On Friday, December 10, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) held a mental health summit at Heritage Pines Country Club just off County Line Road in Hudson. The purpose was to educate community leaders and the public about some of the mental health resources in our area and about important issues concerning mental illness.
NAMI is an organization that works with clients who are suffering from various mental health and/or substance abuse issues and their families to help them cope with these issues. The local branch is part of the national organization. Tina Kinney, Executive Director of NAMI, explained the goals of NAMI to the audience. Among the many services they offer are crisis intervention, along with peer and family support groups. You can find out more about NAMI at www.NAMI.org.
A number of nonprofit organizations were there to display literature about their agencies and talk to the attendees about their mission and goals.
Veterans’ HEAT Factory (VHF) was one of the organizations that displayed their literature. They work with veterans, first responders and nurses who have Post-Traumatic Stress. VHF has a 14-week program that encompasses mental health counseling, exercise, stress management, career and education counseling, among other services. After the 14-week program the organization provides ongoing support for its clients and their families. All services are free of charge and the organization is made up entirely of volunteers. Daryl Lynn Cox and Dr. Diane Scotland-Coogan explained the mission of VHF. She is a professor at St. Leo University and also works as counselor at VHF. For more information about Veterans HEAT Factory go to www.veteransheatfactory.com.
Another organization, LifeStream, was at the summit to discuss their mission. LifeStream works with youth ages 11-21 to prevent children at risk from being taken out of the community. These youth might have been incarcerated, have substance abuse issues or ongoing mental health issues. They have a multitude of professionals, such as counselors, registered nurses and case managers to address the needs of the young person and his or her family. Some of its goals are to decrease the number of out-of-home placements, improve the functioning of the family, as well as decrease substance abuse and psychiatric hospitalizations. To find out more about LifeStream go to www.LSBC.net.
Hernando Community Coalition (HCC) focuses on substance abuse and mental health issues. They do this through advocacy and education on reducing substance abuse and mental health disorders. One of the items they make available at no charge are disposal bags in which people can place unused or expired medication and then throw it in the garbage. The bags are leak-proof and biodegradable. This prevents the medication from getting into the wrong hands and is a much better alternative to flushing them down the toilet. HCC also provides free of charge Narcan nasal spray that can be administered safely to someone with a known or suspected opioid overdose. You don’t have to be a medical professional and the spray will act immediately to prevent death from the overdose. In addition, Narcan will not harm someone who has not overdosed. However, this is not a substitute for medical attention, and a friend or family member should still take the person to the emergency room. For more information about HCC log onto www.hernandocommunitycoalition.org.
Perspectives Integrated Treatment & Sober Living, another vendor at the summit works with substance abuse issues through in-office counseling and telehealth services. They also offer intensive outpatient therapy, parenting classes.
Speakers representing various organizations and businesses gave presentations about how they deal with mental illness and promote mental health.
Brian Mosser with Get Healthy Vitamins and Natural Foods spoke about how our gut health can affect our mental wellness. Get Healthy is a health food store that educates the public through its many events and speakers. Mosser gave many examples of his clients who improved their mental health through diet and nutritional supplements. To find out about healthy eating and nutrition go to www.gethealthy.com.
Dr. Edelyn Verona, a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida (USF) spoke about mental health and the criminal justice system. She is also part of the criminology department at the university. Lauren Lornier, a doctoral student at USF also spoke on this subject. She presented some startling statistics, such as that 30 percent to 50 percent of the people incarcerated have a history of mental health problems. Also 44 out of 50 states house more people with serious mental illness in correctional facilities than in state psychiatric hospitals. Dr. Verona spoke about the link between mental illness and drug/alcohol abuse and crimes and how the criminal justice and mental health community can work together to improve this situation. She dispelled some myths surrounding mental illness and crime. For example, there is a myth that mental illness leads to criminal activities. One of the solutions to the problem is more treatment facilities. Also the use of a mobile response team of the local law enforcement agencies made up of people who are trained in recognizing a mentally ill person can help to de-escalate a situation before there is violence and someone is injured or killed.
Dr. Syed Waqar Hasan is a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction. He is the director at Springbrook Hospital, an in-patient mental health facility. Dr. Hasan spoke about the role of Narcan in opiate addiction. The numbers quoted by Dr. Hasan are staggering. For example in the year ending January 2022, more than 110,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdose. Two-thirds of those involved synthetic opioids. Fentanyl has become especially problematic. Just two milligrams of the drug can be lethal. Early intervention with Narcan would have prevented some of these deaths. However, this is only a temporary solution. The individual still has to deal with his drug addiction and this is where these various agencies come in.
Samantha Nettleton, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, at Spring Gardens Recovery specializes in helping individuals and families struggling with depression, anxiety, substance and behavioral addictions, trauma, anger management, and co-occurring disorders. Ms. Nettleton spoke on Borderline Personality disorder and substance abuse.
Dr. Sue Smith is a medical science liaison specializing in neuroscience. She holds a doctorate degree of pharmacy and has had seventeen years’ experience in the healthcare field. Dr. Smith spoke about bipolar 1 disorder and the role of long-acting injectable antipsychotics.
Samuel Choura, also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at Spring Gardens, spoke about the role of hypnotherapy in the field of counseling. He believes that hypnotherapy can be very effective as part of a holistic program to deal with mental health and addiction issues.
The NAMI Mental Health Summit was an excellent opportunity for mental health providers from various sectors to network. It also educated the professional and the lay people in the problems and treatment of mental health disorders.