Monday, 26 May 2008

Preferred Family Healthcare

If you are a frequent visitor (perhaps you prefer "resident") to the virtual world of Second Life, you are probably aware that it plays host to some large island groups - large enough to form their own mini-continents. One such group is the cluster of library, education and not-for-profit sims that I usually (and inaccurately) think of as the Info Island Cluster. I have watched this grow over the last couple of years from a small core of sims, to a large, rambling continent that, while often badly laggy, has much of interest. As it has expanded it has also spawned its own archipelago of islands, many of which may end up absorbed into the land mass as it grows. This post is about one of these islands: Preferred Family HC.

This island belongs to Preferred Family Healthcare. Established in 1979, it is a provider of mental health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment, throughout Missouri and San Antonio, Texas. The island's notecard informs me:

PFH has established a presence in Second Life to explore the value of early intervention oriented activity in substance use disorders (SUDs) and other addictions.

Substance Use Disorder (also known by many other names including alcoholism, drug addiction and substance abuse) is a primary, chronic, progressive and fatal illness. Although it catches hold rapidly in some cases, it can often take years, even decades to develop to the point where traditional interventions come into play. By the time most individuals with this problem actually seek or are directed to helpful resources, they have often developed significant additional problems that need immediate attention and often interfere with recovery.

Medical complications (e.g. liver damage, malnourishment, obesity, diabetes, or the results of accidental injuries) are often present, as are problems with work, family relationships, finances, and the legal system. The road to recovery gets longer the longer you wait to make a change.

But societal stigma often acts as a strong deterrent to seeking help. Because of the way our cultures have come to look at SUD, there is often a great deal of shame and guilt associated with this condition, even in the early stages. The very act of seeking help can open one up to the negative opinions of others.

At PFH, we hope that the relative anonymity of Second Life might open the door to many who would not wish to entertain the notion they could have a problem, to give these individuals, and their families and friends, information leading to self-assessment, to offer some simple "do it yourself" type solutions to try without formal intervention, and to direct those who need it to more intensive forms of assistance.
The notecard alse seems to suggest that PFH actually started out with smaller presence in Second Life, on one of the Commonwealth Island sims, part of the Info Island Cluster.

The principal feature of this island is the office and meeting building - a reasonably attractive modern structure, that provides a number of meeting rooms of varying sizes, and virtual office space for officers of the organisation. While this seems largely complete, I couldn't help but notice that there is a desk suspended in mid-air around the back of the building. Elsewhere, there's a small house by the seaside, and a couple of boats. It looks like these may become dance zones in due course. While I wish them success with the venture, I don't know whether people will really wish to use it in the way they suggest. But then, I recall talking to someone about university Rhetoric courses being run in Second Life, where the relative anonymity and detachment offered by the environment actually increased student involvement in the course. So maybe it will be used. For now, it looks like it is nearing completion, rather than ready for business - a view borne out by the traffic stats, which are very low at the moment.

Anyway, here's my snaps:


DDillon said...

Hi Aleister - and thanks for visiting Preferred Family Healthcare. You're correct that this is a work in progress, but we decided to open up the island while we are continuing to work on it. Our organization has a long-term commitment to our Second Life project, and we expect the usefulness and visitorship to grow over time.

Currently, a visitor can view several slide shows giving valuable information about substance use disorders, do research in our library, and enjoy some of the fun features of the sim, including hang-gliding and surfing, and our full scale fitness center (reflecting our belief that what one does in SL could be translated into behavior in RL).

Formal classes, and even individual and group counseling sessions are on the horizon. Anyone who is grappling with substance use disorders (their own, or a family or friend's) is welcome to IM me (Coughran Mayo) to talk further and explore how our virtual center could be of service.

Glad you dropped by, we will look forward to a future visit as more of our project is completed.

Coughran Mayo
Preferred Family Healthcare

Aleister Kronos said...

Yikes... I also forgot to mention the steel drums drumming circle on the mountain!

DDillon said...

Yikes! Me too! ha ha

Also, I found that stray desk and put it where it belongs.

We have a game room too btw (chess, backgammon, GO, etc.)


Brielle Coronet said...

Hey if you need a real life medical librarian inworld for your patients, I'm available. Patient outreach is one of my pet projects.