Charity Spotlight: A PAL When Families Need One

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Posted By on January 28, 2021

Parents of Addicted Loved Ones offers the camaraderie and support that come from experience

CEO/Executive director:

Kim Humphrey, a nationally recognized expert on drug abuse and its impact on families. Humphrey retired after nearly 32 years with the Phoenix Police Department, during which he served as a commander for almost 16 years. While he was still on the force, he learned that not one but both of his sons were addicted to heroin. For more than 10 years, his family went through a downward spiral of treatment, rescues and relapses. Fortunately, his wife Michelle discovered a local support group called PAL, which they began attending. Today, they credit PAL with strengthening their marriage and quite literally saving not only their lives but those of their sons, who are now sober, in recovery and leading successful careers.

Board chair:

Mary Peters, a consultant and the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, with experience in leadership, government and nonprofit service. She also is the parent of an addicted loved one and has walked the path of a PAL parent.

Origin:

PAL was founded in 2006 by Mike Speakman, an Arizona-based licensed independent substance abuse counselor, to meet the growing need for families of adult addicts. He designed the original curriculum to help parents learn how to set healthy boundaries and deal with the issues common to substance abuse.

PAL’s growth was meteoric, fueled only by word-of-mouth. PAL grew rapidly in the Phoenix area and, in 2012, Speakman got a call from Indiana, where future PAL board member Diane Buxton wanted to start a meeting. Speakman handed over the reins to a board of directors in 2015, which formed it as a nonprofit based in Arizona. In the first five years, it expanded to more than 160 meetings in 39 states. Thanks to a grant from BHHS Legacy Foundation, PAL was able to build a solid infrastructure and expand into the organization it is today.

Volunteer who makes a difference: 

Volunteers are the lifeblood of PAL, facilitating weekly support groups all over the country. They attend online training and receive the materials needed to lead a meeting, from signage to handouts. Perhaps most vital is that all facilitators must be the parent of an addicted loved one themselves. PAL’s success is based on two critical components — evidence-based research and peer-to-peer support. PAL is not designed to replace professional counseling for parents, but it offers something unique in the sharing and support of other families going through the same issues.

Known for:

While there are other programs that deal with addiction, PAL is unique in that it offers peer-to-peer support as well as an evidence-based curriculum that teaches parents how to set loving boundaries. Parents share their stories, encouragement and things that work — or don’t work — with their addicted loved one. There is comfort from knowing each family is not alone in their journey.

Employee VIP:

Jean Werner is a regional coordinator consultant, using her expertise to get the word out about PAL and open new groups across the country. But she was a volunteer long before becoming an employee. As a volunteer, Werner set up systems that PAL still uses today, and she and her husband Mike would use part of their vacation time to take their RV to visit facilitators all over the country. In addition, they facilitate a group as well.

Challenges During COVID-19:

The pandemic’s most obvious impact on PAL is the sudden education that staff had to get out

to PAL’s team of volunteer facilitators across the country — more than 300 — helping them shift face-to-face meetings to virtual gatherings. While in-person meetings are preferred, there have been benefits to online meetings such as making PAL more accessible. It also has proven an excellent way to introduce potential facilitators to what a PAL meeting is like.

More significantly, the pandemic has worsened the addiction issue in the U.S. Recent statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration show that fatal overdoses have nearly doubled since 2019. PAL anticipates the demand for PAL will continue to expand with the problems associated with the pandemic and is prepared for that inevitability. The organization expects to operate in all 50 states by the end of this year.

Ways to Support:

PAL wants to become a name everyone knows if they need help with addiction in the family. The organization would be happy to mail brochures and information to share at community centers, churches, treatment facilities or governmental offices. And because all services are free, PAL welcomes donations in order to continue providing hope to families.

To learn more, go to palgroup.org.

Karen Werner

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.