Karen Hoersch graduated in 2020 from CDI College with a diploma in Addictions, mental health, community support and has Mental Health First Aid, Asist, nonviolent crisis intervention and First Aid/CPR. Karen decided at 56 years old that she was going back to college. She wanted to understand her mental health illnesses, her eating disorder, her son’s addiction, his co-occurring disorders and to help others understand and destigmatize these disorders. Karen has completed her studies with her practicum at Morberg House, a sober living home for men recovering from substance abuse. At Morberg House, Karen is available to the residents for one on one counselling, group discussions/sessions and searching out resources for the residents who require them. Karen handles the pre-screening, staff debriefing meetings to determine if the new client would be a good fit for Morberg House. Once a client has been deemed a good fit, Karen handles the signing of all the agreements between Morberg House and the entering client. After property, personal searches and baseline urine test, Karen assigns a bed and gets the client settled in. Karen maintains the case file on the client and reviews short- and long-term goals frequently. In this setting, Karen has had to deal with clients who run from rehab, such as clients who have been bailed or court ordered to Morberg House and the protocols involved with such a situation. Another part of her practicum is spent going out on outreach, where resources, food, harm-reduction education and just checking on the well-being of individuals who are currently homeless and assessing their needs and what they can do to help.
Karen has been a facilitator for quite some time. Karen was the facilitator while a construction safety officer where she taught numerous courses or seminars on safety, such as fall arrest, confined space rescue, WHMIS and many others, as well as maintaining the due diligence paperwork.
Karen was the in-house facilitator at Winnipeg Harvest where she facilitated the Safe Food Handling course, where she had a success rate of 95% of passing students. As Karen had many people immigrating from war torn countries and English not their first language, she ensured the Food Handling test was available in different languages to ease the difficulty to the immigrating student. Here she had to deal with immigrants, coming from these countries, who have PTSD and the problems associated with PTSD. Karen was always available to talk or just give a hug when it was needed.
At Winnipeg Harvest, Karen implemented programs such as the cooking program for independent living where she had 4 students learning to cook for themselves, canning and baking classes and designing recipes that require five ingredients or less; ingredients typically found in food banks. These recipes were then put together into a small cookbook and made available for sale, to continue funding some of the programs.
As a volunteer, Karen also facilitates courses at Canadian Mental Health Association of Manitoba. She is currently running a six-week program “Insights into Depression” and is currently developing another six-week session on “The Effects and Management of Panic and Anxiety”. She also has presented other courses on addictions, self-harm, stress, self-care and eating disorders. CMHA has approached Karen to tell her story of recovery to the graduating class of social workers at the University of Manitoba and has accepted this honour. Karen also is the administrator of several on-line Facebook support groups: Moms of addicted children, Grandparents of addicted adult children, anxiety and panic support.
Karen is extremely approachable, empathetic, friendly and genuinely cares for people and goes above and beyond to help others. She takes it upon herself in educating others on mental health, whether it formal or informal and has no problems talking about her own journey in recovery and is an advocate for anyone suffering from mental illness or addictions. Karen can be quite silly and has a wicked sense of humour. Karen believes that humour is essential in developing rapport with new clients or new group members as humour is a great way to ease discomfort or anxiety when joining a new group.
Karen in general, loves speaking to an audience, large groups do not scare her at all. In fact, it motivates her to get the message out there, to educate and to create an understanding what living with mental illness or living with a co-occurring disorder is like and how to support loved ones managing their illnesses.
When Karen isn’t facilitating or speaking out about the marginalized or the disenfranchised she can be found in front of the TV, with her 4-year-old granddaughter watching their beloved Barcelona Football Club. Karen also has an emotional support cat Stash, who is incredibly important to her.
In short, Karen is an amazing supporter to her friends and family, many who have mental health or addiction issues and her will to help is unflinching.