Valley Behavioral HealthValley 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!


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!

By Gary Larcenaire

Homeless Housing Programs

Gary Larcenaire, Valley Behavioral Health CEO

With the harsh winter cold among us, the homeless situation becomes more apparent in the media. As part of Utah’s largest provider of behavioral and addiction services, here are some thoughts that I have regarding the homeless situation in and around Pioneer Park.

As a community, we are doing comparatively well when statistics show a 91 percent drop in chronic homelessness over the past decade under Utah’s Housing First initiative.

Community leaders, outreach workers, providers and policy specialists (too numerous to list) are responsible for impressive reductions in the Veteran Homeless and general homeless populations. Our 10-year plan to end homelessness has been monitored and taken very seriously.

On Thursday, November 5, we hosted a free Homeless Awareness BBQ lunch for those who are currently experiencing homelessness. They were fed lunch while those who have improved their life by going through our program, spoke hope and success to those needing an extra push. Pamela Atkinson, a well-known Salt Lake City homeless advocate, also spoke at the event. Following the lunch, individuals received a tote filled with various everyday essentials to help them embrace the cold months ahead.

Committed to the cause, Valley Behavioral Health serves a significant number of current and former homeless individuals in our community. In partnership with Salt Lake County and other agencies, Valley provides services and various housing options to nearly 800 psychiatrically fragile individuals, who would find themselves homeless without our comprehensive service array and caring teams.

Based on the Housing First model, Valley’s Safe Haven facility provides housing and support services to mentally ill adults who are homeless or chronically homeless. At Safe Haven, individuals are provided with meals, free laundry facilities, showers, lockers, access to phone services, computers and assistance from experienced staff members 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why is this critical? Research has shown that with proper treatment, the homeless population with dependency or behavioral health issues can be effectively treated and assimilated back into normal society.

Working together with like-minded leaders, the Valley Behavioral Health team stands ready to screen, treat and prevent relapse as a committed community partner wherever and whenever needs arise.

By Dr. Todd Thatcher


Dr. B. Todd Thatcher

Do you or someone you love feel depressed? Well, you may not be as alone as you think. According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people of all ages worldwide suffered from depression in 2012.

Just in the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 16 million (6.7%) Americans battle depression every year, and women are 70% more likely than men to have depression in their lifetimes.

Interestingly, data from Met Life Insurance (2001), and the Journal of the American Medical Association (2003), estimated that depression caused 200 million lost days of work costing American business as much as 44 million dollars annually. Unfortunately, Utah consistently has the highest depression rates in the country. Clearly, this is a big problem for our world, our countries, our communities, ourselves and our families.

Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done to properly diagnose and treat depression. The sad truth is that only 29% of people with depression make contact with mental health services to get help, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (2008). Why do you think this is?

First, it’s important to understand the difference between feeling depressed – a normal human emotion – and having major depressive disorder, which is a medical problem. Life is a rich emotional experience because our brains sometimes make us feel sad.

It is good and natural to feel down at funerals, goodbyes, bad news, great movies, or listening to tear-in-the-beer country songs. Sharing down moments helps us emotionally bond with each other. It is okay and normal and a very beautiful gift. It shows you are human and have a kind heart.

However, feeling down consistently for more than two weeks is not helpful or healthy. The same brain that generates sadness also gives us pleasurable emotions from common activities such as reading, watching movies, talking with others, sports, etc. Those good feelings help lift us out of sad moods, usually in hours to days.

The medical problem called major depressive disorder happens when people feel down and can’t feel up at all for more than two weeks. The usual fun activities don’t feel fun anymore. Sleep, appetite, and sexual drive, can change. Crying and feelings of guilt can increase, and thoughts of suicide can become acceptable and even desirable where they weren’t before. These are clear signals that something in the brain is not working properly.

Sometimes, sad and depressed feelings can be caused by other problems in the body besides the brain. Physicians like psychiatrists and family practitioners, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN’s), can help rule out other causes of depression such as thyroid problems, undiagnosed diabetes, or hormone deficiencies.

Once clinical professionals have diagnosed major depression there are several effective treatments. All treatments overcome depression by changing the way the brain works.

So you have to honestly assess yourself and ask, how severe is your depression?

In mild cases of depression, talk therapy is very effective. It can help improve negative ways of thinking that have become destructive habits over the years. As you develop new ways of thinking and responding to problems, your brain cells change the ways they are connected and interact with each other. You can find ways to conquer this type of depression by merely retraining your habits and brain cells.

In moderate to severe depression a combination of medications and talk therapy are most helpful. The medications improve chemical and structural pathways between brain cells.

In the most severe form of depression, people can become psychotic meaning they lose the ability to distinguish their thinking and senses from reality. They might hear voices, or see things that aren’t really there. They may become convinced that people or organizations like the government are targeting them for persecution or harm. This type of depression does not respond well to talk therapy and instead needs medications.

The single most effective treatment for depression is also the least used; electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Many Americans know about this therapy from Jack Nicholson’s experience in the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This therapy works by inducing a grand mal seizure after delivering electricity to the brain under anesthesia. It is about 70% to 80% effective. It is not used frequently because of its high cost (nearly $20,000), and significant side effects like memory loss, anesthesia recovery, and recommendations to avoid driving or operating heavy equipment for 24 hours.

An alternative to ECT, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), was introduced to the American market in 2009 after FDA approval. It is approved for use after failure of one antidepressant. It works by delivering magnetic pulses to the front part of the brain which activates and stimulates better connection between brain cells. It is delivered outpatient in 20 minute sessions, costs about 75% less than ECT, does not induce seizures, require anesthesia, cause memory loss, or impose driving restrictions. The only TMS machines in the state of Utah are at Highland Springs Clinic in Holladay, and the University of Utah.

October is National Depression Awareness Month. This is an important time to ask yourselves and loves ones these tough questions. Are you in need of medical help? Could you be happier than you are now? Remember, there is hope and there is a path to a happier life!

If you or someone you love is suffering from excessive or abnormal amounts of feeling down without the ability to feel better through normal means of pleasure, then please get help. Visit your doctor. See a therapist. Call one of the many mental health treatment facilities in our community like Highland Springs. Don’t suffer unnecessarily. Take the first steps that will help you find happiness again.


By Dr. Todd Thatcher

Suicide Prevention

Dr. Todd Thatcher

There are many threats to our lives from the outside, but one type of death comes from inside and is particularly painful and disorienting to watch happen to others — suicide. The willful taking of one’s life is often hard to understand because human beings usually fight to stay alive. In suicide our loved ones overcome the natural resistance to death and instead embrace it as an escape or relief from pain. Something went terribly wrong.

Utah ranks seventh in the nation for suicide deaths. It’s the eighth leading cause of death in Utah with ten suicides every week. That’s a suicide death every 16 hours.

For youth ages 10 to 17 the statistics are even more startling.  In 2013 suicide was the leading cause of death for this group. That spot used to be held by motor vehicle accidents, but they have been on the decline with safer vehicles and safe-driving campaigns. If risk reduction, education, and training can decrease accidental deaths in a car, the same strategy can decrease the number of suicide deaths.

Learn to recognize early warning signs of suicide. Some signs are common sense, such as talking about wanting to die or kill oneself, or actively gathering the means to kill (buying rope or guns, stockpiling pills, searching for ideas on the internet).

Others are more subtle like setting personal affairs in order, isolating oneself, sleeping too much, feeling like a burden to others or trapped in problems with no escape, mood changes, increased substance abuse, depression, sleeping changes or feeling hopeless without a reason to live.

Risk is greater if a behavior is new, has increased, or is related to a painful event, loss or change.

Studies have estimated as many as 80% of people talk to someone else about their plans before attempting.  Recent research in 2015 revealed that 64% of people who attempt suicide visit a doctor in the month before their attempt, and 38% the week before.

If someone talks to you about suicide — talk back. Engage them in conversation and encourage them to get help. If necessary, call a suicide hotline or your doctor. If a suicide attempt is about to happen call the police, or get them to an emergency room. Take what they say seriously. Do not agree to keep secrets about suicide plans.

Although a lot of people are nervous talking about suicide in graphic detail, research tells us that open and frank discussion is best and does not increase risk or provide new suicide plan ideas.  It puts the contemplator at ease and gives them permission and emotional space to start feeling less pain and isolation.

If you or someone you care about is abusing drugs or alcohol, get help now. People who turn to substances to cope with disappointment and emotional pain significantly increase their risk of suicide, particularly with alcohol. In 2007, the National Violent Death Reporting System found that alcohol was a factor in about 33% of suicides, and 62% of that group had blood alcohol levels over the legal limit (0.08%). Alcohol depresses the mood, lowers fears and inhibitions to attempt suicide and clouds rational thinking to solve problems.

Easy access to suicide weapons increases risk. The longer the person has to wait to obtain tools, the more time they have to rethink their plans or get help. People use a variety of ways to kill themselves, but leading weapons include dangerous medications, substances and guns. Remove these from easy reach of people thinking about suicide.

For the one who ended their lives the pain is over, but the survivors are just starting their journey through guilt, shame, confusion, loss and anger. Questions erupt to the surface. “Why did this happen?” “How could it have been prevented?” “Am I responsible?”  “What more could we have done?”

The first thing you should remember is suicide is a willful and determined act. It takes forethought and energy to kill a body that is remarkably well equipped to resist death. While suicide is usually considered a preventable death, we do not have the power to stop people who are determined to kill themselves. You are not responsible. You did not kill them. They killed themselves. They made a choice you would not have made.

If you are a survivor of someone who committed suicide and are suffering emotionally, help is available. You have experienced a traumatic event and Valley Behavioral Health has therapists specifically trained to relieve suffering from trauma. Utahns are known to be rugged and strong people who are slow to seek assistance. That’s not always a good set of traits. Be brave and smart enough to ask for help.

If you are thinking about ending your life, you are not alone. One in fifteen adults in Utah have had serious thoughts of suicide. That’s the highest in the nation and your biggest enemy is isolation. People are more likely to commit suicide if they don’t feel connected to other human beings. Get connected. Tell someone what you’re thinking and feeling.

Working together we can change suicide statistics, one life at a time. Let’s deal with it together.

By Dr. Todd Thatcher

National Recovery Month: The Road to Recovery

Dr. Todd Thatcher

Human memory is poor.  We forget most of what we experience.  That’s why National Recovery Month in September is so important.  It’s a time to think and remember what substance abuse has done to our lives, our loved ones, our community and our nation.  A chance to be reminded that life is precious and substance abuse is an enemy to us all.

According to national substance abuse authorities more than 7 million Americans had both substance abuse and mental health problems in 2013.  Among full-time college students under 22 years of age, 22.3% were using illegal drugs and 59.4% were current drinkers.  Substance use in teenagers was 8.8% for drugs and 11.6% for alcohol.  In that same year Utah was the 8th highest state for drug overdose deaths.  Remember them.

Each of these struggling people are members of our community connected to family and friends and homes.  From the individual the ripple of destruction moves outward to the community.  They fill our jails, lose jobs, strain hospital and ER resources, injure and kill people on the roads, and die in alley ways and drug houses.  They’re not just numbers.  They are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, husbands, wives and friends.  Fellow human beings caught in the chains of addiction.

There is hope.  At Valley Behavioral Health we, along with many other community partners, fight every day on the forefront of the battle to cut the chains of addiction.  For years substance abuse was viewed as a moral failing, a sinful state in need of repentance, a lack of character deserving of scorn.  We now know it is a complicated medical and psychological problem that damages the brain.  Many people abuse drugs to “self-medicate” their problems.  We offer a better way through group and individual therapy and medication assisted treatment.

We have medications to replace opiates, decrease cravings, reduce impulsive behaviors, decrease depression and anxiety, and reduce hearing and seeing things that aren’t there.  We have specially trained therapists to help people learn better ways to manage their emotional pain.  Call someone and get help.

Don’t travel the road of recovery alone.  Research shows that people recover better if they have family and friends supporting and encouraging them.  Most people who engage in substance abuse treatment get better.  They use drugs less.  They regain their health, self-respect, dignity, free will and control of their lives.

Celebrate the victories.  Remember the people in your life who have recovered from substance abuse.  They can be very proud of their accomplishment.  Tell them you’re proud of them.  Tell them you love them.  Welcome them back into your families and social circles.  Realize that you recovered your lives along with them.

During National Recovery Month remember the ones who died, the ones still chained, and the ones set free.  Remember so that we don’t forget how rich and rewarding it can be when we face life on its own terms without resorting to substances to cope.  Count the days and count the ways that you can help someone recover from addiction.  Even yourself.

By Dr. Todd Thatcher

CEU – Medication Assisted Treatment in Substance Abuse including Suboxone

2 Hours Live CEU – Early Sign Up

Topic: “Medication Assisted Treatment in Substance Abuse including Suboxone.”

Presenter: Dr. Todd Thatcher, DO, CMRO, Chief Medical Officer for Valley Behavioral Health

Date: August 14, 2015

Time: 1:00 – 3:00 pm

Location: Highland Springs Specialty Clinic – Holladay
4460 South Highland Drive – 3rd Floor Conference Room
Salt Lake City, UT 84124

Sign Up: Attend at Highland Springs

Please Note: After you sign up, ALLEGENCE will re-route you to their page…this is a confirmation that you have signed up successfully

For Valley Employees Only: Attend Webinar

**We charge $6.00 to anyone in the community who would like to attend. If you know of someone who would be interested in joining us at Highland Springs, please forward this email to them. They may sign up using the link “Attend at Highland Springs” above and pay using the link below:

Community Partners

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