Month: <span>June 2020</span>

AMHC Successfully Uses Telemedicine during COVID-19

Dr. Thayanne Delima-Tokarz, DO has been providing telepsychiatry for Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. (AMHC) patients in Aroostook, Washington, and Hancock counties. Iris Telehealth works with psychiatrists including Dr. Delmia-Tokarz to provide services to residents in rural areas who may not otherwise have access to the services they need. Iris Telehealth recently asked AMHC for information on its best practices to share with other providers across the nation.

Community health clinics across the United States report a 43% drop in the number of client visits during the quarantine. However, Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. (AMHC) has ramped up the use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic and increased the number of client visits by 20%.

In a recent article, the chief psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente stated that over 90% of mental health visits in the U.S. are now happening virtually, which is a change for many practices.

However, AMHC was already an early adopter of telehealth and they were able to quickly expand their existing practice. While continuing to offer in-clinic appointments, telepsychiatry offers mental health services directly to the client through HIPAA-compliant video conferencing or telephone calls.

AMHC recognized the potential of telepsychiatry to solve mental health challenges years ago and found it ideally suited to serve the people of Aroostook, Hancock, and Washington counties in Northern and Downeast Maine. Telepsychiatry helps solve a critical shortage of psychiatric providers, especially in rural areas. Half of the counties in the U.S. do not have even one psychiatrist and it is estimated that 111 million people live in a mental health shortage area. Using technology, a provider can see clients anywhere there is a viable internet connection.

AMHC partners with Iris Telehealth, a telepsychiatry group, to provide psychiatrists. This has allowed AMHC to provide medication management services for adults and children. “It’s been an honor to work alongside AMHC over the past 3 years,” said Dr. Tarik Shaheen, CEO at Iris Telehealth. “Their deep commitment to patient care and the ability to adapt quickly during COVID-19 sets a wonderful example for other community health organizations in the northeast and the rest of the U.S.”

Recent events have encouraged many clients who previously came to AMHC in-person to use telehealth services. The clinics provide psychiatric evaluations, teletherapy—individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy—client education, and medication management, directly to the client who remains at home.

“AMHC appreciates its partnership with Iris Telehealth to provide psychiatrists for our clients who require medication management services,” said Ellen Bemis, AMHC CEO. “It can be a challenge to recruit psychiatrists to rural areas such as ours. By offering the service remotely we help ensure our community members receive the support they need. Iris Telehealth has been an important part of our ability to adapt quickly to the changes that occurred with the pandemic.”

Many clients, particularly the elderly and those at high-risk, appreciate the convenience of seeing their provider from the comfort of home. Providers report there are fewer cancellations now that travel is not required.

In a recent survey, 45% of respondents said events related to the coronavirus have affected their mental health. In response to the need for increased services, AMHC added 80 new Zoom accounts to boost their virtual service capacity and provide same-day access when needed.

report from Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, suggests that stress from COVID-19 may cause increased ‘diseases of despair’, including suicides and addiction. AMHC believes these issues are treatable and telepsychiatry can connect people with the care they need.

To connect with AMHC, please call their Access Center at 1-800-244-6431 or visit them on the web at https://www.amhc.org or https://www.facebook.com/AMHC1964/.

About AMHC

Celebrating more than 55 years, AMHC is a nonprofit organization supporting nearly 6,000 clients annually. The agency has 26 service sites and 325 employees located across Aroostook, Washington, and Hancock counties providing mental health, substance use, crisis, sexual assault services, and brain injury services (Aroostook County). For more information, connect with AMHC at www.amhc.org.

About Iris Telehealth

Iris Telehealth’s mission is to help patients, providers, and healthcare organizations achieve their goals through clinically sound and financially sustainable psychiatry programs. With our clinical grounding and emphasis on human relationships, we identify best-fit providers for each unique organization and ensure a long-term commitment to meeting our partner’s needs, allowing them to provide the highest quality care to their patients and community. For more information, please visit iristelehealth.com.

AMHC Stands with Black Lives Matter

In the midst of a public health and social crisis, AMHC reaffirms our respect for mankind. Nearly 250 years after “all men are created equal” was first penned in the Declaration of Independence, we are still working to create a society that embraces those words. During these difficult days, AMHC joins others across the country and around the world to acknowledge those who are oppressed, discriminated against, treated unjustly, treated inhumanely, abused psychologically and/or physically, and worse. We do not tolerate racism. We share in the responsibility to end discrimination and the negative effects of stigma in all forms.

AMHC’s core values include integrity and respect. We believe in treating everyone consistently by the same set of sound, moral, and ethical principles and hold in high regard every individual’s rights, responsibilities, and abilities.  We believe that having compassion for all and seeking to fully understand one another is an important step in improving the well-being of our society, and to inspire the hope and healing we desperately need right now.

AMHC Peer Centers Announce Re-Opening to Public

AMHC Peer Centers in Aroostook County have announced their reopening dates:

  • Roads to Recovery (R2R) in Caribou and Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope (ARCH) in Houlton will reopen their doors on Monday, June 15, 2020;
  • DownEast Recovery Support Centers in Calais and Machias will also reopen on Monday, June 15, 2020;
  • Valley Peer Center in Madawaska and Harvest Inn in Caribou will reopen to the public on Monday, June 22, 2020.

“Our teams are very excited to welcome back members of the community,” shared  Christine Brown, AMHC Program Director of Community Integration. “As mental health and substance use peer support specialists they have done a great job doing virtual outreach to their communities but are looking forward to engaging face to face once again.”

Each center will follow these general guidelines, but please be sure to check with each center for any variances:

  • Visitors will be limited;
  • Staff and visitors must adhere to physical distancing of six feet;
  • Staff and visitors will be asked to wear a mask if they are unable to maintain six feet of physical distancing;
  • Other precautions will be attended to, such as hand sanitizers and screening questions prior to coming to the centers;
  • Please do not go to the centers if you are not feeling physically well.

Roads to Recovery, Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope, and DownEast Recovery Support Centers provide individuals a place to come and receive support for their substance use recovery journey, connect people to resources, and also serve as a venue for a variety of recovery meetings.

Valley Peer Center and Harvest Inn Peer Center offer persons with mental health challenges the experience of giving and receiving peer supports in moving towards self-discovery. Peer-to-peer supports to empower individuals to address personal priorities and to grow their sense of self and purpose.

For more information, please contact the peer centers:

AMHC’s Residential Treatment Facility Celebrates 45 Years of Service

AMHC’s Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) is celebrating its 45th anniversary. RTF is Maine’s only 28-day substance use treatment facility that serves both men and women. Affectionately known as “The Farm” the RTF is located in Limestone, Maine. Staff members are planning special activities throughout the anniversary year including (l to r) Stacie Holton, Rebecca Fournier, Gabriel Brown, and Keith Trudel.

Residents learn about growth in recovery through gardening

Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. (AMHC) is proud to highlight the 45th anniversary of its Residential Treatment Facility (RTF), commonly referred to as “The Farm.”

“We are very proud to reach this milestone anniversary,” said Rebecca Fournier, RTF Site Coordinator. “RTF is special for many reasons including our tightly woven group of staff members. We work very hard to make our clients feel comfortable, safe, and hopeful. We want them to know they are not alone in their recovery journey.”

During this anniversary year, residents will be involved in a gardening project. “The idea is that residents will have a chance to be invested in a task that correlates to growth in recovery,” explains Fournier. “For example, our current residents are planting seeds and providing what the seeds need to grow. The care they provide helps them understand that they also need support such as personal care and surrounding themselves with others who provide light in their world. By being intentional, they will see themselves grow.”

Depending on when they arrive, each resident will have a different experience during the growing season. Some residents will plant the seeds outside and then need to weed the garden on a regular basis. In recovery, it is important to pull or “weed” out all the negative messages, characteristics, and behaviors that can take over one’s mind. Other residents will harvest the plants and reap the benefits of all the work. Not all residents will see the fruits of their labor. Similarly, in recovery, we may interact with a person and never know how much of an impact we have had on their life.

Opened in 1975, RTF is the only 28-day substance use treatment facility in the State of Maine that serves both men and women ages 18 and older. RTF is ADA accessible and serves up to 150 individuals per year. During its history, RTF has supported thousands of individuals in their recovery journey.

AMHC Response to COVID-19

Message from Ellen Bemis, CEO

“Some individuals are finding this is the first time they are experiencing a need for professional mental health assistance. AMHC is here for you. For a confidential appointment by telephone or tele-video (Zoom) please contact our Access Center at 1-800-244-6431.”

Most AMHC services remain open.

As of May 5, 2020:

  • Pursuant to Governor Mills’ Stay Safer at Home order, AMHC will extend its current practices through May.
  • We are asking all clients to please wear a face mask when visiting our outpatient offices.
  • If you have never had a video appointment with your provider, the first time may be a bit scary. Here is a great tool from SMI Advisor to help you prepare for your visit! https://smiadviser.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/How-to-Prepare-for-a-Video-Appointment.pdf

As of April 20, 2020:

These are some of the most difficult times many of us have ever experienced. If you or a loved one is in crisis, Mobile Crisis Services are available 24/7 by calling the Maine Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112. If you prefer, you can request to speak with a local crisis provider in your area.

As of April 10, 2020:

  • AMHC continues to accept new referrals for therapy, case management and more. Please contact our Access Center at 1-800-244-6431 for more information.
  • For AMHC clients who are meeting with providers by Zoom, all protocols and measures are in place to ensure client safety and confidentiality.
  • As a member of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services Maine, AMHC thanks the Alliance for providing the following resources for consumers and providers. http://thealliancemaine.org/covid-19-resources-and-updates/
  • The Recovery Coach Academy scheduled for April 21 – April 24 at Roads to Recovery in Caribou will be rescheduled at a later time.
  • Our Substance Use Peer Recovery Centers are supporting the recovery community by offering individual and group meetings via Zoom. For more information please reach out to your local center:

As of April 1, 2020:

  • AMHC continues to accept new referrals for therapy, case management and more. Please contact our Access Center at 1-800-244-6431 for more information.
  • We ask families and individuals seeking crisis intervention to call the Maine Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112 from where they are rather than going to the Emergency Departments. AMHC Mobile Crisis responders can meet individuals via telehealth and in-person as needed in the location of the individual’s or family’s choosing.

As of March 24, 2020:

  • RTF (Residential Treatment Facility) is open to individuals living in Aroostook County who have been carefully screened for symptoms.
  • Supportive Visitation Services are being scheduled via Telehealth.

As of March 20, 2020:

  • Mobile Crisis Services can be reached by calling the Maine Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112.
  • Sexual Assault Services can be reached by calling the Maine Sexual Assault Support Hotline at 1-800-871-4471.
  • Referrals to AMHC Residential and Crisis Stabilization Units in Aroostook and Washington counties will require the referral source to screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to the referral being accepted.
  • MAT Clinics remain open for either face-to-face or telehealth services but clients are screened for symptoms and carefully monitored to ensure social distancing. Please check with your provider prior to your appointment.
  • AMHC Outpatient Services: for one-on-one treatment sessions staff is relying on telehealth and telephone appointments as much as possible. In-person appointments are screened for symptoms before the appointment is confirmed.
  • Group meetings are limited to fewer than 10 people per CDC guidelines.  Some groups are being offered via telehealth resources.  Check with your site prior to attending.
  • All Mental Health/Substance Use Peer Recovery Centers are closed to visitors but remain open for telephone and tele-video appointments as well as through Facebook. If you need support from your local peer center please call them at the following numbers

Being in isolation can be hard on our body, mind, and soul. Lorraine Chamberlain, Program Director of Behavioral Health and Integration offers tips on how to stay positive during this time.

 

As of March 17, 2020:

AMHC is looked to as a community leader during these uncertain times. In addition, the health of our clients and staff is our highest priority. Our teams are meeting daily to ensure that we are following the latest recommendations from the CDC and taking all necessary precautions to protect our clients and staff while we continue to deliver services.

The following links will help all of us to stay informed and plan appropriately:

  • Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC): Current status of disease spread in Maine; links to information for health care providers; links to practical information for the public.
  • Maine 211: Maine CDC and 211 Maine have launched a new option for Mainers to get answers to questions about COVID-19 at any time. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.
  • Governor Janet Mills: Up-to-date information about state emergency orders and declarations; links to relevant resources.

We are pleased to share an interview that Lorraine Chamberlain, Program Director of Behavioral Health and Integration, had with WAGM TV8 about the importance of remaining calm during this critical time. By working together and adhering to CDC recommendations, we will help reduce the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Roads to Recovery Hosts “Fall into Recovery” Picnic

Roads to Recovery (R2R), a service of AMHC, will host a picnic on Thursday, September 17 from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.  R2R …

Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope Hosts One Year Anniversary Celebration

Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope (ARCH) will host a one-year anniversary celebration on Saturday, September 12 from 12:00 …

AMHC Raises Awareness on Suicide

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month September is designated as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and …