Mental Health Programs Expand

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LANE COUNTY, Ore. — One out of every three people will experience a mental health crisis at some point in their life, according to local behavioral health experts.┬áThe good news, Lane County recently received a big boost to help tackle mental illness to a degree previously unseen in the region.

PeaceHealth Behavioral Health recently received several large grants from the state to the tune of about a half a million dollars. The grant money will go towards programs aimed at first episode and at-risk adolescents.

Over the past couple of years the conversation surrounding the treatment of mental illness in our country has become under scrutiny.

That’s because often times it takes either a crime or hospitalization to send someone into the system.

“For too long that was the only way people could receive the treatment they so desperately needed.” said PeaceHealth Director of Behavioral Health Services Dale Smith.

“I think in the past it has really been heartbreaking for all of us in mental health.” said PeaceHealth Manager of Behavioral Health Outpatient Services Carla Gerber. “We would get calls from people who knew something wasn’t quite right and things weren’t going well and we’d have to turn them away.” added Gerber.

But now those working at PeaceHealth in Behavioral Health Services are a little more optimistic. “I feel passionate that finally I will say there is an awareness that we really need to focus on the whole wellness of the individual.” said Smith.

With new grants the Early Assessment and Support Alliance, or EASA, is set to expand from its current 30 clients to about 80. EASA is a state-wide program that offers treatment and support to young adults with early symptoms.

“We have seen people that have come to us in a time of crisis where they feel like their world is falling out from under them and then a year later they are back hanging out with their friends.” said Gerber.

One of those people is Michael Haines. Haines suffered a psychotic episode two years ago and entered EASA for treatment. “Over the two years it really changed my life around.” said Haines.

Haines says he was secluding himself but the team helped pull him through. Now with this expansion he says he hopes more teens will also be saved.

“I think one of the things that helped me the most was to realize that there were other people who were experiencing the same things I was up until that point I felt pretty alone.” said Haines.

Also supported, Geneva Millers daughter, Robin. Miller she says EASA has given her daughter back a life. “Once she got into the program and started learning about it and accepted medication and the program was so right on top of it.” said Miller.

Miller says Robin is doing very well and she is constantly working on her issues.

Another program set to take flight in about two and a half weeks, a brand new Youth Hub.

The Youth Hub offers the same resources as EASA but to a wider-range of young people. At the Youth Hub there is a place to relax and play video games and there’s even a clothes closet for those teens who can’t afford these items taking the stigma out of the doctors office.

“They don’t like to go to the doctor and coming here they already feel safe.” said PeaceHealth Family Nurse Practitioner Kathy Kernan.

Kernan has already started treating patients and says she sees a lot of teens who are suffering who don’t know what is happening and they turn to drugs, alcohol even violence to cope.

“We’re trying to capture them before that happens so that we can prevent that.” said Kernan. “We need to talk about mental health we need to get past the stigma of it.” added Miller.

Those working at PeaceHealth hope these new programs will be a first step in closing the gap and leaving our most vulnerable with futures instead of forgotten.

Also coming soon a new 35 bed new inpatient unit.

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