New Albany well-being expo moved online because of pandemic

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
Diane Herman, well-being community liaison for the New Albany-Plain Local School District, stands in front of the Community Well-Being Virtual Expo website projected onto a large screen. School officials will make a major outreach effort April 5 to get families and students to visit the site. The expo is being held online because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

A symposium offering help to students and families during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been moved online in the New Albany-Plain Local School District.

The Community Well-Being Virtual Expo, which will feature providers from mental health to nutrition, is free and open to all in the community at napls.us/.

While a soft rollout occurred in mid-March, the district will make a strong outreach effort April 5 when students return from spring break, said Patrick Gallaway, spokesman for the school district.

“This is going to be a good opportunity for those students and parents who need help at this time,” he said.

The pandemic has had a lasting and deleterious effect on students and parents, who can get support ideas from 16 providers available at the website.

Feelings of suicide, depression, anxiety, isolation, as well as increased drug and alcohol usage have been relayed by students during the past year while the pandemic shut down schools, which have since reopened on a hybrid and full-time schedules, said Diane Herman, well-being community liaison to the school district.

“I think almost everyone has recognized how difficult it’s been during this pandemic,” Herman said. “We’ve definitely focusing on the mental and psychological needs."

The expo had been held the past two years in the Philip Heit Center, a medical complex in the center of town.

The virtual format allows the online resources to be checked beyond April 5, as the website will be available for the foreseeable future, Gallaway said.

Shawn Holt, CEO of Maryhaven Inc., which treats mental illness and addition, is one of the vendors for the expo.

Holt said the pandemic has presented many challenges to those who like to socialize.

The isolation has caused some to do drugs alone, and in some cases, overdose, without someone present to call for help, he said.

Holt said he understands people’s reticence to acknowledge a problem and get help.

“I think first and foremost unfortunately there is still a great deal of stigma related to mental health and substance abuse,” he said.

Still, treatment and therapy can be powerful for those seeking help, he said.

“There are brighter days ahead,” Holt said. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Maryhaven was doing tele-heath visits because of social-distancing requirements but has resumed on-site counseling, he said.

“You get to know your counselor,” Holt said. “You get to know your therapist, and they get to know you.”

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary