A Chance to Change office sign

A Chance to Change offices are located at 2113 West Britton Rd. in Oklahoma City.

A Chance to Change Goes Online

Noble Foundation provides funding to help A Chance to Change continue programs to help Oklahomans live healthy, addiction-free lives.

By Debra Levy Martinelli

The Oklahoma City-based nonprofit A Chance to Change (ACTC) gives Oklahomans just that — an opportunity to change their lives for the better.

One ACTC client describes the experience this way (paraphrased to protect the client’s identity): A Chance to Change has changed my life. Now, I don't even recognize my former self. I was unhealthy, an addict and unemployed. I could barely have conversations without getting angry. I couldn't afford services and the agency took me anyway. Through counseling sessions and hard work I am a changed person — sober, employed and being a real parent to my son. I recently received a promotion at work, and I am doing well. I will be forever grateful to my counselor and A Chance to Change.

This single perspective gives voice to the impact ACTC has made upon thousands of people for more than four decades. The organization provides lifesaving prevention, education and treatment services for Oklahomans across the state and from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Since 1982, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has supported ACTC’s education programs for individuals and families, including counseling for substance abuse, problem gambling, anxiety, depression, marital issues, and play therapy for children and trauma victims. In 2019 and 2020, the Noble Foundation granted ACTC awards totaling $90,000, bringing the total support during the past 38 years to $620,000.

The annual Celebration of Recovery is A Chance to Change’s largest fundraising event. Pictured is last year’s event on March 27, 2019 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

“In addition to agricultural research conducted by Noble Research Institute, the Noble Foundation’s granting focuses on charitable organizations that cultivate good health, support education and build stronger communities,” says Stacy Newman, director of philanthropy, who joined the organization in September 2018. “ACTC provides services that address all of those areas.”

The most recent Noble Foundation awards support three specific ACTC programs:

  • Addiction Education Series, a weekly eight-part series facilitated by licensed ACTC counselors providing free education on the addiction and recovery process.
  • A Chance to SUCCEED, a school-centered program providing students free education on addiction and mental health, in which students participate in weekly prevention groups conducted by licensed counselors and trained graduate-level interns for one or two semesters.
  • A Chance to Recover, which provides, at a discounted rate, mental health and addiction treatment for individuals with low incomes, gaps in insurance coverage and unreachable deductibles. Services include assessments; case management; and group, family and individual counseling.

The manner in which some of these services have been provided has changed since COVID-19. ACTC, which has long offered online face-to-face telehealth counseling to the entire state, had the infrastructure and personnel in place to nimbly move all its in-person services online when the pandemic hit Oklahoma in March.

A Chance to SUCCEED groups engage in activities like the “emoji” exercise, where they focus on being able to identify emotions and feelings. Students either draw or choose the emojis that best fit their feelings or emotions that week.

“We quickly switched to complete telehealth, since we already had it set up,” explains Rose Faherty, ACTC’s director of community engagement. “We had many therapists on site, and when we had to make the decision to shut down the office, we were able to offer in-house therapy sessions through telehealth. Now everyone within our system is working through the telehealth system.”

That seamless transition helped ensure that all programs continued without disruption. During ACTC’s 2020 fiscal year, July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020, it has served 2,165 individuals. The achievement is evidenced both anecdotally and statistically.

The Addiction Education Series and A Chance to SUCCEED alone served 881 individuals ages 10 to 75. During the semester in which students participated, 85% reported they made better grades compared to the previous semester; 87% reported they attended school more regularly; 97% reported improved ability to cope with stress; and 82% reported using drugs or alcohol less regularly or stopping completely.

The Oklahoma City Police Department’s FACT (Family Awareness and Community Teamwork) Unit, a gang prevention program for youth ages 10 to 17, partners with A Chance to SUCCEED.

“For our Juvenile Intervention Program, A Chance to SUCCEED staff have provided substance use lessons and have come in to do exercises with our students,” says Sgt. Tony Escobar with the Oklahoma City Police Department. “Their staff has been an incredible asset to our team over the last three years. A lot of our kids are able to identify with the stories that the staff bring because they are going through it with a parent or are going through it themselves. To provide that avenue and to provide mentorship for these students is incredible.”

Another A Chance to SUCCEED exercise is the grateful bracelets. Students make bracelets that spell out what they are most thankful for.

During the same period, A Chance to Recover, Problem Gambling Assistance, and A Chance to Change at Palomar: Oklahoma City’s Family Justice Center (which provides services to victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, stalking, elder abuse and human trafficking) cumulatively served 197 people of all ages from 14 Oklahoma counties. Of those, 91% reported improvement in the symptoms they reported at admission, while 66% reported engagement in healthier relationships and 74% reported better functioning at home, work or school.

Faherty says ACTC’s greatest strength is providing services to clients who would be unable to access mental health treatment for themselves or their families without no- to low-cost options.

Pictured is the A Chance to Change staff and Board of Directors.

“We want to lift up all Oklahomans,” Faherty says. “We are so grateful to the Noble Foundation for recognizing the work of the staff and the clients who put in the daily hard work to change their lives. The Noble Foundation has changed thousands and thousands and thousands of lives through its support since 1982.”

She calls the Noble Foundation a critical partner in keeping these services going to many Oklahomans.

“Mental health affects how we think, how we feel, how we act,” she says. “People need to be able to focus on it to be successful.”

ACTC helps Oklahomans find that focus and, with it, a chance to regain a healthy life.

“I was approved for the A Chance to Recover program and that in itself was validating,” relates Jerod, another ACTC client. “It meant that an organization just accepted me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but just that initial acceptance was an important seed for my recovery in the future. I respond to love. To me, love is an important part of recovery, and I believe A Chance to Change exhibits that.”

Jerod’s acceptance into the A Chance to Recover program was instrumental to his recovery.

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