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 Seeks Community Feedback on Aroostook’s Opioid Epidemic

Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. (AMHC) was the recent recipient of a Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) …

AMHC Response to COVID-19

Message from Ellen Bemis, CEO “As the pandemic continues it is normal to experience anxiety. Caring for our physical and …

AMHC Receives 2020 Caring About Lives in Maine Award

Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. (AMHC) is pleased to announce that the AMHC Zero Suicide Leadership Team was selected …