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Religious addiction program launched

NATCHEZ — A new religious-based addiction program officially launched in Natchez Monday in the old community hospital at 131 Jeff Davis Boulevard, Suite D.

The program, called Lifeline Connections, is a non-residential small group facilitated through Adult & Teen Challenge USA and local volunteers and officials and aims to help those struggling with substance abuse, alcohol addiction, gambling, pornography or any number of life challenges.

Missionaries Jimmy and Yvonne Oaks said Teen Challenge has residential facilities nationwide and only six years ago started a non-residential program in Arkansas to reach more people within their home communities.

“For 62 years, Teen Challenge has only done residential programs and they can only reach about 10% of those who need it,” Yvonne Oaks said. “This is an opportunity to reach the other 90% of people with life controlling issues — by going into their communities.”

Monday was the first launch of a non-residential Teen Challenge group in Mississippi with the closest residential facility being in Georgetown (Mississippi), Oaks said.

Dana Wilson, the Natchez group facilitator, said she is thrilled to finally see an organized and structured program implemented that has succeeded with 78% of its members in other locations.

“I would like to thank the city officials, our pastor Bo Swilley and his wife Traci for helping us organize this back in October,” Wilson said. “We’re very excited about the program.”

Wilson said class registration begins today from 6 to 7 p.m. at the location on Jeff Davis Boulevard and will continue from 8 a.m. until noon of Feb. 4. Participants only need to fill out an application and purchase a workbook for $20, Wilson said, adding those who can’t afford a workbook will not be turned away.

Wilson said the program currently offers three weekly classes, including two nine-week classes and one 12-week class.

“We’re offering a concerned persons group, which is people with codependency or enabling,” Wilson said. “Those will be at 6:30 every Tuesday night. We also have an insight group for anyone who has a life-controlling problem and those will be at 6 p.m. every Tuesday night. At noon on Wednesdays we will have a ‘Stepping Into Freedom’ class, which is a 12-step program for those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.”

All classes will meet at the facility on Jeff Davis Boulevard, Wilson said, adding transportation can be arranged for those who need it.

“This is a program that is very near and dear to me,” Wilson said. “I’ve been in recovery for 30 years. … My life has completely changed. God has been very good to my family and me. It’s very heartbreaking when I see people in my community that struggle with addiction and maybe can’t afford to go off to a treatment program or maybe don’t have the support or have children. That is the exciting thing about this program. You can get into recovery from drugs, alcohol or any other life controlling issue right here at home. That is the beauty of this program.”

Yvonne Oaks said Rev. Scott Green at First Assembly of God, Rev. Marcus Archer of Crosspoint and Swilley of Community Chapel Church of God helped launch the program and train of 16 volunteers to lead the groups.

“They’ve been very supportive of this initiative and we would love for even more churches and other community entities to be a partner to get this more established,” Oaks said. “ … As this grows, there will be more groups offered.”

Adams County Circuit Court Judge Lillie Sanders said she is thrilled to have a new program to refer people to who come through the court system.

“Anytime there is anything new that we can offer to our participants in the drug court that are ready and willing to participate, I’m excited about it,” Sanders said. “… We’ve had participants to graduate from Teen Challenge and Teen Challenge does a wonderful job.”

Wilson said those seeking information can contact her at 601-493-0574.