For James Briseno, 2020 was an experience he will never forget, full of loss and happiness.

James' year began with a vacation to San Francisco, but the spread of the virus would soon bring personal and professional challenges.

“The expansion of my job was expected to flourish and expand,” he said. “We had heard of COVID-19 months prior but really did not pay it any thought. Little did we know it would change our lives and set the tone for the year.”

James is a Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Services Prison and Jail Liaison and said in-person meetings are crucial to his job where he conducts assessments and coordinates care. Moving everything virtual was a challenge, but he considers the ability to adjust a success.

“No more morning coffee sessions, lunch outings, weekly and monthly meetings — adapt and overcome was the method and just making it happen has worked,” he said.

James’s year included a number of deaths. In March, his stepson died in an in-custody death with the Tucson Police Department, four of his past coworkers with the Arizona Department of Corrections passed away from non-COVID-19 related causes and a childhood friend died of COVID-19 in Florida. Two of his dogs also passed within three months of each other.

People at his wife’s work got COVID-19 and his daughter-in-law contracted the virus, which “affected her in a very overwhelming manner.”

“As the year progressed with COVID-19, I felt the walls closing in due to it reaching the door steps,” he said.

Regardless of the hardships, James is thankful for the good things the year brought. His two stepchildren graduated from college, his son and daughter-in-law were married, his son had a successful sportsman year of hunting that James helped with and he had a new home built.

“I became in contact and closer to family members that I had not seen in years or met and I realized how important the little things we take for granted are,” he said. “May God bless us all. Be kind to each other, be the best you can be and may all essential workers continue to be strong.”