Valley Behavioral HealthValley Behavioral Health

By Dr. Todd Thatcher

You Can Effectively Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

B. Todd Thatcher, DO, CMRO, Chief Medical Officer

 

June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness (PTSD) Month and June 27 is National PTSD Awareness Day. Descriptions of this disorder can be found in ancient writings, but it was not formally recognized as a mental health diagnosis until 1952 when the American Psychiatric Association called it “Gross Stress Reaction.”

In 1980, it was given the current title of PTSD.  A lot of people are aware that PTSD can happen to combat veterans and may have heard it described as “shell shock,” or “combat stress reaction.” Are you aware anyone exposed to extreme trauma can develop the disorder including police, firefighters, rape victims, survivors of child sexual abuse, battered spouses, witnesses of violent crimes, industrial accidents, car wrecks or national disasters?  In order to understand PTSD, it’s best to understand how your brain normally deals with everyday threats to your safety.

Your brain must constantly be alert to the danger around you so it can respond quickly and keep you safe.  Information constantly flows into your brain through your senses, such as sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.  It’s looking for patterns it has seen before and stored in memory for rapid recall.  Most of the time this process happens automatically without thinking.  In fact, thinking and problem solving are some of the slowest processes in your brain.  You want your brain to detect and start responding to danger quickly.

When a threat is detected, chemicals flood parts of the brain that prepare you to fight or flee, commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” reaction. You feel fear and anxiety.  Your heart rate increases.  Blood rushes to your muscles.  Breathing quickens.  This takes a few milliseconds and is often well underway before you are consciously aware there is a problem.  To help you think better, your focus and attention sharpen.

When the danger has passed, your brain releases other chemicals to quiet your body and emotions.  Within a few minutes, your body has recovered and you go about your business.  Your brain reverts back to scanning for threats.  Eventually, you’ll forget most of what you experienced, and may not remember it at all.  Even if you do remember, the memory should fade in intensity as time passes.  That helps you return your attention to new problems to solve and threats to survive.

All of this is normal.  Without it, there is a higher chance of passing away at a young age because you didn’t learn to be leery of high ledges, fire, angry people, car accidents, playing on the road or strangers.  You would stumble back into the same dangerous situations again and again.  It wouldn’t take long before one of those circumstances injured or killed you.  Your threat response system is very important and is a necessary system.

But what if your brain was injured and, as a result, it started activating the threat warning system when there was no threat?  Imagine an injured brain that took hours or even days instead of minutes to calm down after the danger had passed.  How frightening would it be if your brain kept remembering traumas in vivid detail even though you tried to forget?  Picture yourself waking up in cold sweats in full panic and terror, from nightmares that replayed a traumatic event repeatedly?  Try to understand being terrified of places where traumatic events happened to you.  Would it cause big problems if that place was where you work, where you traveled to each day or even where you grew up?  These are the symptoms of PTSD.  They make life very difficult for the sufferers and those closest to them.

Everyone knows that bones are strong, but they can break if subjected to excessive stress.  When normal, everyday people experience severe trauma, it can damage delicate parts of the brain that deal with threat response. As a result, some signs of PTSD can occur. The National Institute of Health reports that about 8 million Americans suffer PTSD symptoms every year.  That’s about 2% of the population.  The Veterans Administration says 9% to 31% of veterans suffer PTSD, which is the third most common psychiatric problem they treat.

The message to you is that PTSD is a common problem affecting many people throughout the world.  It is the result of trauma and damage to your brain, not poor character or bad decisions.  People are rarely ashamed if their leg breaks.  You shouldn’t be ashamed if your brain breaks after trauma.

Fortunately, you live in a time when PTSD can be diagnosed and treated.  Regrettably, many people don’t seek treatment because they are afraid, ashamed or unaware that what they are suffering is treatable.

Just like you wouldn’t try to fix a broken leg on your own, you shouldn’t try to fix PTSD on your own.  Poor self-fixes include isolation, suicide and substance abuse. Good fixes with a professional include medication, therapy, groups, classes, education, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

At our clinics, we have specialists to help you treat PTSD.  We are ready and willing to help.  Take your first step on the road to finding happiness again by calling us for an appointment.  Make 2016 the time to get help to recover and make your life great again.

 

Dr. Thatcher

By Valley

West Valley Clinic Grand Opening

Gary Larcenaire, CEO Valley Behavioral Health

This month, I am excited to announce the opening of a flagship clinic we are calling our “West Valley Clinic.”

Analysis of our clients’ travel patterns, service needs and the proximity of public transit resources led us to select our new, state-of-the-art location at 2948 S. Redwood Road.

Services for adults who are challenged with mental illness and addiction disorders will be made available closer to home and in time for the Utah Medicaid Expansion.

During our routine review of service availability across Utah, Valley leadership identified the west side as a medically underserved area. This assessment was confirmed by Mayor Ben McAdams and Salt Lake County Behavioral Health Director Tim Whalen.

Timely access to quality mental health services have been a real problem for west side residents for years. Working together, Valley, Salt Lake County and Optum leaders have made a major move to eliminate this problem.

Working collaboratively over the last 12 months, we are now ready to launch. We are excited about this expansion and are looking forward to working with west side residents to give them the care they need.

Let’s deal with it together.
Gary Larcenaire
President and CEO

 

By Valley

The CORE For Women…

Cassie, a CORE client

Below is a testimonial from a CORE client, Cassie.

After being in Federal Prison for 9 years, I came to Salt Lake City and was institutionalized and felt lost. I have Bi-Polar and manic depressive disorder and a boyfriend that I had at the time, was very controlling. He convinced me to stop taking my medications, put me in high-risk situations where I began to spiral downward, mentally losing myself and becoming more and more psychotic. Eventually, I relapsed and returned to using Meth and drinking daily. I went from having a nice home with him to living in my car and on the streets. I lost my job because I was
self-medicating. I was in trouble with federal probation and was placed in mental health court. I admitted to using and that I needed more help. Counseling was not enough. I could not do it on my own. I was suffering from such bad depression, anxiety and having bad manic episodes. They arrested me and I was put in jail for my own safety after my relapse.

That is when Cami, case manager, came to the jail and screened me for the CORE for Women program. I was the first client in this new program. I came in with an open mind to find my
self again and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. CORE gave me structure and a chance to find myself again. With the classes, therapy, medications, and case management, I learne
d to stay sober and love myself again. I was able to discover more about my mental illness and how it affects my life. I was made a new person. I successfully graduated Federal Mental Health Court and am now off Federal Probation. I have been sober for 10 months.Now, I am a graduate of the program. I have my own apartment, a job, a car and I’m involved with CORE Recovery Management and Addicts to Athletes. I enjoy coming to CORE and taking the clients to play baseball and being a Peer Support Specialist. I’d like to go to school to become a veterinary technician. I love myself and my new life thanks to the Valley Behavioral Health CORE program.

Now, I am a graduate of the program. I have my own apartment, a job, a car and I’m involved with CORE Recovery Management and Addicts to Athletes. I enjoy coming to CORE and taking the clients to play baseball and being a Peer Support Specialist. I’d like to go to school to become a veterinary technician. I love myself and my new life thanks to the Valley Behavioral Health CORE program.

 

Cassie’s Case Manager had this to say about her time at CORE.

After spending most of her adult life incarcerated and suffering from addiction and mental illness, Cassie Wilkin was the first participant in the CORE for Women program and our first graduate! She successfully completed the program within five months and just celebrated nine months of sobriety. She graduated federal mental health court while in the program and terminated from Federal probation successfully. She has become a certified peer support specialist; she has a part time job working in the food service industry and participates regularly in the Addicts to Athletes program. She spends her free time attending groups at CORE Recovery Management and mentoring clients that reside in the CORE for Women program. Cassie is truly a success story and says, “I love the CORE program, it is perfectly designed.”

 

By Valley

A Story From One of Our Own…

Phillip Tso, a CORE client

Below is a testimonial from a CORE client.

My name is Phillip Tso. I am a 31-year-old male who was mentally and emotionally sick from a very young age. I started using drugs at the age of 11 and was diagnosed at the age of 14 with numerous mental illnesses. I have been in and out of jail numerous times from the age of 18 until the age of 21. At that time, I expressed to my judge through my LDA that I was sick of being homeless, being dependent on drugs and didn’t have hope ahead of me. At this point, I made the decision to come to the CORE unit. Upon arrival I was lost, broken and lonely. Through my time and help from CORE, I have found myself and my purpose once more. I no longer feel broken and have many great friends and wonderful relationships with my family and loved ones. Thanks to this program, I have hope and a great future ahead of me.”

Below is what Philip’s case manager had to say about him.

Phillip Tso came to CORE from jail with a hope and desire to change his life from continued recidivism. Before entering CORE, Phillip had a long history of self-sabotage and substance abuse. He came to CORE with a weary mind, however, he has exhibited change in his mindset and behavior. He is now returning to school and has been clean and sober for over two years. He maintains his participation in aftercare by volunteering at CORE and is an incredible help around the office. He is a strong leader that has many positive relationships with the other clients and staff.

By Gary Larcenaire

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Gary Larcenaire, CEO Valley Behavioral Health

May is one of my favorite months in Utah. It signals the re-growth of plant life and the beginning of happy occasions – like graduations and weddings.

May also has a special significance to people and families struggling with mental illness.

Since 1949, Mental Health America (MHA) and affiliates across the country have led the observance of Mental Health Awareness Month in May. They select a “theme” and reach millions of people through media, local events and screenings.  This year’s theme is – Life with a Mental Illness.

MHA was founded in 1909 and is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to helping Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives.

The work of MHA is driven by their commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness.

The team here at Valley Behavioral Health stands by Mental Health America and applauds their theme and leadership in promoting dialogue, a greater understanding of symptoms, treatment options and a general acceptance of mental illness as a treatable condition.

Visit https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/who-we-are to learn more, and don’t forget to check out valleycares.com and highlandsprings.com to learn more about mental health and psychiatric services near you.

 

Valley Behavioral Health

Gary G. Larcenaire

Chief Executive Officer & President

  

 

 

By Gary Larcenaire

Creating Success Through the Instillation of HOPE…

Gary Larcenaire, CEO Valley Behavioral Health

 

Each year, the population in Utah’s prisons is growing.  In November of 2014, total inmates in prison have increased by 18% since 2004. It is expected that there will be a 37% growth rate by 2032. That is an increase of 2,700 inmates. As of 2014, of those released, 46% will return within three years[1]. While this is a large problem to tackle, here at Valley Behavioral Health we aim to be part of the solution.

C.O.R.E – Co-occurring Reentry & Empowerment, is one of the many programs offered by Valley Behavioral Health.  CORE offers services for those who are criminal offenders with a history of mental health and substance abuse disorder. We work with our clients on skills and development while in residential support. The program establishes a strong connection between law enforcement, the courts and correctional departments, to ensure coordination of these services for those individuals. Most of these individuals come from a lack of support system with years of incarceration, homelessness and dual diagnosis.

Our CORE program is a volunteer program, unlike others that are court order. This has created a long waiting list which is currently at 70 people. Our services include two 16-bed residential facilities; one for men and one for women. There are 32 active clients in recovery management, all of them are housed safely in these unlocked facilities – with the average length of stay being 4 -6 months.

At CORE we regularly have 20 – 26 graduates yearly for the residential program and 4-8 graduates for Recovery Management.

Why is CORE successful? CORE offers wrap-around services that are both onsite and in the community. We use a mental health approach with the ultimate goal of successful reentry into the community and a reduction in recidivism. This is achieved by improving positive emotional functioning and promoting accountability. Clients also receive Alcohol and Drug treatment at our Forensics outpatient facility.

In short, CORE offers clients a safe place to integrate back into society, a place they are empowered daily to move forward in a positive direction.  The unlocked facility gives them a sense of achievement as they overcome the many obstacles they face each day.  CORE is a support network of many community partners as well as peer support making a better world.

For more information, watch a story that our local news station, KSL produced on our CORE program here.

 

Sincerely,

Gary Larcenaire

CEO, Valley Behavioral Health

 

[1] “Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice” (2014, November). Retrieved from https://dsamh.utah.gov/pdf/Justice_Reinvestment_Report_2014.pdf

By Dr. Todd Thatcher

Eating Disorder Awareness

Dr. Benjamin Thatcher

Let’s do lunch.  How about a late night snack?  As they say, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and “You are what you eat.”

Eating is not just the way our bodies take energy to stay alive. It is part of our language and social fabric. It is a source of pleasure and common ground between friends, family and business associates. Our holidays are inseparably connected with foods like an Easter ham, a Thanksgiving turkey or a Fourth of July watermelon. Even our national heritage is defined by baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. Food is a blessing, but to our community members who suffer from eating disorders, it can be a curse. Luckily, Valley Behavioral Health has a solution.

This month, we observe National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, from February 23 to March 1.  It provides an opportunity for education and reflection. Did you know that according to the National Eating Disorder Association, 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life? That is a lot of our friends and neighbors, but you may not be aware they are suffering. Eating disorders are often kept private and secret. Raising awareness can break the cycle of silence.

There are several types of eating disorders: anorexia is refusing to eat enough to maintain a healthy body weight. Bulimia involves binging and purging by eating large amounts of food and then forcing the food up by vomiting. Overeating and emotional eating can cause obesity, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks.

Are you aware that anorexia nervosa is the most fatal mental health disorder? The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimated that without treatment, 20% of people with anorexia die within 20 years. Treatment decreases that number to about 3%.

Many believe only unhealthy people experience eating disorders, but according to the Foundation for Global Sports Development, 33%-35% of athletes report eating disorders. With tremendous pressure to perform, make weight and make the cut, athletes, particularly high-schoolers, engage in anorexic or bulimia behaviors. Warning signs include perfectionist approaches to practices and performances that dominate other interests in life.

You should know that eating disorders are on the rise among young people, especially teenagers.  One reason is that during those formative years many people develop dissatisfaction or unhappiness with their bodies. Research has shown this is the most significant factor in developing anorexia (Stice, 2002). Nearly 40-60% of elementary school girls ages 6-12 are concerned about becoming fat and this concern continues throughout life (Smolak, 2011).

Most believe that only women suffer from eating disorders. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry estimated that 10% to 15% of people struggling with anorexia or bulimia are men. The International Journal of Eating Disorders reported that eating disorder rates among gay men are as high as 14% for anorexia, and 20% for bulimia. However, the American Psychological Association reported that men are less likely than women to seek treatment.

For many, food is a source of emotional strength or soothing. Estimates show as many as 50% of Americans overeat for emotional and social reasons. According to the journal Obesity, dieters who ate according to internal emotional cues such as loneliness, instead of physical or external cues, lost less weight over time and were more likely to gain it back.  Could that be the reason your attempts at dieting fail?

Many people are not seeking the treatment they need in order to get better. Only about 10% of people struggling get the help they need.  The message of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is that you are not alone and there is help.  Various medications help reduce anxiety, depression, stress and obsessive thoughts that are sometimes at the root of eating disorders.  Trained therapists are available to help you understand why your eating is unhealthy and how to regain control.

At Highland Springs specialty clinics, we are ready to help you.  We are inspired by helping others.  We have medical and therapy experts waiting to help you find happiness again.  Don’t suffer in silence anymore.  If you or someone you love needs help, make the call.  Take the stand.  Decide today to make a change and enjoy life again.

By Gary Larcenaire

We Welcome a New Year

Gary Larcenaire, CEO Valley Behavioral Health

 

End of year celebrations for 2015 are behind us, as we look forward to fulfilling another chapter of our individual and collective destinies in 2016.  But first, let’s take a look at 2015.

This past year was a pivotal one for Valley Behavioral Health.  Our team made the final steps toward state of the art modernization in clinical processes and business operations.  We successfully launched our new advanced electronic health record along with full hardware and software modernization, we modernized our retirement plan, offered Mental Health First Aid training in English and Spanish, increased employee engagement and wellness, modernized the recruitment and employee on-boarding processes, expanded our CORE program for women, broadened commercial paneling, created a comprehensive marketing plan, modernized and rebranded hundreds of thousands of square feet of Valley offices and clinics, launched new Valley Behavioral Health and Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning websites, increased our social media awareness and involvement.  We expanded and cultivated our partnerships with the Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit Counties, for which we are grateful for their continued support.  We opened new Highland Springs Specialty Clinic locations in Riverton and North Davis County.  We launched the Brainsway service for depression and also launched a high complexity urinalysis lab.  The Pingree Autism Foundation raised $78,000 for technology and released their first end of year giving campaign and annual report and we held fundraisers for the Pingree Center adolescent program which is set to open in early 2016.

This upcoming year, we will focus more on the refinement and continued improvement of our customer, employee, and stakeholder experiences.

That isn’t to say some significant projects aren’t on the way!

In 2016, we will open a new Valley clinic in West Valley City as well as a new Highland Springs Clinic in St. George and we will finalize and present the Summit County Behavioral Health needs assessment. Our new Pingree Center Adolescent expansion will open and we plan to continue to grow the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Foundation. We plan to ensure Valley pays employees competitively for top performance.  We will integrate the healthcare delivery focus in our outreach programs, provide advanced end user experience using data visualization for managers to easily extract data to improve decision-making processes across all programs, and finally, we plan to expand the homelessness and justice reinvestment initiatives.  Just to name a few!

As we start 2016, we will work to hone the remarkable foundational processes and tools put into place from 2012 to 2015.

I am proud of our system of care and the employees who work tirelessly to make magic happen on a daily basis.

I look forward to making 2016 another amazing year.  It will consist of hard work. But I promise with this group, there will be great success, friendship and plenty of laughter.

We are excited to start this New Year and take you along with us as we look to have another monumental year!

 

Sincerely,

Gary Larcenaire

CEO, Valley Behavioral Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Gary Larcenaire

Happy Holidays

Gary Larcenaire, CEO Valley Behavioral Health

Happy Holidays from Valley Behavioral Health, Highland Springs and Carmen B. Pingree Center! We wish you and your loved ones a happy and safe season.

With celebrations upon us, we’d like to first and foremost, thank our driven and hard-working employees. We wouldn’t accomplish everything we have if it wasn’t for every single person. We are a team and each person contributes to the organization as whole. We want to thank you for all you’ve done, and wish you a wonderful holiday season. We look forward to working together to help more people in 2016!

We also want to thank all those who support our cause to help make a difference within our community. Without their continued support, Valley wouldn’t be able to help those in need, so for that, we are very grateful for their support.

Because this year is a time to give and serve others, you can help those in need and give them an opportunity to celebrate this holiday season. Here’s how.

Valley Behavioral Health is taking donations for canned food, emergency preparedness kits, hygiene kits, cold weather clothing (hats, boots, coats, etc.), first aid kids and school supplies. Any donation will help someone in need this season. You can drop off the approved items at any of Valley Behavioral Health locations and can be left with a staff member at the front office.

There are many people living within our communities that need help this season. Even though you may not know these individuals personally, you have a chance to impact their life by making a donation.

As you celebrate this joyous season with friends and family, please remember this is a great time of year to serve those within your community. We all deserve to feel joy the holidays bring. Thank you for helping us create an impactful 2015 year. We look forward to creating more good in the upcoming year.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Sincerely,

Gary Larcenaire

CEO, Valley Behavioral Health

By Gary Larcenaire

How You Can Help a Child with Autism

Julia Hood, Director of the Carmen B. Pingree Center

The Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning provides comprehensive treatment, education and related services for children with autism and their families. We use and develop best practices, validated by research, while treating students and their families with dignity and respect. We partner with families, universities, service agencies, the government and our community to assist those affected by autism. We undertake and support research to better understand autism, its causes, and the most effective treatments and interventions for individuals with autism.

The Pingree Center provides treatment based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA).  This is a very intensive and expensive treatment, but it is the most evidence-based treatment for individuals with autism.  Due to the extensive cost of this type of treatment, we rely on donations to help make the treatment accessible to the families we serve.

We are constantly raising resources, money and awareness to help the children who come to the Pingree Center become successful.  We utilize donations to help us provide the necessary treatment, resources and support for the families we serve.  We host monthly parent education nights that provide information on various topics that are beneficial for the parents.  We also provide child care so the parents can attend without having to find a babysitter.

We also purchase necessary items for the classrooms, including general school supplies and therapeutic tools and resources.  For example, we use iPads as a communication device. Many of our children are nonverbal or have significant communication deficits. The programs the iPads offer can help them effectively communicate with their families and the classroom staff.  We have used donations to purchase the web-based curriculum, Rethink, which is a program based on the principles of ABA. This program has helped the individuals we serve make great progress toward their individual goals.  We also purchase other necessary items for the classrooms, including general school supplies and therapeutic tools and resources.

The donations we receive are utilized to directly benefit the children and families served by the Pingree Center.  We are grateful for the donations we’ve received and continue to receive to help us provide the best treatment possible.  This treatment makes it possible for the children to make great progress that is significant and meaningful for them and their families.

The Carmen B. Pingree Autism Foundation works to raise necessary funds for the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning. In doing so, we are consistently seeking individual and business sponsors who are enthusiastic about changing the lives of individuals with autism and being a part of a passion driven team.

Being a sponsor for the Pingree Autism Center revolves entirely around your interests and level of involvement. Whether you are interested in solely providing monetary support for sponsorship or interested in gathering a team of individuals to complete a project together, we are interested in working with you. Sponsorship opportunities vary and can range anywhere from sponsoring a classroom, to sponsoring a community project or event.  Currently, we are heavily focused on finding sponsors to help enhance the Pingree Center, by updating our playground and field area to create an efficient and fun environment for our students.

Benefits for sponsorships may vary per project, but may range from public recognition to a plaque displayed at the Center recognizing you and/or your company for the academic year.  We believe that our sponsors deserve to be recognized for their willingness to change the lives of our students and, therefore, we are committed to ensuring generous benefits.

If you are interested in sponsoring an area of our Center, a community project or event, we want to talk with you! Benefits and requirements of sponsorship will be available upon request. Information may be requested via email: [email protected] or by phone: 801-263-7191. We look forward to working with you!

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