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Crestwood Behavioral Health


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Health Crisis

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How many times do we have to see our clients, friends and coworkers receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or coronary disease at an early age? How many times do we see these same people pass away from “natural causes” in their 30s, 40s and 50s, while we see the average life span of people grow from 51 years in 1910 to 78 years in 2010?

The sad fact is that for those among us living with a mental health diagnosis, the average life expectancy is conservatively 10 years less than those who don’t have that challenge and it also accounts for 8 million deaths worldwide annually.  NAMI and other research suggest that the life expectancy gap is actually 14 to 31 years shorter for those with a mental health issue.  The mortality rate for people with schizophrenia is four times higher than those without this diagnosis and those with a bipolar disorder have a 13 year decreased life expectancy. This is a reflection of our broken system and communities in need of healing and compassion.

Much of this early mortality is attributed to “natural causes” such as heart disease, pulmonary diseases, cancer, cerebrovascular, respiratory, and lung diseases. Elizabeth Walker, a researcher at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, writes, “People with mental health disorders have a high prevalence of chronic medical conditions, with fewer resources to manage these conditions. People with mental health challenges are dying prematurely and at a rate far exceeding their peers without this diagnosis.”

How many people that we love and care for have to die before their time and how many times do we have to plan services and mourn their passing? This disturbing health crisis is often overlooked. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), life expectancy has increased dramatically, unfortunately, “reductions in mortality are not shared equally in this country across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups or health-related conditions.”

So what can be done to start to change this shocking reality?

The first change that is needed is how we deliver services as a society. We need to be honest about the disparities in our culture. Services may be accessible with wheelchair ramps and Braille signage, however, there is no tolerance for people who are disheveled, responding to voices, have ticks, look different or have unpredictable behavior.  This intolerance creates barriers so preventive healthcare, such as routine checkups, mammograms, and teeth cleaning, is out of reach.  These disparities have led to women with mental health issues dying from cancer at twice the rate as the general population, and these women are also three times more likely to die from breast cancer.   Researchers, Colton and Manderscheid, found that the secondary consequences of mental illness are poverty, unemployment, poor housing, stigma, and low self-esteem leading to challenges accessing healthcare, including health professionals’ misdiagnosis, less focus on physical health, low compliance with health screening and treatment, and poor communication.  This has to stop! We have to create pathways to accessibility, prevention and care.  We need to train more primary healthcare providers to work with people with mental health challenges, which is something Crestwood Behavioral Health has been providing to our county stakeholders.  We need to design clinics, waiting rooms and services that are more accepting and inclusive of all marginalized populations. We need to develop more welcoming and validating preventive health screenings and utilization of services.

The second thing we need to do in our communities is the creation of Federally Qualified Health Clinic Clubhouses that welcome those with mental health challenges, the homeless, the disenfranchised and their families.  A Clubhouse is first and foremost a local community center that offers people who have mental health challenges the hope and opportunities to achieve their full potential.  During the course of their participation in a Clubhouse, members gain access to opportunities to rejoin the world of friendships, family, employment and education, and to the services and support they may individually need to continue their recovery. A Clubhouse also provides important routine health screenings that are completed in a client-friendly space, rather than in a hospital or sterile clinic setting. Crestwood is currently looking to explore creating a Clubhouse program in San Diego.  Also, a mobile whole health services unit, a companion to the Clubhouse, is needed to bring health screenings and health services to the homeless where they are, whether it is under a bridge, in a shelter or at a wellness center.

The next action that needs to be taken is to launch a statewide Wellness and Resiliency Initiative similar to the one Crestwood has adopted in all of our programs that includes serving heart-healthy diets and creating client-oriented cookbooks with heart-heathy recipes and shopping guides. It includes planting organic gardens and using the farm to table approach in our meals. It is bringing Zumba and Yoga to every campus and community.  It is having exercise tracks in yards that used to be used for smoke breaks. At Crestwood we support smoking cessation, sobriety and meaningful roles to help replace addiction and isolation. Crestwood also teaches meditation and mindfulness to our clients which lowers heart rate, reduces risk of heart disease and increases pulmonary capacity.

Another action we can take is to live healthier lives as healthcare providers. At Crestwood we use Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) to support our workforce, with staff being paid for time off the floor to attend WRAP groups. We provide mental health days, as well as sick days and expect our staff to do routine health screenings – modeling wellness. We employ meditation and mindfulness practices at all staff meetings and events to encourage our staff to practice mindfulness as a health and wellness practice.

At Crestwood we will continue to do our part by looking for and incorporating innovative health and wellness measures into our programs.  We can truly practice self-care each day, creating a compassionate community of people caring for themselves and others. This may not move the needle on the mortality rate very quickly; however, it is a promising start that we hope will begin to create healthier, longer lives for our clients, friends and coworkers.

Contributed by:
Patty Blum, PhD
Crestwood Vice President


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The Healing Power of Drumming

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Drumming has been a tool used in many cultures for many things, from communication, holistic rituals, community gatherings, and healing.  People have had an intimate connection with the drum since discovering that the beat of the drum is analogous to the beat of the human heart.  As a universal, vibrational language, the drumbeat communes with the Earth and all of her creatures.

There have been numerous research studies conducted about the power of drumming and the significant effects it can have on the human spirit and body.  Drumming is now being used to help people with Alzheimer’s, children with autism, and teens with emotional dysregulation.  Large corporations have also used drumming to help employees focus attention and improve spirits.

Research further suggests that drumming can serve as a distraction from pain and grief by enabling communication between the cerebral hemispheres, using the physical transmission of rhythmic energy.  This allows one to connect with their own spirit at a deeper, more intimate level, making it easier to access feelings of insight, understanding, certainty, conviction and truth.

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Drum circles provide an opportunity to connect with groups of like-minded people, including those struggling to find their own personal resonance.  Individuals may make this connection by listening and feeling the pulse of the drum, and working out their own personal rhythm in contribution.

Sound vibrations have been known to resonate through every cell in the body, freeing energy blockages that can form as a result of unexpressed feelings and emotions.  Drumming helps emphasize self-expression, which can aid in an individual’s ability to address emotional health and issues with conflict and even violence.  Participants are given the opportunity to present and receive positive feedback.  It can help us find our center and become more mindful of the present.  Playing in a drum circle can create a magical paradox of moving from the awareness of being out of one’s body to being firmly grounded in the moment.  Group drumming can complement traditional talk therapy, providing a vehicle for personal transformation, as well as community building.

Pam Akins, LMFT, a Clinical Consultant at Crestwood American River Psychiatric Health Facility, said, “Witnessing the responses of our clients to participation in a drum circle has been a personal growth experience for me.  As a clinician, I have had to give up control of the circle and allow the drummers to take what was needed and give as they were able to.  The main attraction is the drum, center of the circle and the heart of healing.  In the PHF setting, some clients are active participants, while others may be observers, but it is evident that some type of shift occurs with everyone involved, even if only momentarily.”

“The most common initial response is that the client does not know how to play a drum or keep a rhythm, but, once an attempt is made, I can see the client respond to the beat that they create, and start to become increasingly more confident.  Instruments are eagerly shared and exchanged.  The circle creates unity and a sense of community among the participants.  Playing along and sharing their hearts, helps the group become centered and calm,” explained Pam.

The experience of conducting a drum circle at a PHF, with clients who are struggling with finding wholeness, has shown Pam and the staff the powerful, amazing and positive effect that beating on a hollowed wooden circle, covered by a tightly stretched membrane, can have.

Contributed by:
Pam Akins, LMFT, Clinical Consultant, Crestwood American River PHF
and
Nancy Soncrant, Campus Administrator, Crestwood American River


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Crestwood’s Core Values: Family

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The family unit is one of the most important and influential social groups.  At some point in each of our lives, we are part of a family. Today we have expanded our definition of family beyond the “nuclear” reference and many people have created their own meaningful definition of family in their own lives.

In serving people challenged by mental health issues, Crestwood recognizes how essential family can be to the process of recovery. One of Crestwood’s Core Values is Family, which means our company is committed to providing safe, secure and responsive mental health services to the entire family.  It is estimated that up to 70% of people living with mental health issues live with a family member.

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The needs of families for support, education, and information are evident.  At Crestwood American River, we seek out and actively engage with the family members of our clients, and have become acutely aware of the stress and conflict they are experiencing.  As a result, the American River campus offers a free-of-cost Family Support Group to help families navigate the systems designed to support their family member, provide an outlet for sharing, problem solving and processing of difficult feelings, and creating their own self-care plans.

Our Family Support Group was started in January 2015, and is led by Denise Thompson, MFTI, who is one of the Recovery Service Coordinators at the American River PHF.   The group is a psycho-educational community support group and is open to all family members of past and present clients.  The group is held bi-weekly without fail and members set the topics.  It is a safe, confidential place to share their healing journeys.  They share stories, learn coping skills and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) techniques, while connecting with each other. One member of the group, Jamie, is a key advocate for the creation of the group and has been regularly attending since it first began. When his family member was a client at Crestwood American River he asked for support, he asked for resources, and he volunteered to be a part of helping others in any way possible. “It is difficult to find the right words to describe the excruciating emotional pain created by seeing a loved one secluded in a mental health facility.  It is difficult as well to describe the gratitude after finding the desperate relief through the sessions offered by Crestwood,” explained Jamie. “When my family member began in the rehabilitation program at American River, my family and I, at that time, did not have support or knowledge of where to go.  All of this was done in order to make things easier for me, and to point us in the direction of the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for opening this door of opportunity and healing, which is a great step for me, and for giving me the strength to persist and succeed.”

At Crestwood American River we feel honored to support our clients and their families.  We believe by providing support and education to the families and the community, it leads to inclusion and reduces stigma.  This is what living our Crestwood Values is all about.

Contributed by:
Stacy Small, Clinical Director


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The Power of Change

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We experience many changes in life. Change can often be frightening, daunting and it can cause anxiety and resistance.  There are seasonal changes, economic changes and personal changes for each of us. The definition of change includes the act or process of making or becoming different and to undergo transformation. What we do know about change is that it is inevitable. Change is the only constant in life, it is the one thing we can count on, and it can be an incredible opportunity for growth.

Crestwood Behavioral Health Inc. has change as one of our primary goals in providing mental health recovery services. In the world of mental health recovery, change is the goal as a person moves through the recovery process.  Change allows a person to learn new behaviors, to let go of characteristics that are no longer needed and to replace them with more beneficial ones. It can be as simple as learning to take a bus or as dramatic as letting go of fear and replacing it with trust.  It can be learning to let go of regret and replacing it with gratitude and learning to let go of selfishness and replacing it with kindness and love. It is through change that people learn to live independent lives and to support each other and themselves.

So as we face change, remember that it is an opportunity to stand and take that next step forward and it is in this movement that we will continue to grow and thrive.

Contributed by: Patty Blum, PhD
Crestwood Vice President