Safe Place to Talk – Volusia Rape Crisis Center

The Volusia Rape Crisis Center (VRCC) may be one of SMA Healthcare’s smaller programs, but its staff is making a major impact. Last year (2018-19), they provided a safe place for 446 victims of sexual assault to talk, cope, and begin to heal. Located in New Smyrna Beach, VRCC is the only sexual assault/rape crisis center located in Volusia County.  With a staff of only five individuals — a director, a counselor, and three advocates — the VRCC operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, taking crisis calls for sexual assault. 

On any given day (or night), the advocates take calls from police, emergency departments, prisons and jails, crisis stabilization units, and victims themselves.  Advocates meet victims where they are, often at the emergency room, to provide comfort and support.  Advocates accompany victims throughout forensic exams (which can take up to 5 hours), accompany survivors while they report to law enforcement, and inform victims of their rights. They also assist with transportation, personal needs, and finding shelter for individuals who cannot return home after the assault — and most of that is done in just the first day! 

After the initial encounter, advocates meet with survivors, introduce them to the counselor, set up counseling appointments, and offer assistance with victim compensation and relocation benefits. They also provide resources for housing, transportation, jobs, and offer support groups and services.  Advocates may also accompany survivors to court dates and help them file protective orders.  Advocates provide support to victims by phone or in person for weeks, months, or even years after the assault.  Counseling services can continue until the victim is ready to end services, and can begin again at any time a survivor chooses to re-engage. Furthermore, the counselor has the ability to do video conference sessions if a victim has chosen to relocate outside of the county.

In addition to all of that, the staff organizes and participate in six to eight outreach and education events every month.  These events may include visits to college campuses and assisted living facilities, Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement officers, talks at faith-based organizations, and community fairs and walks.  The Volusia Rape Crisis Center is more than just a crisis center; it truly is a community needs center that aims to meet the needs of the community through education, care, empowerment, and support. 

VRCC is dedicated to helping individuals heal after sexual assault and uses many avenues to achieve empowerment and healing.  From equine therapy, self-defense classes, support groups, counseling services, or just a friendly voice to answer questions on the phone, VRCC is there for everyone. 

If you were a victim of sexual assault at any time in your life, or know somebody that was, supportive services are available, free of charge. Call 1-800-503-7621 any time, night or day, to see how this small, dedicated staff can help you or others find healing.

Saving Lives One Question at a Time

Question. Persuade. Refer. Also known as QPR, these three letters (or words) can save lives. Similar in nature to CPR, QPR is a three-step process to help save lives from suicide. The goal of QPR is simple: To save lives and reduce suicidal behaviors by providing innovative, practical and proven suicide prevention training.1

When someone is going through cardiac arrest — or something of similar nature — there is a quick response and someone trained in CPR knows how to respond. QPR has taken this very concept, and essentially re-constructed for suicide prevention. If someone were to notice the warning signs of an immediate suicidal crisis, someone who is trained in QPR would know how to respond, what to do next and how to get the person in crisis to a professional who can actually help them work through their crisis.

Similar to how all individuals should be trained CPR, everybody should be trained in QPR. Why? Everyone has been affected by suicide, whether you know someone personally or have seen it on the news. Suicide is not something that concentrates itself to one particular community, it doesn’t concentrate itself to one type of person — it crosses all barriers and all boundaries.

Research says that for every completed suicide, they leave behind (at minimum) six suicide survivors — people who’ve lost someone they care about deeply and are left with their grief and struggle to understand why it happened.2 Once you have been directly affected by suicide, you are now at risk. That does not mean you are going to have suicidal thoughts, nor does it mean you are going to attempt suicide. But, because you are at risk, it is important to have things in place to make sure you are being take care of appropriately.

This is where QPR can be an effective resource. It is something that everyone should be exposed to, just like CPR. At one point, CPR was not widely known to the public. But, because communities understood and respected its goals, everyone has now heard of CPR. That is the same vision for QPR.

The training itself focuses on how to recognize signs of suicidal behavior, and how to initiate the conversation – most individuals do not know how to approach someone who may be suicidal. The first step is to get people to be comfortable to reach out to those they care about. Eventually, through conversation (question) and persuasion, the goal is to get individuals who are with a mental health issues or suicidal thoughts to seek professional help (refer).

Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. That is one of, if not the main idea that individuals should walk away with when they leave the training. It does not take a certification to help prevent suicide. It does not take years of schooling to help prevent suicide. The more people we have willing and able to be of some assistance in suicide prevention, the better steps we have taken as a society to make sure we are taking care of those who need it most.

To learn more about QPR, visit qprinstitute.com. SMA Healthcare offers a QPR course across its four counties of operation – Flagler, Putnam, St. John’s and Volusia. For more information, visit smahealthcare.org or call our 800-539-4228.

 

1 https://qprinstitute.com/about-qpr

2 https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/left-behind-after-suicide

Enrichment: Opportunity without Limitation

SMA’s Enrichment Program works with clients who experience severe mental illness, developmental disabilities and/or co-occurring disorders. During fiscal year 2018-19, more than 191 individuals received services, 308 individuals were employed, and sales and services contracts yielded more than $3.2 million in revenue.

Michael Warriner, who oversees the psycho-social rehabilitation day program, sat down for a Q&A to give some more background on SMA’s hidden gem.  

 

What is the Enrichment program?

Enrichment is a psycho-social rehabilitation treatment center, which focuses on building job and independent living skills for clients who have psychiatric and/or developmental disabilities.  Enrichment helps individuals who have had difficulties finding or maintaining a job in competitive employment. The program builds skills and eventually connects them with resources to reach those goals. Currently, we have nearly 100 clients enrolled in the day program.

 

What is the goal and/or purpose of the Enrichment program?

Enrichment believes that everyone should have the opportunity to work regardless of limitations or disabilities. In providing these opportunities we can help prevent hospitalizations and help clients better manage their mental health symptoms. The program works to build those vocational and independent living skills to help increase a person’s standard of living. Treatment plans cover three primary areas: building social skills, independent living skills, and vocational skills.

 

What does an average day look like at Enrichment?

Clients arrive to the program at 8:45 a.m., and start with pre-vocational group, which is working on manufacturing jobs and building job skills. After their first break, they go to an educational class which can consist of any of the following:  life management, basic education, money management, job exploration, community inclusion outings, etc. It is all based on their individual treatment plans/goals. Then, after lunch break, they finish the day with pre-vocational group until 1:30 when their transportation arrives to pick them up.

 

Do you know of any other programs in the state offering these services?

Yes, there are a couple other options in Volusia County, but Enrichment works towards giving all of the clients an opportunity to participate in manufacturing work as opposed to other programs allowing those to meet a productivity norm.

 

What separates Enrichment from other similar programs?

Enrichment offers a day program, supportive employment, and contract services. Most programs only provide the day program. Supportive employment works directly with vocational rehabilitation (VR offices) to find opportunities for competitive employment and also teach job readiness courses to prepare clients with how to construct a resume, fill out applications, prepare for interviews, work place norms, etc. Contract services is competitive employment that stretches across several counties in Florida where individuals with disabilities participate in grounds keeping and janitorial services for rest areas and private businesses with supervisors who understand the difficulties they face with their mental health symptoms.

 

What types of products does Enrichment manufacture/supply?

Enrichment collaborates with over a dozen community and government agencies to assemble components for various products, such as electrical equipment, mail-out orders, sample kits, and crab traps.

 

What is one of the biggest struggles that clients face after leaving the program?

Transportation. Having enough savings to put down on a form of transportation, or the means of obtaining bus services. A lot of the barriers faced after leaving the program are transportation-based. Clients also have difficulty navigating the social security services, which is provided in the money management skills class. Many of the clients are worried about losing funding if gaining employment, etc.

 

How can the general public support the program and/or educate others?

The public can support the program by referring family members or individuals who could benefit from the services. General manufacturing companies could collaborate with the program to provide assembly work for our clients. Local businesses looking to hire individuals could inquire if there are individuals willing and able to work for them. [The clients’] goals are goals that we would take for granted: a cashier, janitor…giving someone with disabilities a chance to work with a business would show how motivated and capable they are once given the opportunity.

And, of course, individuals are encouraged to donate to the SMA Healthcare Foundation, which disperses funding to all of the SMA programs.

 

Beating the Holiday Blues

Congratulations! You have made it halfway through the holiday season with a smile and (probably) more pumpkin pie than you’d like to admit. Now the heavy hitters, Christmas and New Year’s, are right around the corner, when nearly everyone seems to radiate jolly and good cheer. How do you handle feeling blue when the world around you is wrapped in garland and tinsel?

First, please know that you are not the Grinch because you feel this way, and you are definitely not alone. Knowing that, acknowledge your feelings and be kind to yourself.

In a survey on the holiday blues, 64% say they are affected, according to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)1. Below are some of the major causes and helpful remedies in battling the holiday blues.

Loneliness

For those who are single, without a family or who live far from family, the holiday season can be especially difficult. When others are celebrating with their families and friends, it can be very painful for those who are alone.

  • Resist the urge to isolate and withdraw. Get up and around others, even if it is a trip to the local bookstore or your favorite coffee shop. Whether being in a group setting or exchanging a friendly smile with a stranger, being around others can uplift your mood and brighten your spirit.

Grief

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is painful any time of the year, but can be particularly challenging during the holidays.

  • Take time for yourself, to reflect and grieve as you need, but also spend time with supportive, caring people.

Missing the Past

Some of the biggest parts of the holidays are the memories and traditions we have developed over the years. If your current circumstances are unfavorable, you may find yourself stuck in the past longing for better times instead of enjoying the present.

  • Create new memories and traditions. There is no blueprint for what your holiday should look like; if repeating an old tradition evokes unpleasant or sad feelings, reinvent a tradition for the present.
  • If it is too difficult to avoid memories where you are, allow yourself to go somewhere new. Take a weekend getaway or book a hotel in a new city, and enjoy the little joys and moments of happiness awaiting in your next adventure.

Stress

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people said their stress level increased during the holiday season2. The most common stressors listed by participants included: lack of money, lack of time, pressures of gift-giving and commercialism, and family gatherings.

  • Set a budget for holiday activities and gifts. Setting reasonable expectations and goals for shopping, entertaining, and activities will prevent you from overextending yourself financially.
  • Make time to rest and recover, even amongst a busy schedule and the pressure of holiday obligations. Taking time for yourself to relax and unwind is beneficial in being present in the moment and making the most of your holiday.

 

While the holidays can be stressful even under the best of circumstances, there are many tips and tricks to battle the holiday blues. And, in just a few weeks, the holidays will be over and you will get to start fresh with a new year!

Note: There is a difference between the holiday blues, which typically pass at the end of the holiday season, and more severe depression, which can last longer and interfere with daily living. If the holiday season has ended and you’re still feeling anxious or depressed, consulting with a medical professional is recommended. SMA Healthcare has its 24/7 Access Center available if you need help. Call anytime at (800) 539-4228.

 

 

1 https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/november-2015/tips-for-managing-the-holiday-blues

2 https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2018-12-07/why-are-the-holidays-so-stressful

Raising Successful Adolescents

In 2002, Dr. Gary Tyson, an adolescent psychologist working at SMA Healthcare’s Residential Adolescent Program (RAP), died of bone marrow cancer.  Before his death, Dr. Tyson transformed this program at SMA by modifying the phase system and overseeing the clinical operation of it.  He was awarded the Adolescent Services Leadership Award posthumously in December 2002 for outstanding leadership, performance, and commitment to SMA’s mission at the time.  His training on “Successful Adolescents” back then still holds true today, and here are a few key components of his teaching:

Successful adolescents will individuate, but not separate from their family of origin — they have a sense of “roots” as it relates to their family.  They will develop their own sense of a unique identity, not just being what others are or want them to be.  Successful adolescents will get opportunities to be genuinely useful to others, and will learn to develop a sense of limits, knowing what they can and can’t do without pushing those limits in extreme ways.   Adolescents who get in trouble are often pushing these limits.  Successful adolescents will find and nurture positive role models and will also often identify with something larger than themselves. 

“Healthy families” raise healthy adolescents.  Healthy families will have many, but not necessarily all, of the following:  a balance between 1) protection and challenge and 2) structure and affection. They must be able to demonstrate both of these competing values in a measured, balanced way.  Too much of one and not enough of the other can cause families to become unhealthy.  Low-key parents tend to hear more than loud, boisterous ones.  Being able to listen and understand an adolescent perspective is important, and that leads to the next important factor:  Respect.  Healthy families understand respect is bi-directional.  You get respect by giving respect.  Finally, when in trouble, healthy families seek professional help.

To help develop successful adolescents, it is important for healthy families to teach important coping skills.  These include, but are not limited to:  “centering” or self-calming strategies which can include meditation, relaxation exercises, or appreciating/engaging with nature; separating thoughts from feelings, because the thoughts are what we can control and help regulate our emotions; managing pain/moderating emotionality, so adolescents don’t overreact to situations; defining their own criteria for relationships for true understanding instead of what peers or parents tell them; and, developing an ability to “time travel” — remember the past but be able to project to the future.  Finally, it is important to develop a sense of altruism, which is defined as “an act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to one’s self.” By doing so, it helps prevent one from being self-centered and able to positively interact with others.

Adolescents and families learned a lot from Dr. Gary Tyson in the course of his career as an adolescent psychologist.  Sometimes a reminder of what he taught can help us be healthier today and also serve as a way of honoring how Dr. Tyson helped so many while he was here. 

 

*If you or someone you know, ages 25 or under, is experiencing a crisis, we are here to help. Our 24/7 Crisis Response Team is available to talk to you or respond in person to crisis calls in Volusia and Flagler counties. Call anytime at 800-539-4228.

Doing the Work That MAT-ters

Florida State’s Medical Examiners Commission released interim 2018 data which illustrated drug-related deaths reduced by five percent, with opioid-caused deaths reduced by 13 percent (in comparison with 2017 data).1 This recent information released by state officials demonstrates some relief from the opioid crisis that Florida has been battling for nearly a decade, and is welcomed news for those serving on the frontlines of opioid misuse — including SMA Healthcare.

In efforts to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, SMA Healthcare has kept with current practices by providing clients with new programs and treatment protocols. The Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program was implemented in response to the Opioid Crisis and is designed to assist clients in their substance use recovery by providing a combination of medication assistance and integrated therapy. Vivitrol was introduced to this program in May 2017 followed by Subutex later that year. Currently, the MAT program provides Vivitrol, Subutex, and Suboxone in order to provide the optimal treatment plan individualized for each client entering the program.

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), “has long recognized addiction as a chronic disease of the brain that can be treated effectively with evidence-based therapy, including psychosocial treatments and FDA-approved medications as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT)”.2 In fact, pharmacotherapies for opioid addiction used in conjunction with behavioral therapies and additional recovery support services (MAT) have proven to be highly effective in the treatment of opioid addiction, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and ASAM.

Dr. James Fenley, Director of Addiction Services, has indicated that since implementation of the MAT program, clients have stated that the clinic has become a safe place where they feel a source of compassion and care. At least 41% of clients have co-occurring disorders, making the close relationship with outpatient services a critical component to treatment. Furthermore, clients with longstanding MAT compliance usually participate not only in therapy, but also support groups — primarily 12 step recovery.

During fiscal year 2018-19, 64% of clients completed at least 3 months of treatment and nearly half of the patients have been in the program for nine months to a year. At time of discharge, 54% of clients were employed and 92% lived in stable housing. Of the 329 clients served in the MAT program during the last fiscal year, 96% of all drug tests administered were negative for opiates. With these successful performance measures, it’s apparent that the MAT program is vital for clients served and for the community in fighting the opioid epidemic plaguing this state. 

 

 

1Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons Florida Medical Examiners, 2018 Interim Report, Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

2Advancing Access to Addiction Medications: Implications for Opioid Addiction Treatment, ASAM. https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/aaam_implications-for-opioid-addiction-treatment_final.pdf?sfvrsn=cee262c2_25.

Grateful Hearts, Healthy Minds

Walking into the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning can be like walking into aromatic heaven — turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing, green beans, potatoes all mingled together into the most comforting smell.  Not long after that, family fills the house, shoulder to shoulder, with stomachs full of food and hearts full of gratitude. 

This is the season that we have set aside for being thankful.  We spend time reflecting on the things that we are most grateful for — perhaps our families, our friends, our health, or our jobs.  The food was (and still is) a great reason to be thankful. However, why do we reserve all this gratitude for one day of the year?  Why don’t we practice thankfulness all the time?  Conventional wisdom says that it is good to be grateful, and every major world religion, spiritual tradition, and philosophy touts its benefit.  The Roman Philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero said of gratitude as a virtue: “For this one virtue is not only the greatest, it is also the parent of all the other virtues.”  So, why do we confine this virtue into one feast every year?

Not only does the collective wisdom of human culture recognize the power of gratitude, but research has also supported the benefits of practicing this virtue.  One study showed that people who practiced gratitude for over 10 weeks reported feeling more optimistic about their lives, spent more time exercising, and experienced a decrease in physical complaints.  Subsequent studies showed that participants also experienced more and better sleep, and reported engaging in helping others more often (Emmons and McCullough 2003).  Other studies have suggested that an increase in gratitude is especially helpful in the short-term treatment of depression and is a “potential avenue for spontaneous remission from depression” (Disabato et. al 2017). 

Thankfulness can also be cultivated through community.  Practicing gratitude in faith settings can lead to more social and emotional support and less symptoms of depression (Krause et. al 2014).  All of this evidence compels us to take nothing for granted, and to continually remember the things we are thankful for, especially when we are going through a rough time in our lives. 

This Thanksgiving, give thanks for all of the blessing you have received, but don’t stop there.  Take time every day to recognize all the things, great and small, that you are thankful for and share it with others.

 

 

Disabato, D., Kashdan, T., Short, J., & Jarden, A. (2017). What Predicts Positive Life Events that Influence the Course of Depression? A Longitudinal Examination of Gratitude and Meaning in Life. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 41(3), 444–458.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389.

Krause, N., Bruce, D., Hayward, R. D., & Woolever, C. A. (2014). Gratitude to God, self-rated health, and depressive symptoms. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 53(2), 341–355.

Who is Jay: Finding Hope in the Midst of a Loss

This Saturday, November 23, is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.  Also known as Survivor Day, the day was designated by the United States Congress as a day on which those affected by suicide can join together for healing and support. It was determined that Survivor Day would always fall on the Saturday before American Thanksgiving, as the holidays are often a difficult time for suicide loss survivors.1

The story below is an excerpt from Joshua Rivedal’s book, i’Mpossible Project: Lemonade Stand. This story is about Hank and Susan Ashby, who lost their son Jay to suicide. Through their loss, Hank and Susan created the Jay’s Hope Fund to provide awareness, education, and advocacy for patients and families impacted by severe mental illness. Here’s their story:

“Valentine’s Day 2010, we received a frantic call from a halfway house in Daytona Beach. Our twenty-five-year-old son, Jay Ashby was missing. Later that afternoon, we received a visit from law enforcement authorities notifying us that Jay was dead. He had ended his life by jumping off a high-rise building.

Weeks earlier, Jay had been released from a state hospital, where he had stayed for a couple of months to regain his competency, so he could stand trial for missing a court-ordered mental health treatment.  After the hearing, Jay was released into the community, where there was no proper receiving facility for someone with his condition. A halfway house was the only place that would accept him.

We were in shock. This was a parent’s worst nightmare, and our family was devastated. The tremendous outpouring of support from family, friends, our church, and the community was overwhelming, and it provided some comfort. However, it was our faith (Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me) that helped us get through the most challenging time of our lives and later found new purpose.  

Florida’s mental health system was broken. They lacked proper and adequate facilities and services for mental health treatment. They enforced HIPPA laws that made no sense in the case of patients who cannot reason for themselves. Florida also lacked crisis intervention training for law enforcement and suffered from severe funding limitations, long waiting times for receiving desperately needed services, non-existent long-term housing, and no continuum of services. The list goes on-and-on.

At that time, Florida was ranked forty-ninth out of fifty states by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as far as services available for those suffering from mental health problems. Jay had been on a long waiting list for help when he ended his struggle.  

So what does a family do after suffering such a horrible loss? Initially, we were very angry. We wanted to sue the state for its negligence in not providing needed services. However, after a few months and prayerful consideration, we decided to focus on a more positive path to help others families like ours. We decided to start Jay’s Hope Fund (administered by the SMA Healthcare Foundation) to provide awareness, education, and advocacy for patients and families impacted by severe mental illness. This would honor the memory of our son and channel energies in a positive way.

Prior to his illness, Jay had been a delightful son, a great brother, a friend to many, and a model child who was very much loved to the end. Like most young men, Jay had a dream of making his mark on this world. He had many gifts and talents and led a “normal life” until the onset of his illness in his mid-teens. Jay was a good student and a talented musician and artist. He was a fine athlete, excelling in soccer, basketball and golf. His favorite hobbies were surfing and fishing. He spent countless hours in the waterways and ocean in Florida. Our garage frequently smelled like a bait bucket from Jay’s fishing adventures. Jay’s favorite musical instrument was the upright bass, which was a tall, “macho” instrument. Maybe it helped him compensate for his feelings of being on the short side. You could often use us driving around town with an upright bass protruding out of the sunroof of our car when hauling Jay to orchestra practices.

It was Jay’s plan to complete college. But then his illness, diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder (a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) robbed him of his functionality. Before finally receiving a diagnosis, we wondered why the same parenting principles and guidelines that had worked with our other children did not work with Jay. As parents, we were in uncharted territory. We went through some very dark times with Jay, thinking his rebelliousness, poor judgment, and run-ins with the law were likely caused by drug use.

After his diagnosis, we realized it was mental illness causing these behaviors. We later saw unusual symptoms that were unlike anything we had witnessed before —hallucinations and delusions, episodes of mania and depression, withdrawing from society and friends, obsessive/compulsive actions, and problems with personal care. At the height of his illness, he disassembled all the electronics and ceiling fans in his house thinking someone was “spying on him.” Other symptoms included speaking in different voices, shuffling his feet when walking, and grimacing with his mouth. During one of his episodes, Jay once said, “Don’t be surprised if you read a headline about me jumping off a building.”

Left untreated, in his condition, we knew he could potentially harm himself or others. Jay could no longer distinguish between what was real and what he imagined.

The family used to call Hank “Daddy Fix-It”, but Daddy found that he was totally unable to “fix” Jay’s problems, despite his best efforts. Life became unpredictable as we bounced from one crisis to another. Seeing our child’s health rapidly deteriorate and not being able to help him surely contributed to Hank’s heart attack, exactly one year before Jay’s death.

We thank God for the gift of Jay. We try to stay focused on all the good times and memories we shared with him. It is our desire to bring hope to the “Jays” of this world through Jay’s Hope.”

 

For more information on Survivor Day, visit https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/survivor-day/

For more information on Jay’s Hope Fund or to donate, visit https://www.whoisjay.org

For more information on the i’Mpossible Project, visit http://www.iampossibleproject.com

 

 

  1. International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day: https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/survivor-day/

 

Crisis Intervention Team – Building Relationships and Finding Solutions

Each year, two million people with mental illnesses are arrested and placed in jail.[i]  People with mental illnesses often don’t need punishment — they need treatment. Law enforcement officers receive extensive training on how to handle criminals and dangerous situations.  People with mental illnesses are not criminals, however, and special skills and techniques are needed to respond to a mental health crisis. 

That is where Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training comes in to play.

First developed in 1988, CIT training focuses on finding new solutions to mental health needs by building relationships between law enforcement, mental health professionals, substance use specialists, advocates, families, and, most importantly, the mental health consumers themselves.  The goals of CIT include reducing stigma and further contact with the criminal justice system, improving the safety of both officers and citizens, and helping the latter connect with much needed services and treatment.[ii]

This Friday, SMA is sponsoring an awards luncheon to honor five law enforcement officers, finalists from a pool of officers nominated by their supervisors, who have demonstrated excellence in utilizing their use of skills learned in CIT training.  And, one of these officers will be named CIT Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. 

These officers have shown a commitment to recognizing mental health crises and responding with empathy, helping citizens get the help that they need rather than arresting them.  We are proud of our law enforcement officers, and this award is such a small step toward repaying them for their bravery and dedication to our communities. 

To learn more about CIT training, visit http://www.citinternational.org/. SMA Healthcare has partnered with law enforcement to provide the 40-hour CIT training to officers and, in 2018, was awarded a Mental Health Awareness Training grant from SAMHSA to continue funding this important program. 

 

[i] https://www.nami.org/learn-more/public-policy/jailing-people-with-mental-illness

[ii] http://www.citinternational.org/What-is-CIT

Support and Services for the Homeless Population

When the Volusia-Flagler County Coalition for the Homeless (VFCCH) completed its most recent Point In Time count in April, there were 745 Volusia County residents experiencing homelessness.  According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, these are just a few of the causes of homelessness: employment/financial reasons, family issues/domestic violence, medical/disability, substance use, and mental health.

With the First Step Shelter set to open its doors in Daytona Beach by the end of 2019, and The Bridge set to open in DeLand next spring, Volusia County is preparing to begin providing shelter for adult members of this homeless population. However, sheltering individuals experiencing homelessness is only one piece of the larger picture of care. Providing a full scope of services to shelter residents, not just a roof and a bed, is key to the successful pursuit of the life changes that shelter residents may seek.  SMA Healthcare is poised to provide a diverse menu of services for residents at both First Step and The Bridge to meet the broad array of needs of the Volusia County homeless population.

Services that will be provided include emergency screenings, detoxification, crisis stabilization, inpatient and outpatient substance use and mental mealth treatment, Medication Assisted Treatment, and Rape Crisis Services.  These services are funded by a combination of County, State, and Federal Funding, and a sliding scale fee.  Furthermore, SMA Healthcare offers its grant-funded outreach programs, PATH and PATHWAYS, which specifically address the mental health and/or substance use needs of homeless individuals diagnosed with a severe mental illness, and provide case management, treatment, and recovery support services. SMA will continue to offer these programs free of charge for as long as grant funding allows — or until other funding sources are identified.  That being said, SMA services provided for both shelters are of no cost to the shelters.  

Additionally, the agency contracted to operate the First Step Shelter, Catholic Services, has contracted with SMA to fund one on-site therapist who will provide screenings, crisis intervention, therapy, and a linkage to and navigation of SMA services.  With this wide safety net of services offered to Volusia County’s shelter population, progress can be made toward reducing the overall rate of homelessness in Volusia County. And, more importantly, progress can be made toward making life better for all of Volusia County’s residents.