The Community Services YMCA offers many programs and services aimed at supporting our community with care and compassion. One of our key initiatives is our Health Realization Classes. These classes, in partnership with Community Action Duluth, take a cognitive skill-based approach to addiction and mental health, providing free childcare for participants to create an inclusive environment for healing and growth.

Our Health Realization Classes have thrived through word of mouth, reaching individuals recently incarcerated or navigating addiction challenges. Richard Howell, who facilitates the class, brings a wealth of personal experience and insight to the program.

“The program is geared to enlighten participants to be receptive to change and respectful to others,” Richard said. “Everyone is born with the innate ability to cope, but through life, we lose track of who we are, and some turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort. This class helps people become more self-aware, put things into perspective, and take accountability for their actions.” 

Our drop-in center supports 20 to 30 individuals weekly from diverse backgrounds. Over the past two years, 130 unique participants have gone through the program, helping build a sense of community through shared challenges and experiences. Surveys consistently highlight gratitude of our participants, emphasizing the profound impact of connecting with others facing similar circumstances. 

Richard’s personal journey adds a powerful layer to the program. “I was formerly incarcerated and a drug dealer and user,” he shared. “While being in prison I realized I had alienated myself from everything. I didn’t take responsibility. I didn’t take ownership for the problems I created. I had an epiphany: if I continue on this course, if I went to treatment, served my sentence, I could change my life. Health Realization allowed me to answer questions no one else could. It allowed me to look at why I was reacting the way I was and showed me how to address myself. Now, I teach and lead by example. I don’t make excuses anymore. I help people face their insecurities and say, ‘yeah, I messed up. Show me how I can change this.’ We can’t stop people, but we can decide how we react to them.”

Through the Health Realization Classes, the Community Services YMCA helps individuals and families navigate their challenges and build a brighter future. 

For more information about Health Realization Classes or other programs at the Community Services YMCA, visit our webpage here.

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Locations: Harbor Highlands