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Sandy Beran was a single mom for 12 years, and she understands that obstacles in life can be overwhelming at times.

That's why she's leading the Positive Change Program, which is designed to encourage those feeling down by emphasizing their strengths.

"It was so helpful that I had access to people who helped to encourage me to make good choices and to move in a good direction and not get stuck," she said.

As spiritual care coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, Beran got the idea for the program when the nurses with whom she works mentioned how many patients they had who needed someone to listen, to have "a sounding board for some of the difficult situations they're going through," Beran said.

The program was started in November, thanks to an $8,000 suicide-prevention grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Beran hopes the program will help prevent depression and its consequences by alleviating feelings of disappointment and discouragement early.

"If we can start breaking the habit of negative self talk ... before it gets to be a strong habit and lifestyle, it's a lot easier ... and you don't have to suffer so much," Beran said.

The cost for one-on-one sessions with Beran at the VNA is based on a sliding scale from free to $20 a session, based on income. She said no one would be turned away if they were unable to pay.

She also is organizing monthly group meetings for participants to support one another, which will be free of charge.

Beran already has made contact with 15 clients, many of whom have had at least two meetings with her.

She hopes the program will grow and that someday former clients will be able to talk to new ones as a way of sharing their experiences.

"As long as we have life and we have breath, we can make choices," she said. "We don't have to be a victim."

Those interested in the program or who know someone who might need encouragement should call Beran at 824-8233.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com

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