patients are often caught in. They don’t simply hand out needs to their patients either. They expect self motivation for recovery. As Karla tells her patients, “I will fight for you if you want it.” They speak candidly and boldly to those they counsel and expect them to show up for meetings and treatments.
Shai Ministries is making an impact on Alexander County and will be a wonderful resource for existing entities, such as the SUD (Substance Abuse Deterrent) Coalition, the Sheriff’s Department, and PORT (Post Overdose Recovery Team). When these organizations unite, the effort to combat drug addiction in Alexander County will only become stronger and more powerful.
Shai Ministries follows the words of Jesus found in Matthew 25:35-36, which state, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” For more information about Shai Ministries or to make a donation to their work, visit shaiministries22.org.