Featured

Behavioral Health Administrator Ross Edmunds: We’re here to help manage stress and anxiety during COVID-19

Gov. Brad Little’s announcement of a stay-at-home order is a demonstration of his commitment to keeping Idaho as safe and healthy as possible through this unprecedented pandemic. In addition, the Governor has repeatedly expressed his concern for the mental health of all Idahoans during these difficult times.

The advice coming from our partners in public health is to practice good hygiene and use social distancing to control the spread of COVID-19. These are critical to allowing our healthcare system to manage the ever-growing number of people testing positive.

As the administrator for the Division of Behavioral Health in Idaho, I know we all need to follow these recommendations for the health of our communities; however, the steps to control the spread of this virus can have the opposite effect on our mental wellbeing. Isolation, loneliness, and social distancing increase depression, anxiety, and emotional insecurity. Additionally, many of us are experiencing increased stress from financial insecurity, job loss, and fear over the unknown.

We will get through these challenging times together. Just as we always do in Idaho, communities will come together and take care of each other. The power of a simple phone call checking in and letting family, friends, and neighbors know you are thinking of them is invaluable. If you or you know of someone that needs assistance, help is available. Below is list of resources to help you, your family, or friends.

Resources:

  • Idaho COVID-19 Hotline: call 888-330-3010
  • Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline: call 211 or 208-398-4357
  • OPTUM Idaho member crisis line: 855-202-0973

The Department of Health and Welfare has opened an Idaho COVID-19 Hotline that can be reached by calling 888-330-3010. We have trained professionals ready and available to talk with you and assist you in accessing the mental health and substance use disorder services you need. We also have Behavioral Health Community Crisis Centers located throughout the state that remain open and prepared to assist you.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.

Ross Edmunds
Division Administrator, Behavioral Health
Department of Health and Welfare

My Life, My Quit is a program specifically for teens to help them quit nicotine

MyLifeMyQuit

Idaho teens who want to quit tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and vapes, now have a program specifically made for them and to help them on their quit journey. It’s called My Life, My Quit, and it launched for Idaho teens in December.

Is this the first program to help teens quit tobacco in Idaho?

It is – in fact, there aren’t many resources in the nation that are available specifically for teens if they want to quit tobacco. We have come to realize that teens have a very different quit journey than adults do. In Idaho, nearly half of all high school students have used e-cigarettes at least once, and there has been a surge in tobacco violations in schools across the state. We want to give teens the tools they need to help them make healthy choices. Continue reading “My Life, My Quit is a program specifically for teens to help them quit nicotine”

A day in the life of Dan Asbury, administrative service manager for the Division of Management Services

Photo of Dan Asbury at his desk
Working at the desk in his basement office is not Dan Asbury’s natural habitat. If you are looking for him, you probably won’t find him sitting still. Dan’s job keeps him traveling throughout Idaho while building relationships and problem-solving with his co-workers – always with his trademark smile.

From the concrete tunnels below the streets of Boise to the pristine mountain ranges of Coeur d’Alene, Dan Asbury’s workspace transcends the confines of a typical cubicle. On any given day, his office might be in a construction zone, or at the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories, or maybe in his car as he drives along the Snake River to Twin Falls.

Dan, who is the Department of Health and Welfare’s (DHW) administrative service manager for the Division of Management Services, could have been the muse for English poet Geoffrey Chaucer when he coined the phrase “busy as a bee.” His responsibilities are extraordinarily diverse and range from getting the motor-pool cars ready for the road to using his engineering skills (with the help of some special software) to creatively design new office spaces. Dan rarely sits still as his job requires both reasoning skills and physical activity. There is always something to do when it comes to facilities management.

Dan has been with the department for two years, and he is proud to work behind the scenes and support those who provide services directly to many Idahoans. “I would encourage people to get to know DHW. We really care about the future of our state.”

“Dan is an action-oriented guy,” says Amy Swann, Dan’s supervisor and the Bureau Chief for the Division of Management Services. “He works hard each day to support a huge and diverse list of facility needs across the department. Dan strives to support, learn, and grow amidst the chaos of each demanding day. I consider Dan and his entire facilities team a critical part of our division’s stability and success, and I am grateful for all their hard work.” Continue reading “A day in the life of Dan Asbury, administrative service manager for the Division of Management Services”

Behavioral Health Crisis Centers – A helping hand for Idahoans in need

On an unseasonably warm day early this winter, a young man in a too-long sweater, socks, and baggy grey sweatpants sits outside the doors of an unassuming building near the Boise Towne Square mall, staring at the sky, not acknowledging the occasional passers-by.

DHW Innovation logo with green and blueJust a couple years ago, this man could have easily found himself in a local emergency department waiting for help, in the back of a police car, or on the streets while suffering through a mental health or substance use disorder crisis. But since Dec. 12, 2017, Boise has offered another option: Pathways Community Crisis Center of Southwest Idaho.

After passing through a security check and taking a medical wellness screening, visitors have access to a warm place to stay for the day, food and coffee, a shower and change of clothes, and most importantly – the opportunity to leave with a plan. Having a safety and treatment plan helps visitors to not only avoid a future crisis, but to also work toward recovery from their behavioral health issues. They leave with hope. Hope in the knowledge that there is a place they can find someone to help them regardless of their financial situation. The help could be a peer specialist with personal experience in recovery, a counselor, or a crisis clinician or case manager. They know they aren’t alone in their struggle.

This sign greets clients as they enter Boise’s Pathways Community Crisis Center of Southwest Idaho in Boise. These crisis centers are designed to offer an effective alternative to hospitalization and incarceration to people who may be in mental health or substance-use related crisis.
This sign greets clients as they enter Boise’s Pathways Community Crisis Center of Southwest Idaho in Boise. These crisis centers are designed to offer an effective alternative to hospitalization and incarceration to people who may be in mental health or substance-use related crisis.

“They can feel the sense of urgency is lifting just as they’re working through the intake,” Program Manager Bert Schweickart said. Even being able to wash visitors’ clothes and hand them back cleaned and dried as they leave can have a significant impact on those who are suffering through crisis.

“If they have the impetus to show up, we have the obligation to let them in and do what we can to solve the issue they have,” Bert said. Sometimes, during the initial medical wellness screening, the crisis team determine that they need to be medically stabilized in a more intensive setting before using the crisis center services. When this happens, the team can refer them to the emergency department or advise them to seek other medical care so that they can return when they are stabilized. Pathways provides transportation for visitors who need to be stabilized so they can return and seek help with their crisis. Continue reading “Behavioral Health Crisis Centers – A helping hand for Idahoans in need”

Music therapy: Helping us all engage in new ways

Kate Schnieder, board-certified music therapist at The Lotus Tree Sensory Integration Center in Boise, guides her piano duet with Client N as they work up to the grand finale of their piano duet.
Kate Schnieder, board-certified music therapist at The Lotus Tree Sensory Integration Center in Boise, guides her piano duet with Client N as they work up to the grand finale of their piano duet.

As her fingers gracefully dance over the keyboard, Kate Schnieder, board-certified music therapist at The Lotus Tree Sensory Integration Center in Boise, guides her piano duet partner, Client N, with sing-song directions. “Now, play with two fin-gers … three fin-gers … fo-ur …” Client N catches on to the pattern and takes over, exclaiming, “Five! Six!” The notes ring true, as Client N reads from color-coded sheet music and strikes the corresponding color-coded keys on the keyboard.

Playing louder and louder, she reaches the point where all 10 fingers are crashing down on the keyboard. Kate and Client N reach the end of the notes on the page, and Client N takes a deep breath. She finishes the song dramatically, in grand concert style, with a final decisive strike on the keys – wrists arched, fingers straight in little teepee arrangements, head thrown back triumphantly. She pauses, allowing the final notes to echo through the room before fading away.

A shy grin spreads across her face and she whispers to Kate, “Did they see?” She wants to check whether we had noticed her captivating performance from across the room. Continue reading “Music therapy: Helping us all engage in new ways”

What should Idahoans know about the 2019 novel coronavirus?

The national and international situation with the novel coronavirus is rapidly evolving, with the number of cases and deaths changing daily. Public Health officials around the world are working around the clock to understand this new respiratory virus so they can contain it and keep more people from getting infected.

How high is the possibility of people in Idaho getting sick with this virus?

The general risk here in Idaho is fairly low at this point, but public health officials want people to be aware so they can take appropriate precautions. We’re asking you to follow steps you are probably already taking for flu – stay home if you’re sick, avoid sick people, and cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue (not your hands). Wash your hands frequently, especially after you have been in the public and touched door handles, stair railings, money, grocery carts, elevator buttons, and other items that lots of other people may also have touched. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China.

If you think you’ve been exposed, should you go to a clinic or doctor’s office?

If you or someone you know has been in one of the affected areas, believe you may have been exposed to someone who was sick and develop symptoms, call your medical provider to determine next steps. Don’t just head to the clinic or doctor’s office because you risk infecting more people in those settings. Continue reading “What should Idahoans know about the 2019 novel coronavirus?”

It’s American Heart Month. Do you know your heart health?

It’s probably no coincidence that February is American Heart Month. It’s a good time for conversations about matters of the heart, and it’s a great time to talk to your healthcare provider about your blood pressure and cholesterol so you can figure out if you are at risk for heart disease. Nationally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults.

Heart disease, as we all know, can lead to a heart attack. Can you remind us about the symptoms of a heart attack?

Not everyone who has a heart attack will have all of these signs. In fact, men and women often have different symptoms. The most common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, pain or discomfort in the upper body, trouble breathing, feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting, stomach ache or heartburn, feeling light-headed or unusually tired, and breaking out in a cold sweat.

If you have any of these symptoms and think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

How can symptoms be different for women?

Just like men, the most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But it’s important to note that women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Women may instead experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in their lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure, or extreme fatigue. Continue reading “It’s American Heart Month. Do you know your heart health?”