Eureka, CA (May 17th , 2018) – Focus on mental wellness in Humboldt County is taking center stage
this month as May marks Mental Health Awareness Month across the nation.
The annual campaign is an effort to identify and bring awareness to critical
mental wellness initiatives across the health care continuum.
At St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, providers are at the forefront of providing
health care for much of the county’s mental health patient population.
To handle the influx of patients who seek medical care and who also have
related mental health challenges, St. Joseph needed to innovate and adapt
to a new landscape with limited resources. One such innovation is the
Behavior Assessment Response Team (BART).
Members of the three person team collaborate with mental health professionals
throughout the county (and even nation-wide via TelePsych services) to
assess, engage and provide resources for individuals who are dealing with
drug and alcohol addiction in addition to mental health instability. The
team coordinates Suboxone treatment and placement in detox programs like
Waterfront Recovery Services in Eureka as well as suicide prevention counseling
and telemedicine coordination.
Because of the shortage of crisis stabilization beds locally, the hospital
collaborates with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Mobile
Response Team to find beds out of the area for patients identified as
having a mental disorder that makes them a danger to themselves or others.
BART works closely with local psychiatrists to ensure physician referrals
for mental health patients are streamlined and care coordination is accurate.
With so many individuals seeking care in Humboldt County, the success
of programs like BART depend on multiple organizations playing active roles.
“We rely heavily on the support of St. Joseph Hospital’s leadership,
their care transitions staff and our relationship with the County through
DHHS and their social workers and mobile response team,” said Caroline
Haug, RN, MSN, BART Coordinator. “Charting a path of mental wellness
for these patients is really complex, and it takes a great deal of effort
from many people across the county.”
Haug, the first staff member to join BART when the program launched in
2008, says BART plays a significant role in keeping patients out of the
hospital and getting the care they need. This alleviates further physical
and financial stress on a system already under significant pressure. For
Haug and her staff, the goal is to treat each patient with dignity and
provide them the same level of care and compassion they would receive
if they had a physical illness.
“Most of these folks have experienced some trauma in their life that
has put them in the situation they are now,” explained Calvin Towns,
Care Navigator, BART. “Our job is to connect with them, give them
the appropriate resources to ease their affliction and provide hope. It’s
very rewarding when you see that happen.”