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Archive for Monday, October 4, 2010

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Courage to heal: For first-timers using Bert Nash’s mental health services, here’s an idea of what to expect

Eunice Ruttinger, adult services director, talks about some of the various forms of therapy used to treat anxiety, depression and psychotic disorders at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, 200 Maine, during an interview in 2010. Ruttinger is among the Bert Nash staff members who teach people how to respond to suicidal thoughts and behavior in the center's Mental Health First Aid classes, which are open to anyone.

Eunice Ruttinger, adult services director, talks about some of the various forms of therapy used to treat anxiety, depression and psychotic disorders at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, 200 Maine, during an interview in 2010. Ruttinger is among the Bert Nash staff members who teach people how to respond to suicidal thoughts and behavior in the center's Mental Health First Aid classes, which are open to anyone.

October 4, 2010

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Depressed about a recent job loss? Child acting out in school? Feeling suicidal?

Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center leaders say you’re not alone.

So far this year, the center has served 4,338 clients and delivered 66,139 services. It sees between 15 and 20 first-time patients a week.

“The economy is so bad right now. We are getting a lot of calls from people who have lost their jobs and their homes are being foreclosed on and their marriages are breaking up because of all the stress,” Sherry Demarest, Access Center team leader, said. “So, we are getting a lot more crisis calls than we have in years past.”

About 70 percent of clients suffer from depression or anxiety.

“The bulk of people are like you and me and are going through a hard time,” Demarest said.

And the sooner they get help, the better.

Janice Storey, director of Children and Family Services, said people shouldn’t hesitate to make an appointment.

“I think what ends up happening a lot of times is that it just grows and it grows and it grows and so by the time they come, there’s a lot of problems going on,” she said. “So, it’s going to take longer, a lot more services, and a lot more time.”

Where to start?

Bert Nash serves anyone who lives in Douglas County. There are no other requirements.

Know this number: 843-9192.

It’s the number to call for an appointment, to find out general information, or for help when you or someone is in crisis. Therapists answer the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We get information calls consistently and we just walk them through it, and if they need services someplace else, we will give them a referral,” Demarest said.

These same services are offered on a walk-in basis during business hours, which are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday; and 8:45 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday.

Bert Nash is inside the three-story Community Health Facility, 200 Maine, which is across from Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.

Costs?

Bert Nash accepts Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance. It uses a sliding fee scale that is based on household income and insurance reimbursement. It charges full fees for households that earn more than $45,000 per year. Fees vary depending upon the services. For example, group therapy is cheaper than individual therapy.

The full fee for individual therapy is $125 per hour, before any insurance benefits are applied. If you earn between $30,000 and $44,999, the fee is $50; and for incomes between $25,000 and $29,999, it’s $35.

Bert Nash employees can provide cost estimates during the first phone call or visit.

Intake assessment

During the first appointment, everyone goes through an intake assessment unless, of course, they need urgent care.

The assessment takes about 90 minutes.

The process begins by collecting and going through the necessary paperwork with Savina Cascone, Access Center case coordinator.

She also will collect the day’s fee and go over any concerns.

Sometimes, she said, this process is started over the phone during the initial call.

Then, you meet with a therapist who is going to get to know you, make an initial diagnosis and recommend treatment.

A lot of research-based treatment options are available. It’s not just individual therapy, group therapy and/or medicine. There are so many more options that Bert Nash couldn’t provide an estimate.

Eunice Ruttinger, director of Adult Services, said mental health services are much different today from a few decades ago.

“Years ago, it was like Bob Newhart, where people would nod and say, ‘How are you today?’ It was like we just listened, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” she said.

Participants are helped either in Child and Family Services, which is on the second floor, or Adult Services, which is on the first floor.

If you decide not to come back, that’s OK.

“This is a totally voluntary process,” Ruttinger said.

Child and Family Services

Storey said the child or teenager has to be present during at least part of the intake assessment. The therapist will go over an array of questions, including:

• Are they sleeping?

• Has there been abuse?

• Do they cry a lot?

They try to eliminate any medical conditions that might be causing the problem.

Storey said they commonly have patients suffering from depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Among teenagers, they see more defiant behavior, like skipping school or committing crimes.

Treatments can last from a few sessions to a few years, depending on the illness.

Adult Services

Ruttinger said the first thing she asks a client is: “What’s bringing you here to the mental health center at this time in your life?”

The next thing, she will say, “You’ve taken the biggest step. Good for you.”

Once people get help and receive a diagnosis, they often are relieved.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s what I have, and other people have this and this is how I can get help,’” Ruttinger said.

She sees a lot of people suffering from depression and anxiety.

“There’s a lot of obvious stress in our society, so I think people who had things that they were managing pretty well, maybe coming in for help that haven’t in the past,” she said.

They also see clients with more severe mental illness, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

“We serve a full range of people,” she said. “But, the majority of people that we see here — have just regular problems in life.”

Most people are treated within six to eight sessions.

“We don’t want people to be here forever,” Ruttinger said. “Bert Nash is a safe haven or safe harbor for individuals who need a place to get their bearings or to find their way again.”

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