Bringing Change to Putnam County

SMA Healthcare is expanding its substance use disorder service continuum in Putnam County. On September 1, SMA was awarded the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Implementation Grant. The goal of this program, as defined by HRSA, is to strengthen and expand substance use and opioid use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery service delivery in high-risk rural communities, ultimately helping rural resident’s access treatment and move towards recovery.

Putnam’s population has experienced increased risk over the past five years to substance use and opioid use disorders, including neonatal abstinence syndrome.  More than 1 in 4 Putnam County residents are currently living in poverty.

The funds provided through this federal grant may be the only means by which our residents will be able to seek treatment and establish and maintain recovery. Through this grant we will be able to develop a network of training and collaboration through Extension for Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO).  We will be able to provide and train family members on the use of Narcan, a lifesaving medication. Narcan can revive someone who has overdosed on an opioid.  We will be able to provide medication assisted treatment and counseling to those people suffering with an opioid use disorder.

Finally, through our partnership with Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FAADA) and Floridians for Recovery (FFR), we will create a Recovery Community Organization (RCO).  An RCO is a non-profit organization led and governed by representatives of local communities of recovery. The sole mission of an RCO is to mobilize resources within and outside of the recovery community to increase the prevalence and quality of long-term recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions.

Public education, policy advocacy and peer-based recovery support services are the strategies through which this mission is achieved.  With these options for treatment, people will be able to start on their road to recover and lead productive lives.

We are so grateful for the partnerships we have within the community who are now tasked with, and invested in, making this project a success.  These partners include the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Palatka Police Department, Putnam Community Medical Center, Putnam County Health Department, Putnam County Fire/Emergency Medical Services, Azalea Health, Career Source, FAADA, FFR and the Medical University of South Carolina’s Extension for Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO).

The period of this grant is September 1, 2019 through August 31, 2022.

What Can You Do? Turning a Question into Action

Have you experienced trauma, suffered from depression, struggled with addiction, experienced loneliness, or suffered from a mental illness? According to Mental Health Daily,the nearly 47,000 Americans who died by suicide last year experienced similar struggles.

This week, September 8-14, is National Suicide Prevention Week, but the efforts to end suicide are not limited to just one week. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health(2018), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. In Florida alone, 3,552 people died by suicide last year. People are taking their lives at an alarming rate; so, what can be done? 

First, you start taking about it. Suicide is often a difficult topic to address, but it is necessary. If the door is not open to these conversations, individuals dealing with trauma, depression, or addiction will not have the opportunity to express their emotions and ultimately find the care they need to overcome. With discussion comes clarity, and with clarity comes the ability to make a better choice.

You can also educate yourself and share resources with those who need them.  SMA Healthcare believes that quality education empowers all people to make a positive difference in the life of someone they know. SMA currently has two free educational opportunities for the general public to help recognize the signs of suicidal thinking and equip individuals with knowledge and strategies needed to respond to a mental health crisis. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer — the 3 simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.  Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour training certification course which teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and secure appropriate care for the individual. It introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common treatments. 

SMA also has a 24/7 Access Center to direct individuals of all ages to services within SMA and a Crisis Line for individuals under the age of 25 in Volusia and Flagler counties who are feeling depressed, alone, suicidal, or bullied. Call (800) 539-4228 to be connected to either service. Nationally, The National Institute of Mental Health has a succinct 5-step process outlined on their website for suicide prevention. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) provides 24/7 free, confidential support for people in distress, and prevention and crisis resources.

What’s the local impact of the work being done?  In 2017, Flagler County had the highest suicide rate in the state; Volusia County was ranked 8th. Not wanting these statistics to become the norm, SMA Healthcare applied for a grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Adult Zero Suicide, with the goal of identifying individuals in crisis and linking them to suicide prevention services. In 2018, Flagler County’s rank fell to 8thand Volusia County’s rank fell to 28th. Thanks to collaboration with community partners and services in this area, there has been reduction in suicides in Northeast and Central Florida.

National Suicide Prevention Week is an important time to focus on how you can help end suicide in the United States.  Make today the day you educate yourself, share resources with someone who needs them, and be there for someone experiencing crisis. Change “what can you do?” to “what you can do” to save a life.

A Double-Edged Sword: PTSD and Substance Use

What came first: the chicken or the egg? In substance use treatment, we often come across a very similar question – what came first: trauma or substance misuse? Individuals who have experienced both typically find themselves trying to answer that question. Sometimes the answer is clear, other times it is not.

Research shows that between 30-60% of people in substance use treatment have both a substance use diagnosis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Rates of people experiencing lifetime trauma without an official PTSD diagnosis are much higher.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an emotional set of problems that occurs after a person experiences a traumatic event.  What makes PTSD different than a normal human reaction is that the symptoms persist for months and even years — nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, easily startled, and problems in major areas of life are all symptoms of PTSD. To the public, PTSD is a familiar term when discussing combat veterans; however, PTSD doesn’t stop there. Any experience that a person perceives to be traumatic can lead to emotional disturbance and dysfunction.

People who have experienced trauma are likely to seek substances as a way of self-medicating and emotionally numbing themselves.  Individuals with PTSD are known to use “hard” drugs, like opioids.  The catch in this attempt to avoid the negative feelings associated with trauma is that individuals who become dependent on substances actually find themselves in situations that increase the chances of experiencing even more trauma.  This vicious cycle can repeat itself, making it harder for a person to seek help or treatment.

Seeking help for people with PTSD and substance use is an incredibly difficult task.  Once the numbing power of the substance has been removed through abstinence, the symptoms of PTSD often increase.  Many individuals find it difficult working through the traumatic pain they have experienced.  The past clinical approach was to address each need separately.  However, current studies indicate that the best practice is to treat both problems simultaneously.  As the problems are so intertwined, they cannot be isolated from each other in treatment. 

Creating physical and emotional safety is a primary need during this time.  Several approaches can be used, including:  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Processing Therapy.  The treatment each person receives should always be based upon a thorough evaluation of the individual needs identified. Here at SMA Healthcare, we have therapists trained in Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and EMDR.  Our staff can assist individuals struggling with substance misuse and PTSD in restoring their sense of self and meaning through individual, group, and family therapy. 

SMA Healthcare: New Name, Same Game

Our team at SMA Healthcare is very excited to introduce our new website to the communities we serve and to those who seek our services. Our rebranding efforts have been taking shape over the last year, with the website being the latest in those efforts. This is what the interested public will now be seeing; however, internally, we’ve been hard at work changing our various locations’ signage, implementing new staff uniforms and updating all the other business documents that are required when you go through an official name change.

I am most excited that, as part of our website deployment, we’ll be introducing a regular blog that will be used to provide the community with the information and knowledge that rests with our incredible team here at SMA. The biggest strength that SMA can boast loudly is the strength of our team of professionals that we have assembled. They take pride in helping others achieve their personal goals of wellness. These professionals have countless years of experience in assisting thousands of people reach recovery and become the individuals they aspire to be. The blog will highlight our staff’s experienced knowledge and be a tool for those who seek our care or strive to improve.

What’s key to know is that our rebrand in no way changes our focus. SMA Healthcare improves lives through exceptional substance abuse and mental health services. We envision communities where all individuals living with addiction and mental health needs, find hope, healing, and recovery. Our values are: Service (to elevate services to others above self-interest); Integrity (to act in a professional, responsible and trustworthy manner at all times); and Excellence (to strive for continuous quality and performance improvement). We’ve been serving in this manner since we were formed in 1961, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

— Ivan Cosimi, CEO, SMA Healthcare