Group considers starting Teen Challenge center

Published 12:01 am Friday, October 18, 2019

NATCHEZ — Addiction, whether mental or physical, is often treated in facilities far away from home or even in a jail cell for lack of a better place to go.

Thanks to a new ministry created by Adult & Teen Challenge USA, Natchez could be home to any number of support groups that would not require those who are struggling to pack their bags — as long as people are willing to step up and facilitate it, said Jimmy Oaks, an Arkansas Teen Challenge representative.

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“The majority of those who need to have some type of support will never be able to go into a residential program,” Oaks said. “This program gives those who can’t go into a residential program somewhere local they can go to — within their community — and address whatever life crumbling issues they might be dealing with.”

At 6 p.m. Monday, Community Chapel Church of God on the corner of Morgantown Road and Oakland Drive will host a group of local ministers and anyone else who may be interested in facilitating a support group in a program called Lifeline Connection, which provides resources for people struggling with drug, alcohol or other life-controlling problems, Rev. Bo Swilley said.

“We’re inviting pastors and other folks in the community who would like to be involved,” Swilley said. “This is for anyone who may be interested in bringing Teen Challenge to Natchez and helping to facilitate it.”

Swilley said he reconnected with Oaks and his wife, Yvonne in Arkansas and invited the group to Community Chapel last month to talk about the program.

During his stay in Natchez, Oaks presented Lifeline Connection to community leaders, including Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell, Adams County Youth Court Judge Walt Brown and Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong, who expressed interest in the program, Oaks said.

“When this program was introduced to me I said immediately that is something we could really use,” Grennell said. “Let’s face it, we have an addiction problem in Natchez. Whether its drug addiction, gambling or any other addiction we need to use every resource that we can.”

Lifeline Connection uses multiple curriculums that have been successfully utilized in Teen Challenge centers nationwide, Oaks said.

The program is led entirely by local volunteers who would be trained as group leaders, Oaks said.

“We are partnering via local churches, city officials and law enforcement to get this program implemented,” he said. “This is a faith-based program so it cannot be mandated by judges, but it gives people an option who want to participate in a non-residential program to do so. … Almost everyone works in a volunteer capacity — even if they are a professional — and anyone can receive training.”

Those interested in becoming a group leader or enrolling in a Teen Challenge program may contact Community Chapel Church of God at 601-442-8215.