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Self-Care Health Fair offers ways for people to get better; ‘There should be no stigma’

By STEVE SADIN | Lake County News-Sun

PUBLISHED: February 5, 2024 at 12:37 p.m. | UPDATED: February 5, 2024 at 12:38 p.m.

Mary Roberson, the CEO of NIRCO, potentially saved 40 lives in an hour’s time as she handed out 20 packages of Naloxone nasal spray containing two doses each. She also offers training in the use of the medication.

Roberson said the medicine arrests the effect of an opioid overdose so it is not fatal. She was handing them out to people attending a Self Care Health Fair organized by state Sen. Adriane Johnson, D-Buffalo Grove, and state Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Gurnee.

“It blocks the receptors of people’s brains to prevent a fatal overdose,” Roberson said. “A lot of people don’t think they can (administer) it, but they can. It reduces the stigma of opioid use and saves lives.”

NIRCO was one of 20 organizations participating in the inaugural Self Care Health Fair Saturday at the College of Lake County’s Waukegan campus, letting people know where they can receive help when they know they need to seek care.

“People need to take care of themselves,” Mayfield said. “They need to ask, what do I have to do to make myself whole? When they’re feeling stress, they need to know when to stop and take care of themselves.”

Saturday’s fair was the first of six. Johnson said will take place between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. the first Saturday of each month through July at the college’s Waukegan campus. Focusing on self care is beneficial to an individual’s mental health, she said.

“Mental health is still a stigma with (some) people which is why we say self care,” Johnson said. “Mental health should be treated just like physical health.”

Charla Waxman, the director of business development at Lake Behavioral Hospital in Waukegan, was there letting people know the resources available through the care center. She said treating depression is no different than caring for a person with the flu.

“It’s a disease of the brain,” Waxman said. “It’s no different than diabetes or heart disease. They can both happen to anyone. There should be no stigma.”

Starting with the second fair, Johnson said free self-care counseling services lasting 30 to 40 minutes will be available by appointment at the event. People can schedule time with a counselor on her office’s website or at the event.

“It will be free self-care help focused on healing and addressing trauma,” she said. “There is an overload in the Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion tri-cities from people experiencing mass shootings, trauma and violence.”

Organizations ranged from The City of Hope to the Community Resource Healing Center, and Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Waukegan Park District, offering a variety of ways for people to take care of themselves.

City of Hope is an organization dealing with the many aspects of cancer, from the patient to their loved ones. Alexandria Callahan, the manager of the group’s behavioral health department, said cancer patients and their families have emotional needs.

“Mental health is a big part of cancer treatment,” Callahan said. “People need the tools for the ability to process.”

Another participant was the Community Resource Healing Center housed at Jesus Name Apostolic Church in Waukegan. The Rev. Deric Caples, an associate pastor who operates the center, said he was there to help traumatized individuals.

“Trauma can be hidden,” Caples said. “We want to help people heal from it.”

Mentorship is another avenue that can assist families when a member needs help with personal issues. Jeniffer Gutierrez, a brand ambassador of community engagement at Big Brothers Big Sisters, said the organization helps mentor people.

“We’re part of the village,” Gutierrez said, referring to the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” “Sometimes children can talk to us when they are not comfortable talking to someone else.”

Shelby McDonald, the director of marketing and community relations for the Waukegan Park District, was also at the fair talking to people about programs offered there to help people be physically and mentally fit.


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