Ellen Bemis, CEO, Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC) has announced the following senior leadership updates: Michelle Ferris, LCSW to Director of Emergency Services; Lorraine Chamberlain, LCSW, CCS to Director of Integration and Behavioral Health in Aroostook County; and Debra L. Jacques as Director of Marketing and Development.
“I am pleased to share these updates regarding our senior leadership team,” said Bemis. “Each of these women possesses a great deal of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. They will be a great asset to AMHC in their new roles as we work as a team to support our clients and their families, expand our services and increase our presence in the communities we serve.”
As the Director of Emergency Services, Michelle Ferris is responsible for AMHC’s Mobile Crisis Services and Sexual Assault Services in Aroostook, Hancock, and Washington Counties, and Crisis Stabilization Units for both adults and children in Aroostook County. Michelle has been with AMHC for 14 years. She has held several positions since 2006, most recently serving as Emergency Services Supervisor in Aroostook County.
Lorraine Chamberlain has assumed the position of Director of Integration and Behavioral Health in Aroostook County. She is responsible for substance use and intensive outpatient program services including the Residential Treatment Facility in Limestone, Medicated Assisted Treatment and Behavioral Health services in the five outpatient offices in Aroostook. In addition, she oversees Children Behavioral Health Services that include the Behavioral Health Home services, Therapeutic Foster Care and Supportive Visitation. Lorraine has served in many capacities since joining AMHC in 1982, most recently as the Director of Emergency Services, a position she held for 19 years.
Debra “Deb” Jacques is responsible for the agency’s marketing, planning and development activities. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing and development and was most recently the Community Relations Manager for Katahdin Trust. The majority of Deb’s career has been in non-profit work, serving as the Business Development Director for Eastern Maine HomeCare (now Northern Light Home Care & Hospice) and as Resource Developer for Aroostook County Action Program.
Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC) has been selected to serve on a national Advancing Health Equity Learning Collaborative, a component of the Advancing Health Equity: Leading Care, Payment, and Systems Transformation program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Lorraine Chamberlain, Program Director of Integration and Behavioral Health in Aroostook County will represent AMHC.
“It is an honor for AMHC to be chosen to participate in this collaborative,” said Ellen Bemis, AMHC CEO. “Our organization works daily with individuals who experience health disparities including poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to education, housing and healthcare resources. With 37 years of experience in mental health, substance use and crisis services, Lorraine will be a tremendous voice and advocate in leading this transformational work to advance health equity at the national level.”
Representatives from state Medicaid agencies, Medicaid health plans, and health care organizations from Maine, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington were competitively selected to work together to reduce health disparities. For the next two years, the group will convene to design integrated health care delivery and payment models to reduce health disparities and then implement these efforts at health care delivery organizations and surrounding communities.
“This is the first attempt that we know of to bring together these three stakeholder groups to identify common goals for advancing health equity and then work together to implement them. We are excited about the potential of this project,” noted Andrea Ducas, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Celebrating 55 years, AMHC is a nonprofit organization supporting approximately 6,000 clients annually. The agency has 20 service sites and 325 employees located across Aroostook, Washington, and Hancock counties providing mental health, substance use, crisis and sexual assault services. For more information, connect with AMHC at www.amhc.org.
September is designated as Suicide Prevention Month and Aroostook Mental Health Center has been partnering with other community organizations to highlight awareness, prevention, and local resources that are available to everyone.
“According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Mainers ages 10-45,” explains Michelle Ferris, Director of Emergency Services. “AMHC has been busy this month working with a number of other organizations to raise awareness. Maine’s suicide rate remains higher than the rest of the nation; I recently learned that more people in Maine die from suicide than from car accidents or breast cancer and for every homicide in Maine, there are seven sucides. AMHC is available to anyone experiencing a crisis. To access our Mobile Emergency Services team please call or text the Maine Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112.”
Activies that have taken place include:
Crisis Intervention Team training for Law Enformcement in Houlton – AMHC collaborated with NAMI Maine (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to train 17 officers on behavioral health issues. The offiers were provided tools and resources to manage behavioral health crises in the community.
Suicide Prevention training for Resident Assistants, UMFK
Out of the Darkness Walk, Fort Kent
Awareness table at Machias Saving Bank, Caribou
Student presentations on suicide prevention at Van Buren Middle and High Schools
Illuminate Life event, Boys and Girls Club, Presque Isle on Septembre 18
UMFK Student Health Fair on September 19
Community Suicide Awareness Presentation with NAMI and MADRN (Make A Difference Right Now), on September 19 in Calais
Anxiety and depression screenings at Cary Medical Center Health Fair on September 21 in Caribou
An open house for the Aroostook Recovery Center of Hope (ARCH), located at 36 North Street, will be held on Saturday, September 14 from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. ARCH, a service of Aroostook Mental Health Center in collaboration with Link for Hope, is a place where individuals can come and receive support for their recovery journey. ARCH will help connect people to resources and also serve as a venue for various recovery meetings.
It will be an important time of sharing with the community how a peer support recovery center like ARCH provides such a benefit to those struggling with alcohol and drug use.
The grand opening will include an overview of services offered, refreshments and a ribbon cutting at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome. Overflow parking will be accommodated at the former Portland Glass building next door. For more information, please contact Emily Bragdon at 493-1278 or Trudy Rairdon at 521-2283.
For a little more than a year, the Downeast Treatment Center in Ellsworth has been working with area hospitals and organizations to help those with substance use disorders. Now, treatment center leaders are hoping to expand on the help being provided.
The opioid crisis affects people across the entire state and now the Downeast Treatment Center is providing more opportunity for those people seeking help.
“I don’t know if I‘d be alive,” said DTC patient Ryan Miller. “I really think this place saved my life.”
Before Miller was a patient at the center he was behind bars. Now he’s employed and in his own words, picking up the pieces of his life.
“This and the structure from the Hancock County Drug Court program really has brought me a long way in life,” he said.
Leaders at the center are now focused on removing barriers to treatment so that more people can find help.
“Through a federal grant that’s come through Healthy Acadia we’re able to pay for treatment for people who either don’t have insurance or don’t have enough insurance so that cost is no longer a barrier,” said Healthy Acadia Community Health Program Manager Penny Guisinger. “It’s no cost to services to people who would benefit from that.”
The DTC provides medication-assisted treatment, using doctor-prescribed Suboxone to fight addiction.
“It takes care of cravings, and it keeps people from going into withdrawal, and those two single issues will wreck someones life,” said DTC Clinical Advisory Committee member Dr. Julian Kuffler.
Medication-assisted treatment paired with group counseling is what’s helping get addicts on the path to recovery.
“Being here is the only time they can talk about their recovery and their struggles,” said DTC Substance Abuse Counselor Lisa Groo. “Being out in the big wide world…there’s a stigma attached”
Through customized treatment plans, expanded hours and financial assistance, DTC leaders are hoping to help even more people.
For over a decade, people in The County suffering from brain injuries have turned their experiences into art as part of the Center for Integrated Neuro Rehabilitation (CINR) program based in Caribou. Now, that art is on display at the Caribou Public Library for the entire month.
Pam Searles, a clinical consultant with CINR, said this is the first time the facility has ever showcased their clients art via a public display.
Keely LeBlanc, a CINR brain injury support specialist, said she often uses art as a medium through which her clients can both express themselves and re-develop skills that may have been lost due to a neurological condition.
“They did such a great job,” said LeBlanc,” that Pam suggested we contact the library and see if they would like to hold a display.”
Caribou Public Library Director Hope Shafer said she and the library staff were “thrilled” and “excited” to bring awareness to the public about both the center and people in the area dealing with brain injuries.
“We hope to bring awareness by having this group showcase the incredible art their clients have done,” she said, “and to help others recognize why this artwork is so incredible.”
Searles said CINR, which is part of the Aroostook Mental Health Center (AMHC), primarily focuses on helping those with trauma or an acquired brain injury to get back into and functioning in society. That goal is accomplished through many outlets, such as art, she said.
“Art helps them manage their emotions,” said Kevin Huston, a rehabilitation technician at CINR, “and to express things that otherwise can’t be expressed. Some of our people have aphasia, or the inability to use words, so it’s a useful outlet. If a right-handed person has a stroke and loses the ability to use that side of their body, they really have to concentrate on things like drawing and using their motor skills.”
LeBlanc said she hopes the exhibit will help members of the community learn more about the experiences of people with brain injuries.
“I hope people will know that those with a brain injury can do the same things others can,” she said. She wants folks “to look at them as a human being, and know that while sometimes they may look OK, you may not be able to tell visually that something has happened to them. Often times people don’t take into account that there are things below the surface.”
Huston said this is one of the primary misconceptions about brain injuries, adding that it “is not always evident,” and that people with brain injuries sometimes exhibit different characteristics.
The art pieces themselves were drawn as part of the program’s efforts to improve motor function, the following of directions, and problem solving. For one project, clients had to draw straight lines and follow a pattern, while another involved placing beans over a tracing of an image.
LeBlanc said that some aspects that go beyond the directions, such as which colors to choose, can be overwhelming to certain patients and may cause them to stop. Other clients, however, began with specific patterns in mind and ended up becoming so absorbed in the project that the end result did not resemble their original intention.
“For some people,” LeBlanc said, “it can be hard to plan out. It can be overwhelming.”
David LeTourneau, a CINR brain injury specialist, said the organization’s specific mission is to work with people so they can become “as independent as they can possibly be.”
“We want to help people acquire the skills needed to obtain their own apartment,” he said, “or to do their own grocery shopping.”
CINF is CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) accredited, and while it specializes in brain injury rehabilitation, staffers also are able to help clients get in touch with other mental health professionals working under AMHC.
Jamie Owens, director of marketing and development at AMHC, said the organization has been providing services to people in Aroostook, Washington, and Hancock counties since 1970. AMHC now serves about 6,000 clients annually.
Searles said that if a client comes in with issues related to mental health counseling or substance abuse, CINR staff will make referrals to the appropriate organization.
“We all collaborate together,” she said, “to help support our clients’ needs.”
While the library exhibit had only been up a few days, Shafer said she’s already heard a great deal of positive feedback from patrons.
“Most are drawn immediately because of the artwork,” she said, “and will say that they need to bring their mom or relative back so they can see it. The display brings out a lot of stories from people with family members who have had injuries, and I’ve heard people say they wish this had been available for their uncle, aunt, cousin, sister, or friend. We are blessed to have this available in Aroostook County.”
AMHC is pleased to welcome Christy Daggett, MPP, as AMHC’s new Chief Financial and Administrative Officer. As the Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, she is responsible for providing leadership for the financial and administrative systems of the organization. Prior to joining AMHC, she has worked in public service in Maine for close to a decade, holding program-oriented and leadership roles at MCD Public Health, the Maine Center for Economic Policy, and the Aroostook County Action Program. She has served as Board President of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Maine Affiliate, President of the Aroostook Training and Education Coalition (ATEC), and Board Member of the Maine Children’s Alliance. A native of Presque Isle, Christy earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine and her master’s in Public Policy and Management from the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. She has testified as an expert on rural public policy issues before the Maine Legislature, and her pieces have been published in many statewide and national forums, including health policy research on Medicaid expansion, health care price transparency, cancer screening access for rural Mainers, and the correlation between school-based health clinics and better graduation and attendance outcomes for K-12 students.
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