A day in the life of the Assertive Community Treatment Team in Region 3

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(Client names have been randomly changed to a letter to protect their identity.)

To an outsider, it’s a pretty casual meeting on a recent late summer morning. It would be easy to assume clinicians Ashley Hammond, Angela Saitta, and Tara Dennis, and Clinical Supervisor Brian Lindner are discussing family or friends or catching up after a holiday weekend. Until you listen a little closer.

“She’s been stable, but she does have an upcoming (appointment), so we want to follow up on what her plan is for that,” Angela says of Client D, who they’ll be seeing today.

“I’m concerned he may be drinking again because I got a text from him … after missing his home visit,” Ashley says about Client H, who she’ll be seeing this morning.

They celebrate another client who has taken the initiative to contact the Social Security administration on his own: “He is capable of that.”

Another client may not be able to make their rent payment this month, and the team explores programs that may be able to help her.

The team shares a moment of victory as they hear a client will be returning after being out of contact for a while after a medication change.

“Yes, we found him!” Brian says.

“He’s back in (the area),” Angela shares, before the conversation shifts to the best way to connect with him.

“He likes music,” Angela says. “I’ve talked to him about Game of Thrones.”

Group photo from morning meeting

(Clockwise from front left) Region 3 Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team clinician Ashley Hammond, clinical supervisor Brian Lindner, clinician Angela Saitta, and clinician Tara Dennis meet for a recent morning staff meeting.

For clients served by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Region 3 Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, mental health support and treatment doesn’t look like what many people may think of as typical counseling or medication management. The team isn’t preparing for a day of office hours and appointments; they are planning for the 16 clients they will be meeting in the community on this day – some at home, some at work, others in challenging living situations because of their serious and persistent mental illnesses and resulting symptoms. Continue reading

Mental illness is a chronic health condition that people can and do recover from

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and it’s a good time to remember that millions of people in the United States are affected by mental illness each year. Whether we are dealing with our own diagnoses or helping take care of someone else who might be struggling with mental illness, the impacts are social, financial, and physical. It’s important to know that we are not alone and that help is available.

Can you help with some context around the millions of people affected by mental illness? How common is it?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness every year. That’s about 48 million people. The group also says that 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness, or 11.4 million people. A mental illness is classified as serious when it affects a person’s ability to be successful in their life at home, work, or school. And speaking of school, kids and teens also experience mental illness — 1 in 6 youths ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. So even if you are not counted among those numbers, chances are very high that someone you know, or love, is. Continue reading

Construction to begin on skilled nursing facility at State Hospital South

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is extremely pleased to announce that construction will begin Wednesday, May 8, on the new Syringa Chalet Nursing Facility at State Hospital South, 700 East Alice, Blackfoot.

A groundbreaking ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen and State Hospital South Administrator Jim Price will be in attendance, along with Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, Rep. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot, Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll, and Idaho Behavioral Health Administrator Ross Edmunds. Light refreshments will be served afterward.

“The nursing home serves as a safety net for the residents, many of whom can’t be treated in other nursing homes around the state and cannot return to their communities,” said Jim Price, administrator for State Hospital South, which operates the skilled nursing facility. “The new facility will be safer and have more capacity as it also preserves a feeling of home for our residents, who are mentally ill and gravely disabled and require skilled nursing care.” Continue reading

Gov. Little signs bill expanding access to lifesaving drug for opioid overdose victims

Boise – Gov. Brad Little signed House Bill 12 into law today during a bill signing ceremony to highlight the benefits of a medication called naloxone in saving the lives of people experiencing opioid overdose. He also reminded Idahoans of his forthcoming executive order to address opioid addiction in Idaho.

“My administration is fully committed to fighting the scourge of opioid abuse head on,” Gov. Little said. “We look forward to coordinating with all public and private entities to reverse this epidemic.”

There were 116 known opioid overdose deaths in Idaho in 2017, up from 44 just more than a decade ago – a 163 percent increase.

If an individual has an opioid overdose, a quick administration of naloxone can reverse the overdose and bring the patient back to life. A study found when access to naloxone is enhanced there is a 9 to 11 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths. Continue reading

Free DATA 2000 Waiver training available in two classes in January and February

Medication-assisted treatment is the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder. In Idaho, the two primary medications used in medication-assisted treatment are methadone and buprenorphine [suboxone].

To prescribe buprenorphine/suboxone, qualified physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners must complete a training and apply for a DATA 2000 Waiver, also called an X-license, to treat Opioid Use Disorder with approved products in any setting in which they are qualified to practice. This required training is currently being offered for free in Idaho. Continue reading

DHW releases Idaho Opioid Needs Assessment 2018

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Drug-induced deaths have increased in Idaho since 2010, but an updated report shows that the state remains slightly lower than the national average for this number. In 2016, the most recent year for which confirmed data is available, Idaho ranked 36th in the age-adjusted rate of drug-induced deaths by state, according to the Idaho Opioid Needs Assessment, which was released today by the Division of Behavioral Health.

A couple other highlights from the report include:

  • Since reaching a peak in 2010-2012, several indicators appear to show a modest decrease in non-heroin opiate/synthetic use in Idaho over recent years.
  • However, in 2016 Idaho was above the national average for the rate of opioids dispensed per 100,000 population and many indicators suggest that Idaho has experienced a significant increase in heroin use over the past decade.

Continue reading

September is National Recovery Month: Can you help reduce the stigma of substance-use disorder?

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September is National Recovery Month, and it’s a good time to talk about substance use disorders (commonly referred to as “drug or alcohol addiction”) and mental health so we can help fight the stigma associated with these diseases. The more comfortable people are about talking about these conditions, the more likely they will seek treatment. Continue reading