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Traveling Groups

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Traveling Groups

Traveling Groups Origins

At the start of COVID, we talked about how we were able to implement some creative solutions to the drastic changes happening swiftly all across the country and even worldwide. From innovative PPE ideas to expanding our telehealth capabilities, we certainly got the chance to demonstrate our collective resourcefulness. One of the solutions we were most excited about was a pilot project of traveling groups.

These traveling groups were particularly important for our Community Residences such as Unity House, Somerset House, and others. Like many organizations, we were forced to confront and grapple with the sudden closure of many community resources at the start of COVID. Our Community Residences are especially reliant on these kinds of connections and resources. The shutdown changed their operations almost overnight. While we did a great job reducing the spread of and limiting exposure to the virus, we realized that the way we maintained residents’ engagement needed to be modified, too. We quickly implemented groups that would travel between our programs.

Unity House in Buffalo

Group Themes

We focused on two major themes for these groups, and the first was wellness. Jess Bennet, our Wellness Coordinator, and Danyel Brewer, Madonna House’s Nutritionist, were instrumental in getting the traveling groups idea off the ground. They both started small with their initial topics. As residents adjusted to this new format, the groups expanded in focus.

This approach allowed us to be flexible with the new wellness programming happening throughout the agency thanks to funding from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. While Jess was running groups on nutrition, healthy sleep, and other topics, she also coordinated with some partner vendors to hold groups of their own. Urban Fruits and Veggies planted raised garden beds at each of our locations and taught residents how to maintain them. Meanwhile, Garden Fresh Foodie is teaching residents how to prepare delicious plant-based meals. Traveling yoga and meditation classes will start soon at our programs, too.

The second theme of these groups was vocational support. Natalie Beilein, our Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, and Linda Plinke, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, are working with each of our programs to get started on our evolving vocational curriculum. Our vocational team has been hard at work creating person-centered vocational plans that will be extremely important as residents begin to look for work in a tumultuous economy.

Somerset House's raised garden bed
A new raised garden bed at Somerset House with tomatoes, peppers, and more

The Future

These groups have quickly become quite helpful with how we run our programs. Residents are really enjoying their structure, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, residents are choosing to stay within our continuum rather than seeking treatment elsewhere thanks to these new groups.

We’re currently working on plans and potential funding sources to continue these groups well into the future. As we adapt to the new realities facing healthcare and substance use treatment, we’ll be sure to look back to the creativity and flexibility we demonstrated this year and our traveling groups for enduring inspiration.

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