News : New Director at Nord Center
Lorain, OH, US, Jan 26, 2015 -- A rule of thumb in the mental health community estimates about 10 percent of the population needs some form of counseling or emergency mental health service.
In an area such as Lorain County with just more than 300,000 people, at any given time about 30,000 people need the help of a trusted adult with a wise perspective.
The Lorain County Mental Health Hotline handles about 17,000 calls per year at 1-800-888-6161, said James Limoli, a new director of Emergency Stabilization Service at The Nord Center, 6140 S. Broadway Ave., Lorain.
"We’re used to dealing with chaos," Limoli said. "We’re always dealing with chaos."
In the hub of the call center at Nord, employees answer calls that range from emergency situations requiring police and ambulance help, to wellness checkups and follow ups, Limoli said. Each call matters.
"Our objective is to make the evaluation or assessment for risk," Limoli said. "We see ourselves as a county service, not just a Nord service.
"We’re always flexible," Limoli said. "The calls go on the board. They continuously coordinate who they’re going to see. It changes with regard to priority or level of severity you’re dealing with."
Sometimes, the person visits The Nord Center to speak with a counselor, or to stay overnight in a 10-bed area. Other times, a counselor goes to the caller’s location or home. When necessary, police intervene to take the person to a hospital for stabilization and emergency care.
Cases with the highest priority include those who pose imminent risk to themselves or others, and children, Limoli said.
Children receive further help at Beechbrook, a children’s agency at 347 Midway Blvd., Suite 301, Elyria, and Bellefaire JCB, 347 Midway Blvd., Suite 200, Elyria, he said.
Even young children can develop mental illness in varying degrees of severity, he said.
Providing care walks a delicate balance with not indoctrinating them too early when what they seek is attention from their parents.
"If they learn the system, they use the system in clinically inappropriate ways," Limoli said.
"But it’s a violent world. If there’s a need for care, we want to be there for them."
Multiple systems — such as the family, school, church, county agencies, counselors, police and courts — need to coordinate and work together.
"You’re working with a family," Limoli said. "How safe is the family? How safe is the home?
Sometimes the home is so broken, but that’s the only place they have. There’s not always a good alternative. We have to figure out a way of working with the whole family and the whole system."
Depending on the time of day or season, the call center schedules from three to eight clinicians to meet the need on the phones. And supervisors answer calls for the team effort, too.
"Our hotline is on track to handle 17,500 calls this year. It’s busy," Limoli said. "That’s people who call us. How many people are out there who don’t call for help, but should be calling for help? These calls can be somebody on a bridge, someone who’s blatantly psychotic or suicidal, or someone asking for an appointment or wellness calls."
Some hotline calls require multiple contacts by the worker who is helping the person. The worker documents everything so progress is monitored, and so supervisors or others who receive calls from the same person know what already happened.
For about 2,200 of the calls, a clinician or supervisor completes an assessment of the situation, including a face-to-face interview either at The Nord Center or at the person’s home.
It’s important to find the person a safe place to stay, if not at home then with friends, he said.
Sometimes the call center receives calls from loved ones or neighbors because of concern for a person’s well-being. But federal laws make those situations frustrating for everyone, Limoli said.
"If a neighbor calls, they may have been seen, but we can’t share if they have been seen, or how we handled the call, without (a patient’s) consent," Limoli said. "We’re always in that controversy, but yet there are specific guidelines we follow to ensure we’re following what the letter of the law would say."
Lorain Police reports this week indicated patients reacted with anger and assaulted nurses on more than one occasion during hospitalizations.
"Trying to hospitalize somebody is seen as taking away some of their rights," Limoli said before those incidents happened.
"Our goal isn’t to always hospitalize somebody," said Rachel Pernici, coordinator of emergency services at The Nord Center.
"Our goal is to help somebody to be where they need to be. If someone sees something in the community that is violent, we follow up on all of those calls."
An unfair stigma equates mental illness with violence, Limoli said.
"There are many more people who have mental illness who aren’t violent, who aren’t a threat," Limoli said, adding sensationalized cases represent a minority. "Most likely they are neglecting themselves, or they want to hurt themselves."
In the 1990s, the physiology of mental health linked mental disorders with biochemistry, Limoli said, adding that is not his area of expertise.
"For a person with a mental illness, they can realize that illness is treatable," Limoli said. "I didn’t say curable, but it’s treatable. They can go on and do well."
If schizophrenia is caught at early stages with more mild symptoms, then less medication is required and the person responds more favorably to treatment, he said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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