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Pennsylvania, like many other states, is experiencing an overwhelming opioid crisis affecting families from all socio-economic levels. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has stated that “The [opioid] epidemic affects every walk of life and is unprejudiced in its reach ... rich, poor, young, old, black or white” all are included.

One such group is grandparents.

There is a lot of literature about how grandparents, often just living on Social Security, are not prepared for their grandchildren to live with them permanently. A typical story has the doorbell ringing late at night with police and/or child protective services on the doorstep with their grandchildren asking to come live with them. Often the mother and/or father has either been incarcerated or tragically died due to an opioid overdose.

Sept. 8 is National Grandparents’ Day and provides an opportunity to both describe and celebrate GRANDS (Gratitude. Resilient. Attitude. Nurture. Develop. Support.). GRANDS is a support group sponsored by Sadler Health Center and the YWCA Carlisle. The mission is to empower child care providers (grandparents, a sole parent, aunts/uncles, step-parents, or other family members raising children) to meet and share what services they need to provide care for children.

On Oct. 1, GRANDS begins its second year. We meet the first Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the YWCA Carlisle. 301 G St., Carlisle. Children are cared for by providers with appropriate background clearances so the caretakers can have time for themselves. Children are provided a snack and craft while family members attend the support group from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Emotional and grief support is provided in a confidential, compassionate and non-judgmental environment by two volunteers — a chaplain and another highly experienced facilitator. GRANDS provides an opportunity for families raising children left behind by the opioid crisis to have: access to resources; feelings, concerns and fears validated; and, a place to learn how to get over stigmas, prejudices and societal hurdles relating to the opioid crisis.

Families are empowered by GRANDS because it focuses on supporting families by each individual listening to each other’s stories. When someone is speaking and sharing, others listen. Participants become more empathetic and supportive of each other. Stories are powerful: they can help us connect and heal. If you or someone you know is either a grandparent or family member raising children because of the opioid epidemic, please tell them about GRANDS. All are welcome!

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The Rev. Donna C. Hale is community chaplain and advocate at First United Church of Christ in Carlisle and a member of the Cumberland-Perry Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (SAPC). Please email Donna at donna@1stuccofcarlisle.org or telephone her at 717-243-2512, ex. 9 with any questions.