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Jessica’s House steps up as need for grief support grows in 2023
Jessica's House
Jessica’s House saw 912 children in its peer support groups in 2023 (Photo contributed).

Jessica’s House, the non-profit program in Turlock providing grief support to children and families, released its annual report last week that revealed that they served more children in 2023 than in the past two years.

According to the report, Jessica’s House, which first began operations in 2012, had 912 children in its peer support groups last year. It is an increase from 879 enrolled individuals in 2022. The number also represents the second-highest in the facility’s history, only behind the 1,079 children who received support in 2019.

Additionally, the facility received 528 calls in 2023 from families seeking grief support and resources. The most common type of loss that individuals experienced was parent/caregiver loss, which accounted for 73% of those enrolled in Jessica’s House programs. 

The leading cause of deaths that families grappled with in 2023 came by way of illnesses, which accounted for 38% of cases. Fifteen percent of deaths dealt with were accident related while 12% were from suicides, 10% from homicides, 6% from COVID-19, 6% from overdoses, 5% from sudden-infant-deaths or pregnancy loss, another 5% from unknown causes and 3% from cancer battles.

On the rise nationally has been stigmatized deaths, such as suicides, homicides and substance-related fatalities. A combined 28% of Jessica’s House program participants were impacted by those types of deaths in their lives. As a result, enrollment in their Hope After Suicide, Hope After Homicide, and Hope After Accidental Overdose groups grew for the third straight year. Substance-related deaths, in particular, have been impacting Americans of all ages. Last year, the overdose death rate topped 112,0004 in a 12-month period in the United States. Fentanyl overdoses/poisonings, specifically, were among the leading causes of death for adults aged 18-45 in 2023.

In terms of the age breakdown, the largest demographic served were adult caregivers over the age of 40, as they accounted for 40% of individuals served at Jessica’s House. Meanwhile, 5% of those supported by Jessica’s House in 2023 were between 0 and 4 years of age, 16% were between 5 and 8 years old, 19% were between 9 and 12 years old, 16% were teenagers between 13 and 17 years old, 6% were young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, and 1% were adults between the ages of 26 and 40. 

Those being served or seeking assistance came from 38 surrounding cities from Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin, Madera and Tuolumne counties, though a large majority — 78% were — from Stanislaus County.

“Throughout the year, we witnessed remarkable stories of resilience and growth among the children and families who sought comfort at Jessica’s House,” said founder and executive director Erin Nelson. “Their journeys inspire us to continue our mission of providing a welcoming and safe place for healing.”

A large part of accomplishing that mission has been the generosity of community members through donations of time and money.

There were 175 active volunteers in 2023, including 12 active interns and 11 active youth ambassadors, who are current or former program participants that help spread the word of the facility at community and donor events. A total of 8,314 volunteer service hours were compiled by the group. 

Jessica’s House received over $105,000 in general donations last year from various organizations and community members. An additional $90,500 was received through grants. There were also non-monetary contributions such as goods and services that covered an estimated cost of $15,745. A majority of donors, 496, were unique donors, while another 415 donations came from households and 81 came from businesses.

“Together we create an environment of comfort and connection, strengthening the bonds among grieving families, dedicated staff, wonderful volunteers and generous supporters,” Nelson continued.