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Recently, the Citrus County Hospital Board, United Way and Community Alliance organizations identified mental health and substance abuse issues as priority problems faced by our citizens. They recognized that people with mental health and substance abuse issues are at the highest risk for other problems: domestic violence, unemployment, homelessness, involvement in child welfare systems, criminal behavior victimization, chronic medical conditions and early death.
Compounding these facts is the impact on the loved ones of people with mental health and substance abuse issues. Loved ones are also at a heightened risk for depression and anxiety/ stress-related illnesses, criminal victimization, financial distress, job absenteeism, divorce, and family dissolution. Mental illness and addiction reaches far beyond a person and their family, stressing the fabric of a community’s resources with the costs of incarceration, hospitalization and emergency room visits, child welfare expenditures and food and shelter funding.
Unfortunately, both national and local expenditure for treatment of mental illness and addiction falls far below the need. National statistics reveal that 18 percent to 20 percent of the population meets the criteria for a diagnosable mental illness with recommendation for treatment.
This translates in Citrus County as follows: we have a population of 140,000 people; 18 percent to 20 percent of our citizenry equals 25,200 to 28,000 adults and children having a serious need for mental health services.
For addiction the numbers are even more startling: 10 percent of the general population meets the criteria for alcohol addiction, equaling 14,000 people. Drug addiction, coupled with alcohol addiction, is estimated to impact more than 22 percent (30,000 individuals), and more than 35 percent in some segments of our community — teens, unemployed age 18 to 30 years old, families living below the poverty level, families with domestic violence, and high school dropouts.
Citrus County Services for The Centers is the primary provider of both mental health and addiction treatment locally. Until recently, when we were fully staffed and fully slated with caseloads, we could handle roughly 10 percent of the 28,000 citizens who needed services. I have made community access to services my highest priority since coming onboard in January of this year.
Our CEO, Charles Powell, and our Leadership Team have tasked me with “re-visioning” services in Citrus to maximize our staff and space efficiency. I want to share with you three major changes we have instituted to optimize our resources.
First, we have updated our treatment modalities to the national standards of care. We have moved from the traditional format of individual sessions for clients into a group-driven format. Groups have over and over shown statistically significant improvements in outcomes over traditional services. The encouragement and support of the group-driven environment increases client satisfaction, achieving goals and social comfort. We have increased our yearly capacity from 10 percent to 25 percent.
Secondly, we’ve instituted CARE Workshops to ease access to services. Anyone who’s interested in services attends a workshop where they meet staff, fill out application paperwork and are given an assessment appointment for the service they need the most. This has cut our access time from three to four months of waiting down to two or three weeks.
Thirdly, we’ve forged a partnership with the Health Department to jointly serve the Phoenix Program clients. This has greatly increased our ability to provide much more comprehensive substance abuse and co-occurring mental health services. The reputation and integrity of the Phoenix Program is a wonderful asset to our menu of treatment options.
We look forward to building stronger connections with our community leaders to continue the “re-visioning” process, bringing more programs and staff to our community.
Yvonne Hess, M.S., LMFT,CAP, is director of Citrus County services for The Centers. She can be reached at 352-628-5020, ext. 1013, or firstname.lastname@example.org.