More than two decades ago, the Valley’s own Debbie and Steve Moak turned a behavioral health challenge with their own son into an opportunity to support other families who were likely facing the same circumstances. Today, notMYkid aims to inspire youth to grow, thrive and reach their full potential via a full continuum of mental and behavioral health and wellness programs. Here, Shane Watson, public information officer, discusses how the pandemic has affected notMYkid, its new The Well campus and how readers can support its noble mission.
What prompted the start of the nonprofit? Our founders, Debbie and Steve Moak, faced a behavioral health challenge with their own son many years ago. After discovering that he was struggling with substance use and getting him help, they realized that many other families were likely dealing with similar challenges while unprepared to do so. They started the organization using a peer-to-peer model of young people educating youth and adults educating adults. Now 21 years later, we still utilize a peer-to-peer method for many of our programs and services. The Moaks’ willingness to be candid about their family’s challenges has resulted in numerous lives being saved and changed for the better.
What is the greatest reward in being involved with the nonprofit? Watching lives changed for the better and watching lives being saved. This is a career where you go to bed every night knowing without a doubt that what you did that day matters and made a true difference. It’s also a blessing to be the person to help a child or a parent understand that they are not alone, we care about them and that things can and will get better. We’re often the first people to whom a child or parent opens up about major life challenges, and when they realize we are listening to them with empathy and without judgment, the healing begins.
What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? Our biggest current challenges are creating capacity to meet the major current mental and behavioral health needs in our community, in terms of workforce and resources available to us.
In what ways, if any, has the pandemic affected notMykid? The pandemic, or at least the response to it, has created situations that have in many cases aggravated what was already a mental health crisis in this country. We’ve seen increases in youth substance use, anxiety, suicidal behavior and other areas of challenge. These happened largely due to the shutdowns and social disconnection that occurred in response to COVID-19. Also, we were forced to move many in-person services into a virtual telehealth capacity, especially in the earlier phases of the pandemic. Fortunately, we pivoted very quickly and within a couple weeks had transferred every program and service of ours online. In recent months, we have returned to providing our services and programs in person while still maintaining online options.
What services does notMYkid offer for preventing negative behaviors as well as parents and teens currently dealing with such issues? We offer the full continuum of mental and behavioral health and wellness programs including prevention education for youth and adults on a variety of topics, early intervention for youth in the early phases of substance use and outpatient treatment services that include individual, family and group counseling. We’re also getting ready to launch a peer support program for youth. So whatever phase someone is in regarding a mental or behavioral health challenge, we can meet them where they’re at.
What are your goals for the coming year? We’ve recently opened a 13,000-sq.-ft. campus called The Well, where we are going to be able to provide even more services in addition to the ones we already have available. Goals for this year will include adding a variety of wellness programs including things like art therapy, yoga, meditation, support groups and community events that will be available at The Well. This is an exciting time of major growth and expansion for the organization.
How can readers help? Advocating for notMYkid and spreading the word about us is always a big help. If we’re not already delivering our services in your child’s school, your workplace, your house of worship or your community group, we’d like to be. Funding is also very important for a nonprofit, so donations and fundraisers are always incredibly helpful.
Finally, readers can “like” us on Facebook, visit our website at notMYkid.org and check out our podcast, which is called “Win This Year” and can be found on all major podcast platforms as well as at WinThisYear.buzzsprout.com. If you like what you hear, please spread the word.
Does notMYkid have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? Every Thursday in November, we will be having an open house event at The Well, which is located at 5310 E. Shea Blvd. in Scottsdale. Also, we’ll be having our annual fundraising gala on April 29, and we’d love to invite your readers to be part of the event. More info will be available at notMYkid.org.