JFS to hold family zoo event to support PLAN
Photos: Courtesy Jewish Family Service
Last May, JFS PLAN (People Living Active Now) members participated in the “OK2Say” rally, supporting mental health advocacy, during an afternoon of testimonials and a balloon release in honor of those who lost their battles with mental illness.

By Deb Silverthorn

Jewish Family Service is organizing a family-friendly Zoo Rendezvous from 1 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 17 for PLAN (People Living Active Now), a support program for adults living with mental health challenges and their families.   

Registration through JFS includes admission and activities, a presentation about the organization and a fun animal activity by zoo officials.

“This event at the zoo is the perfect fundraiser right now.  It is a family event, held outdoors and under COVID-19 safe protocol,” said event chair Jeri Lyn Sebert, noting participants will be asked to wear masks while participating in activities in the group’s private pavilion. “With opportunities to see animals up close, wonderful activities and a terrific raffle, the day is certain to be something all ages will enjoy.”

Members of Jewish Family Service’ PLAN (People Living Active Now) program during their PLANning day 2021.

Since the start of COVID-19, when the PLAN Clubhouse, PLAN @ 1121 Rock, made the decision to close for safety, members and leadership continued, when possible, to hold open-air lunches in the property’s garden or at Cottonwood Park. When deemed possible that on-site meetings are safe, it is required that both staff and members be screened, masked and socially distanced.  Staffers have also remained in-touch with members through individual phone calls, a variety of daily group conference calls and a private Facebook group page.

“We are pleased to offer this unique and comprehensive program, even during these very trying months,” said JFS PLAN Senior Director Ruth Josenhans.  “It’s truly a transformative model, to those who struggle with mental illness and for their families.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five Americans over the age of 18 has a mental health condition and approximately one in 25 adults in the United States experiences a serious mental illness such as bipolar, schizophrenia, or major depressive disorder, in any given year, that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.

“It’s inspiring to watch individuals be in a meaningful place of engagement and, for those interested, gain employment,” said Josenhans, noting that the PLAN program now serves 150 members and their families.  “We are grateful for the support of the mental health community in Dallas for, without it, we would not exist.”

PLAN was founded in 1991 and merged with JFS in 2017. It includes professional psychotherapy, case management, referrals and family support. 

PLAN @1121 Rock, their Clubhouse located in Richardson, was accredited by Clubhouse International in 2018 and offers a place where members and staff work together to run it, while focusing on personal growth and relationships.  

Another program, the PLAN Connections Team, funded by North Texas Behavioral Health Authority, provides case management and peer specialist support for those who need help securing housing, navigating benefits, medical concerns and other areas related to acts of daily living. The program has several peer specialists who use their lived experience with mental illness to help others.

“PLAN’s Clubhouse provides much-needed structure, camaraderie and meaningful relationships,” said Pam Cohen, a longtime PLAN member, now a peer support specialist. “This program has been life-saving for many of us.”

The deadline to RSVP is Oct. 6, at jfsdallas.org/planzoo2021.  For more information about PLAN, call 972-379-9904 or visit planntx.org

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