Simone’s Story

“My dog helps me navigate my emotional and physical life. Touchstone helps with everything else.”

Simone heard the explosion. She smelled smoke, saw rubble, dust, and injured people. She was shocked by the bombing, but quickly stepped in to help others. A few weeks later, Simone left her family in East Africa, and was on her way to college in the Twin Cities. After graduating, she married and made Minnesota her home.

Life was good for Simone, until 9/11. Like all of us, she was upset, but it also brought back her memories and feelings from the bombing. Simone was later diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Two years ago, her symptoms became debilitating. “I had no money since I wasn’t working. I was so anxious and depressed that I didn’t set foot outside my apartment door for six months,” she said.

Simone was on the brink of losing her housing. She finally went to see her doctor and was hospitalized for PTSD and depression. Simone was referred to Touchstone for housing and mental health support. Her psychiatrist also recommended an emotional support dog. Within months, Simone received a donated dog, named Arwen. Touchstone staff helped her access housing and basic needs funds for dog training, so Arwen could stay in her apartment.

Simone’s life has improved in the last year because of her dog, Touchstone staff, and peer support. “I used to be isolated, but now I see my providers and I’m outdoors six times a day with my companion dog. I went from walking 20 steps a day to 6,000,” she said.

“My dog helps me navigate my emotional and physical life and Touchstone helps with everything else,” she said. “I thought nothing could help me, but I’m living life now, even with PTSD and depression.”

Simone is just one example of our work to meet each person’s unique needs. We provide support for basic needs, mental health, and housing for 2,000 people each year.

Join us in helping people, like Simone, have hope for their future.

Summer in the Garden

Like so many Minnesotans, Rising Cedar residents Russell and Jemette enjoy spending their summer working in the gardens. “I love working in the community garden – it’s so relaxing,” said Russell. “It’s good to see a small seed grow into food or a beautiful flower.”

This Nature-Based Therapy program, which focuses on healing through involvement with plants and nature, is led by Cindy Berlovitz, a Certified Horticultural Therapist with the University of Minnesota Arboretum. The program creates a connection between plants and people which is multi-sensory at every level, and the sensory stimulation nourishes and restores the brain.

The community garden has flowers, vegetables, fruit, and even a Zen garden for relaxation. Two raised beds, which can be accessed by wheelchair or while standing, were added in the summer of 2015.  “Everyone can participate now,” said Russell “You can work to your ability, sit down when you need to, and contribute what you can to the garden.”

Residents from the Rising Cedar and New Hope Apartments come together weekly to plant, weed, and harvest fruits and vegetables. The group has also worked on creating floral arrangements and has a weekly cooking activity which uses herbs, vegetables or fruit from the garden with a focus on healthy eating. During the winter months, window herb gardens, cooking and planting seedlings bring the garden indoors. “We have a big garden and need a lot of people to keep it up,” explained Jemette. “I enjoy our gardening community.”

A Holistic Approach to Recovery: Guy’s Story

After a flare up of mental health symptoms landed him in the hospital, Guy came to Touchstone’s residential treatment program for help. This unique program isn’t just a place to stay, clients connect with others while they go to individual and group counseling, expressive therapy, nutrition education and fitness coaching. Guy worked with his case manager to find resources for his mental health and get back on the path to recovery.

In addition to mental illness many Touchstone clients also have health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Many, like Guy, know they need to “eat healthy” but that can feel impossible for people who have a hard time trying new things or don’t know where to begin. Guy learned about simple changes and making healthier choices with one-to-one nutrition counseling, cooking activities and taste testing. “The dietician opened my eyes to a lot of things, making me want to be a healthy person.” said Guy. “I know I can, and will, eat better.”

Guy’s exploration of wellness didn’t stop with nutrition. He received fitness coaching where he learned ways to easily fit exercise into his daily life. “Exercise can help improve mood, outlook and overall, help people feel better.” said Jed, fitness coach. Guy also took part in meditation workshops where he learned how to eat mindfully, pay attention to his breath and slow down.

Guy’s case manager, Anna, said the holistic approach made a difference for Guy and improved his outlook. “Guy was on a roller coaster for a while, but he is really capable and smart. When he has the right structure and support in place he is successful.” Not only did Guy learn about managing his mental health at Touchstone, he said he learned how to improve his overall wellness. “I did it and I empowered myself­­. Touchstone has done a lot for me.”

Health Coaching: A Path to Improved Wellness

Thanks to the Medica Foundation, Touchstone clients who want to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes now have help in reaching their personal wellness goals. The Wellness Initiative, funded by the Medica Foundation, provides a health assessment and 3-6 individual meetings with a certified health coach. These services can serve as a launching point for clients to begin to address their overall health.

Health coaching can help people make healthy changes by providing the knowledge, skills, and confidence to help them transform goals into action. A health coach evaluates strengths, offers suggestions and provides positive feedback to help the client move through negative self-talk or other obstacles that can prevent progress. Coaching can help clients manage the stress of living with a chronic condition with stress management and learning mind body skills to relax and calm anxiety.

“Health coaching is practiced from a holistic perspective recognizing the relationship between the mind, body, and spirit.” says Lorna Glick, Integrative Health Coach. “The goals of the sessions are determined by the client, which empowers them to take an active role in improving their health. It has been wonderful to work at Touchstone because they value the importance of using a holistic approach to help people on their journey towards healing.”

We have seen a positive response to the program so far – 35 people have completed their health assessment, 26 have had at least one session and 12 have participated in two-four coaching sessions. These clients have been addressing weight loss, nutrition, and sleep hygiene which can have a positive impact on their overall health as well as their mental health.