- By Curt Gillespie Guest columnist
May is Mental Health Month. When you hear the name “Mental Health Services for Clark and Madison Counties,” what image comes to mind?
Maybe no image comes to mind at all, if you’ve been lucky enough that mental illness or substance use has not touched your life. The truth is that many people don’t think about mental health unless they are forced to by some unfortunate circumstance.
Maybe you think of a family member or loved one who has struggled with mental illness or substance abuse who won the battle. Maybe you think of a family member or loved one who has struggled with mental illness or substance abuse who lost the battle.
Maybe you think of the new state-of-the-art building on North Yellow Springs Street in Springfield (which replaced the North Fountain Blvd. building in June of 2013). Services were provided to our community at the North Fountain campus for just shy of 45 years. On an annual basis, more than 6,000 people access services at the new facility, whether it be inpatient hospitalization, intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization, emergency services, adult outpatient counseling, or psychiatric appointments for medication compliance.
Maybe you think of the Child, Adolescent, Family Center on Miracle Mile, which has been providing mental health services to youth and families since the 1960s, and drug and alcohol recovery services to youth since 1995.
Maybe you think of the Youth Challenges partial hospital program on East Home Road, which has been serving emotionally disturbed children who need more assistance than traditional outpatient, but less assistance than the hospital, (often keeping them from placement outside of their home community), since 1989.
Maybe you think of our Behavioral Health Rehabilitation program on East High Street, which supports more than 400 severely mentally ill people to maintain stability so they can live peacefully in our community instead of in an institution.
Maybe you think of our mental health and recovery services at Madison Health in London, where we have been serving residents of Madison County with behavioral health issues since 1997.
Maybe you know one of our 200 dedicated, compassionate employees who make it their choice to serve those less fortunate.
Maybe you know one of our volunteer board or committee members who share their time and talents guiding us and serving as conduits to our communities at large.
The truth is that we are bursting at the seams with people who need our care. The opiate epidemic is having a huge impact on demand for our services, both at MHS and at the two hospital emergency rooms. We do our best to serve with the resources that we have.
While we don’t have a lot of time or money to spend publicizing what we do, we continue to work behind the scenes promoting mental wellness. So, what does “promoting mental wellness” look like?
It looks like…
• Trained mental health professionals responding to schools and the community in response to crisis and other traumatic events. (This includes but is not limited to the Clark and Madison County Suicide Prevention Coalitions and LOSS team, which provides support to families of suicide victims).
• Providing “trauma informed care” training in the community. Research is showing that trauma in childhood or early life can often be an underlying cause for behavioral health issues in later life. MHS staff have launched an extensive training program in the community to help law enforcement, first responders, local schools, Clark County Combined Health District, Department of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Job & Family Services, and Juvenile Court recognize when a person might be suffering from a traumatic event such as abuse, neglect, or violence. This program continues to grow and touch the lives of many children and families in our community.
• Answering questions and providing education about mental health symptoms and about our services by participating in local health fairs, speaking at community meetings, and participating on community teams.
• Promoting mental wellness also looks like what our employees do each and every day. They encourage patients to keep their doctor and therapist appointments. They educate patients about the importance of medication compliance to keep their symptoms at bay and keep them out of the hospital. They educate patients on proper nutrition, proper sleep hygiene, appropriate social interaction, and seeking out positive peer support. They encourage our patients to find activities they enjoy — whether that be listening to music, art, exercising, spending time with those they love. Often, someone who is struggling just needs a caring person or gentle reminder to help them tap into their own healing potential.
Whatever image comes to mind when you hear the name “Mental Health Services,” we want our communities to see us as a safe haven where those who are struggling with behavioral health issues can come for understanding and compassionate care without judgment.
While the month of May is set aside to recognize the progress that has been made in reducing the stigma and getting people the help they need, the fight continues year round.
We at MHS thank you for your support over the years in helping our vulnerable citizens, and we look forward to continuing positive relationships with our communities for years to come.
Curt Gillespie is CEO of Mental Health Services for Clark & Madison Counties, Inc., located at 474 N. Yellow Springs St. in Springfield. For more information, call 937-399-9500 or visit www.MHSCC.org