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New program offers help for struggling children in East Texas

Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 6:36 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - While there are adult groups in Smith County for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, there aren’t any support groups specifically for kids. Until now.

“Breakout” is a support group program new to Smith County, and it is just for young people.

“It’s a struggle growing up, anyways,” said Andy Arnold, the founder of Breakout. “Adolescence is a terribly hard time.”

As a chemical dependency counselor, Arnold saw a need for teens to have a support place of their own.

“They don’t want to go to 12-step meetings with adults because the generation gap and the issues are different; they feel judged and misunderstood,” said Arnold. “So, I recognized they needed meetings and a voice and a safe place to come, and that’s the idea that birthed Breakout.”

Breakout has existed in Henderson County since 2014. The group just started a session in Smith County recently.

The group meets at the First Christian Church in Tyler for one hour on Friday evenings.

“It’s a very good experience,” said Breakout alumni Autumn Dees. “When I started Breakout I was very lost, I didn’t have anyone I could talk to, I was in a very bad place, and Breakout did a lot for me and they gave me a sense of acceptance. I knew I always had someone to talk to who wouldn’t judge me.”

The meetings are open to anyone ages 12-19 who wants to come. They’re free and they aren’t limited to any specific issues or problems.

“The problem of placing adolescents with adults in AA and NA a lot of times parents don’t want that because sometimes these clients are coming from prison and everywhere else,” said Laquita White, a licensed chemical dependency counselor with Smith County Juvenile Services. “Now we have a group of kids that can be placed together with the same issues and problems. No one has to feel embarrassed about going to the group because everybody has a story they can tell.”

Breakout has also partnered with Smith County Juvenile Services and probation to allow the teen support group as an option for adolescents on probation.

The church where the group meets has safety precautions in place due to COVID-19. Right now, if a large number of kids show up, they’re meeting outside in the parking lot to ensure social distancing.

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