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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Recovery Program In Bloomington Keeps Human Touch Through Virtual Support

Glenn Covert Building entrance
Eric Stock
Chestnut Health Systems support groups were held at the Glenn Covert Building before being moved to Zoom.

A recovery program in McLean County has shifted to virtual sessions to support people battling addiction.
Angi Chasensky coordinates the Recovery Oriented Systems of Care, or ROSC, program at Chestnut Health Systems in Bloomington. Chasensky said when stay-at-home orders took effect in Illinois, the agency knew it had to keep the support groups in place.

Angi Chasensky and Daniel Sokulski in studio
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Angi Chasensky and Daniel Sokulski with Chestnut Health Systems are seeking to promote the ROSC program to those who need addiction counseling.

“Social isolation is such a detriment to people trying to sustain a recovery path or lifestyle, so we do not believe in the social distancing, we believe in physical distancing but keeping that social connection,” Chasensky said.

So, Chestnut moved its recovery efforts online where participants meet regularly through the video-conferencing platform Zoom.

Chasensky said while the technology, at first, can seem too intimidating to be intimate, it has its advantages.

“It might take some getting used to, but then I’ve also heard initially there’s some hesitation on the person’s part, and after a while they start to warm up to the idea because they feel more comfortable to be vulnerable and to be open in their own home environment,” Chasensky said.

Daniel Sokulski is a support recovery specialist who leads ROSC's Bridges program that helps those in early recovery address a wide range of obstacles, including employment, housing and recreational opportunities.

He said while participation in the virtual meetings has been lower than the previous in-person sessions, the online platform allows the program to expand its reach by bringing in support people from all over the country who used to be a part of the local recovery community.

“I could picture a lot more online meeting presence than there was before this, maybe some kind of hybrid, but I don’t think there’s ever going to be a replacement for the in-person meetings,” Sokulski said.

He added the virtual support is critical, noting that three-fourths of those in recovery he has sponsored have relapsed since sheltering-in-place began.

“This stimulus check and the physical distancing has done a number on a lot of people, particularly in early recovery, those who maybe didn’t have the strongest program when all of this started,” Sokulski said.

He stressed the Bridges program is intended to emphasize family support as loved ones often play a critical role in recovery.

“With addiction, it’s an illness and sometimes the person suffering, they are so used to their lifestyle they are the last to realize that they need help or at least are the last to admit it,” he said.

Chasensky also oversees ROSC’s Smart Recovery program. It’s a more structured version of the Bridges program, with curriculum that focuses on building and maintaining motivations to change, coping with urges to use, managing thoughts and behaviors and living a balanced and healthy life.

And, ROSC runs a support group specifically for members of the LGBTQ community who are battling addiction.

Chasensky and Sokulski, who both have been through their own journeys to recovery, said ROSC has taken a more proactive approach by promoting their program through community partners and on social media to provide an easier access point for those battling addiction.

“Because people aren’t always cookie cutter and they are also afflicted by (being) different, it could be mental health or substance use or process, that sometimes they don’t feel like they can necessarily relate with anyone else,” Chasensky said.

ROSC has just received funding through the Illinois Department of Human Services to continue through June 2021.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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