New Collaboration Focuses on Mental Health, Emotional Wellness

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“When you’re feeling anxious, it’s like there’s a magnifying glass on you,” according to Shorey Raymond, LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), adjustment counselor for Palmer High School. “What may seem like a small problem to a person feeling normally may be huge to someone dealing with anxiety.

But learning skills for responding to stress more effectively can allow a huge problem to become a smaller problem, which is easier to cope with. A new collaboration is helping address that here in the Palmer Schools.”

With funding that the Center for Human Development (CHD) secured in collaboration with the Palmer School District from the Bank of America Charitable Gift Fund, a master’s level clinician from CHD is now co-located at Palmer High School. The CHD clinician will spend 15 to 20 hours a week diagnosing and treating up to 50 students who need support to address mental health and emotional wellness.

“Kids are dealing daily with incredible stressors like the opiate epidemic, other substance abuse, social pressures, domestic violence, and trauma,” said Raymond, who has been a licensed mental health counselor for 11 years and on the staff of Palmer High School for 4½ years. “These stressors pose risks to the mental well-being of kids today, maybe more than they or their families realize. Especially for adolescents, it can be difficult to overcome personal issues by yourself. We as adults can model therapeutic relationships, and this collaboration with CHD is an innovative way to do it.”

And yet, while the program in Palmer is new, it is reflective of a national issue facing large and small school districts throughout the country. So much so, in fact, that the subject was highlighted as part of an NPR series on the seriousness of mental health concerns among school age children. The problem was described as “a silent epidemic.”

Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. So in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. And yet most children—nearly 80 percent—who need mental health services won’t get them. The issues these children face can lead to problems which then affect the school in the form of chronic absence, low achievement, disruptive behavior and dropping out.

“The issue of mental health in schools is not just a local issue, it’s national, with implications for families, teachers, administrators and entire communities,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president in the Office of Advancement for CHD. “By inserting mental health professionals directly into the school community we are providing another resource to assist school staff and professionals in supporting their children and school families.

“We know there are children and families who are struggling and that teachers are feeling the effects of this need, so CHD is coming in as a resource,” she went on. “If we are effective in our efforts to help the kids who are having behavioral health issues, that has a positive effect on everybody. In a classroom with fewer distractions, educational goals become more attainable and it’s a community-wide outcome. The children in need receive immediate attention to address their emotional wellness, and the school district receives an additional support. It’s a win-win with positive life-long impact. CHD is thrilled to support Palmer in this way, and we are thankful for the relationship we have with them.”

 
Article originally published on healthcarenews.com on April 17, 2017.  

April is Stress Awareness Month

As if our lives aren’t stressful enough, April hands us another event to recognize: National Stress Awareness Month!  In researching the topic of stress, I learned that some types of stress are actually good for you, while others can lead to serious health concerns.

When you are in a stressful situation, your nervous system springs into action. Your body releases hormones that prepare you for “fight or flight.” Your breathing and heart rate increase. This type of short-term, temporary stress is called acute stress, and it can help keep you safe. Your body typically recovers quickly from acute stress, especially when you remove yourself from the cause of the stress.

But if your body’s stress response remains activated over a long period of time, the constant rush of stress hormones can put serious wear and tear on your body. When that happens, you may encounter chronic stress—and that can lead to more serious health problems.

Joseph Goldberg, MD, reviewed scholarly research on stress for WebMD. He found that when chronic stress is not properly addressed, it can lead to more serious health conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Heart disease or heart attack
  • Digestive disorders
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Fertility problems
  • Flare-ups of asthma or arthritis
  • Skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis

 

Managing stress can improve your health. For example, one study in Dr. Goldberg’s review showed that women with heart disease lived longer if they completed a stress management program.

If you are encountering too much stress in your life, there are simple steps you can take to help. To find out more, call 844-CHD-HELP or fill out this form and we’ll reach out to you to ask, “how are you?”  We’d really like to know.

 

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CHD on Babies Victimized by Heroin Epidemic


One of the evils of drug addiction is that more and more babies are being born dependent on the drugs their mothers took during pregnancy.

Those infants can also face sickening withdrawal symptoms.

Western Mass News Reporter Ray Hershel dug deeper into the process moms have to go through when they’re pregnant and hooked on drugs.

As more and more women fall victim to prescription painkillers and heroin addiction, we must not forget the most helpless among us, the babies born to addicted mothers.

“I became a heroin addict and it kept getting worse and worse,” said Julie

Today, Julie is the mother of a beautiful 9-month old baby girl Giselle.

The road to being pregnant and addicted to heroin was not easy, but thanks to Julie’s parents who got her help, and the Center for Human Development’s Early Intervention, Julie has a bright future.

She received methadone treatment while pregnant to help her withdraw from heroin.

“She was born addicted. I was on methadone then and it took her three and a half weeks to come down from it.”

The Center for Human Development said methadone treatment is preferable to having the mom stay hooked on heroin.

“If they’re addicted to heroin, then they use methadone to continue treatment so that babies are not affected from abruptly stopping the heroin use,” said Kereen Rennis.

Kereen Rennis is the clinical director for the Two Rivers Recovery Center for women.

And while medical treatment is available to help, there is no substitute for mother-baby bonding.

“They’re their best medicine for their baby. They’re the best treatment for them.

The Two Rivers Recovery Home contains 25 beds for women and their infants up to a year old.

24-hour on site staffing allows the best treatment for the women there.

“Women are coming into treatment with the hopes of re-unifying or having their children with them to receive support to enable them to refrain from use of illicit substances,” said Katherine Cook.

Katherine Cook, the Vice President for Adult Mental Health and Substance Use Services at the Center for Human Development said that through counselling and support, the goal is for the women to live independently and raise their children in a healthy environment.

“We’re looking at the individual as a whole person and trying to figure out not only what’s happening with them physically, but also psychologically and spiritually.”

She adds that it’s so important to remove the stigma of addiction and therefore treat it as a disease and not a choice.

There are many success stories at CHD.

Julie is just one example of the lives turned around.

She has some advice for other women who are pregnant and addicted to opioids.

“The number one thing is to get off the street and get on methadone. Without that you have no chance.”

And because of the chance she was given by the Center for Human Development, Julie looks to the future with optimism and hope for herself and Giselle.

“It’s like the best possible outcome. They taught me a lot. I learned to live sober and I also learned how to be a mother, and both those things came through CHD.”

In an earlier report, we took you to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at Baystate Medical Center where about 10 percent of their babies are born drug dependent because of their mother’s addiction.

I’ve talked to both addicted moms and medical experts for our reports, and one common theme stood out.

The moms should realize there is help and services in the community to treat them and their babies.

And there is hope for addicted moms no matter how dark the future can look at times.

Copyright 2017 (Western Mass News)  Meredith Corporation.  All rights reserved. Video and story orignally appeared on Western Mass News, February 7, 2017: http://www.westernmassnews.com/story/34451754/chd-speaks-on-help-for-babies-victimized-by-the-heroin-epidemic

Pregnant and Hooked on Drugs

One of the evils of drug addiction is that more and more babies are being born dependent on the drugs their mothers took during pregnancy.

Those infants can also face sickening withdrawal symptoms.

Western Mass News Reporter Ray Hershel dug deeper into the process moms have to go through when they’re pregnant and hooked on drugs.

As more and more women fall victim to prescription painkillers and heroin addiction, we must not forget the most helpless among us, the babies born to addicted mothers.

“I became a heroin addict and it kept getting worse and worse,” said Julie

Today, Julie is the mother of a beautiful 9-month old baby girl Giselle.

The road to being pregnant and addicted to heroin was not easy, but thanks to Julie’s parents who got her help, and the Center for Human Development, Julie has a bright future.

She received methadone treatment while pregnant to help her withdraw from heroin.

“She was born addicted. I was on methadone then and it took her three and a half weeks to come down from it.”

The Center for Human Development said methadone treatment is preferable to having the mom stay hooked on heroin.

“If they’re addicted to heroin, then they use methadone to continue treatment so that babies are not affected from abruptly stopping the heroin use,” said Kereen Rennis.

Kereen Rennis is the clinical director for the Two Rivers Recovery Center for women.

And while medical treatment is available to help, there is no substitute for mother-baby bonding.

“They’re their best medicine for their baby. They’re the best treatment for them.

The Two Rivers Recovery Home contains 25 beds for women and their infants up to a year old.

24-hour on site staffing allows the best treatment for the women there.

“Women are coming into treatment with the hopes of re-unifying or having their children with them to receive support to enable them to refrain from use of illicit substances,” said Katherine Cook.

Katherine Cook, the Vice President for Adult Mental Health and Substance Use Services at the Center for Human Development said that through counselling and support, the goal is for the women to live independently and raise their children in a healthy environment.

“We’re looking at the individual as a whole person and trying to figure out not only what’s happening with them physically, but also psychologically and spiritually.”

She adds that it’s so important to remove the stigma of addiction and therefore treat it as a disease and not a choice.

There are many success stories at CHD.

Julie is just one example of the lives turned around.

She has some advice for other women who are pregnant and addicted to opioids.

“The number one thing is to get off the street and get on methadone. Without that you have no chance.”

And because of the chance she was given by the Center for Human Development, Julie looks to the future with optimism and hope for herself and Giselle.

“It’s like the best possible outcome. They taught me a lot. I learned to live sober and I also learned how to be a mother, and both those things came through CHD.”

In an earlier report, we took you to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at Baystate Medical Center where about 10 percent of their babies are born drug dependent because of their mother’s addiction.

I’ve talked to both addicted moms and medical experts for our reports, and one common theme stood out.

The moms should realize there is help and services in the community to treat them and their babies.

And there is hope for addicted moms no matter how dark the future can look at times.

Copyright 2017 (Western Mass News)  Meredith Corporation.  All rights reserved.

Early Intervention Helps Infants and Young Children Who Have Developmental Delays

James Moriarty is the kind of child parents describe as “all boy.” He’s a rough-and-tumble, two-and-a-half-year-old who’s constantly into something. His parents, Brennan Moriarty and Brianne Jones of East Longmeadow, are completely candid about the challenges they are facing as parents.

“We didn’t plan on having a child and honestly we weren’t really well-equipped to be parents,” said Moriarty. “That said, Brianne and I love James and we would not change him for the world. But in terms of his development, he’d been falling short.”

“James was easy to schedule when he was a baby,” recalled Jones. “He went to bed well and he was a good eater, at least until he realized he had choices! At about 18 months, he should have had a vocabulary of 18 to 22 words, but he didn’t even have three. It was frustrating that he couldn’t communicate and didn’t seem to try. He started having behavior issues. We are the first to say we didn’t know what we were doing, so we asked for help. Our pediatrician referred us to CHD.”

Moriarty and Jones brought their son to meet Karen Wheeler, who Moriarty respectfully calls the area’s “grandmother of Early Intervention.”  Wheeler, Early Intervention Developmental Specialist/Service Coordinator for CHD Early Intervention, has invested decades in a career spanning various roles in child development and education. CHD Early Intervention works with infants and children from birth to three years who have, or are at risk, for developmental delays.

“Brianne and I, we didn’t know what to do, but Karen does and she cares,” said Moriarty. “She got everything rolling and arranged an evaluation for James right away.” A CHD Early Intervention team can assess a child’s abilities and, if indicated, will develop an individualized plan to promote development of play, movement, social behavior, communication and self-care skills.

“After James had his assessment, Karen felt it was important for him to see an autism specialist,” said Jones. “At first we tried to handle that ourselves and we couldn’t even get an appointment scheduled. Then Karen called and we got in to see Dr. Lawrence Kaplan at Shriner’s Hospital the next month. Dr. Kaplan’s tentative diagnosis placed James somewhere on the Autism spectrum, and Karen stepped up Early Intervention’s involvement in our life.”

“Before he started working with Karen, James really had no self-control,” Moriarty recalled. “He did lots of running around and throwing things, and he used basically no verbal communication. He wouldn’t even attempt it, wouldn’t even try. He’d just pick up a toy and heave it. A book was something he’d rip up or chew or throw. Now we can see how much James is improving. It can be hard to be a patient parent, but Karen teaches us what to do and it really helps.”

As part of her continuing involvement with James, Wheeler comes to their home in East Longmeadow for two sessions a week. She plays with James, but the play has a purpose. “I work with him on speech and fine motor skills, on following directions and on self-regulating,” Wheeler explained.

To further help with James’s speech development, Wheeler also brought in Kate Kelliher, a Speech Therapist with CHD Early Intervention. Together, Wheeler and Kelliher were instrumental in securing a workable solution for daycare. That was crucial since Moriarty is in school full-time studying to be a registered nurse and Jones works a variable schedule as a waitress.

“James got kicked out of his first daycare,” Moriarty explained. “He was biting and that was it. We found a new daycare, but they wouldn’t let Early Intervention work with James while he was there. We were at a point of desperation, but Karen and Kate were working for us. They didn’t simply want a place that would take James, they wanted him to have a quality daycare with more structure, more like preschool, and the opportunity to work with him on site. If we had gone in on our own I think the answer would have been no, but Karen and Kate went in for us, spoke to Helen Shea at Square One’s corporate office and Tommie Johnson at the Square One preschool. They agreed to give it a try and now it’s a team effort. Karen and Kate are even educating his preschool teacher in the classroom, as well as helping to educate other parents and some of the staff about Early Intervention.”

Wheeler and Kelliher worked out a plan with Square One so Early Intervention staff can work with James two hours a morning, four days a week. Now, in addition to the socializing and learning activities, he’s also getting one-on-one help to improve things like his vocabulary and self-control. Wheeler and Kelliher also helped James get access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for autism from the May Institute. ABA focuses on how learning takes place. For example, learning can happen through positive reinforcement; that is, when a behavior is followed by a reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated.

“The ABA services James gets are skills-based and intense,” said Wheeler. “James is increasing his vocabulary, even while his articulation is still running short, but he has become less frustrated and we keep hearing good reports from his preschool. Firmness and consistency work best with James. From how to turn on the faucet and wash his hands to sitting down when it’s time to eat to slowing down when it’s time for a nap, you make the rules clear and consistent. He’s making progress.”

When James turns three, he will be eligible for the education and development services he needs in the public schools. “We’re already working on that,” said Wheeler. “We have a date for James to be tested. We’ve set up a team meeting. At three years old, James will have his first Individual Education Plan.”

Jones said her son is making progress by leaps and bounds, emphasizing the importance of cueing James to promote appropriate behavior. “He has more words and cueing him as to what’s next gives him a reason to use those words,” she explained. “Even while he’s very independent, he responds to structure and follows directions. So every night it’s a tub, brush your teeth, and read a story—all cues that it’s time for bed.”

Moriarty described his family’s involvement with CHD Early Intervention as both an opportunity and a blessing. “Karen and Kate and the team at CHD have taken a weight off our shoulders,” he said. “We are going to have bumps in the road, but they make us feel like it’s going to be OK. And I can tell you this about every person we have encountered at CHD: their heart’s in it. So we trust in the team.”

What would Moriarty say to other parents of a child who may have or be at risk for developmental delay? “Don’t stay in denial. There’s help if you ask for it. There is a way forward and it’s at CHD.”

Learn more about CHD’s EI Program by clicking here.

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