EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a four-part series that will explore services available for mental health-related issues, including assessments, insurance and programs available in the four-county area. Part two will appear in the weekend edition of the Gazette.
HOUGHTON — A free public program about mental health services and challenges in the community, conducted Wednesdays at the Portage Lake District Library, provided information on resources available to those seeking help or information on mental illness and treatment.
Among the speakers was Mike Bach, who will soon assume the role of director of Copper Country Community Mental Health. He discussed services available through Copper Country Community Mental Health.
Bach said that overall, the treatment philosophy of CCMH is community care versus custodial care.
“What I mean by that,” he said, “is that decades ago, the expectation was if somebody had a serious mental illness or intellectual disability, that person would go to an institution and live there.”
Society’s values have changed over the years, moving toward the belief that people with mental disorders should be allowed to live in the community with the same rights as those not suffering with a mental illness or disability.
“That’s a major shift,” said Bach, “and I think it’s a really good one.”
Bach said CCMH attempts to assist the people it serves in several ways: residential homes, community-based programs and outpatient services, along with other services that, he said, do not fit very well into the other three categories.
CCMH owns nine group homes that it operates, Bach said.
Its group homes serve adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and/or mental illness who require help with daily activities and a structured living environment. People receive assistance 24 hours a day from trained staff.
Some of their residents were transferred from the Newberry State Hospital when it was closed in 1992, and a number of that hospital’s former staff now work for CCMH.
Some of the patients, Bach said, went from a locked institution to living in the community, where they can go to the movies or go for a walk.
“We give them individualized care,” he said. “Different people have different needs. We are not a nursing home, although we do have nurses who are available to help.”
CCMH Community Support is a program for individuals with persistent mental illness. Community Support provides practical assistance at home and in the community, with such things as medication management, money management, grocery shopping and housekeeping.
“We’re providing support for folks who — probably if it weren’t for that level of support, at least in generations past — would have been in an institution,” Bach said.
CCMH can provide help with everything from keeping an apartment clean so people do not get evicted, to making a budget and making a grocery list and shopping.
Medication deliveries ensuring people can get to medical appointments are also part of the Community Support program.
“We can help people with finding work,” he continued. “We can help them volunteering. We had a group that was going fishing for awhile — there’s a lot of different things we can offer.”
Outpatient therapy offered by CCMH includes providing assessment and treatment services for adults with a severe mental illness or children who have serious emotional disturbances.
The type of help offered varies and may address family relationship problems, parent/child conflicts, interpersonal-social conflicts and symptoms related to depression, anxiety and other acute psychiatric problems. Services are provided at offices in Houghton, Calumet, L’Anse and Ontonagon.
“We try to approach that from a trauma-informed aspect,” Bach explained, “meaning you’re aware that a lot of folks that we serve have been through various trauma, so we try to be sensitive to that and make that a part of treatment.”
At the core of a trauma-informed care approach is the motivation to make each patient feel safe and welcomed during a behavioral health treatment program, according to the Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute.
In a supportive environment, patients can focus on their treatment programs, and patients can make progress toward recovery. While clinicians may always work to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for patients, there are specific points for clinicians to consider when implementing trauma-informed care.
“We have home-based programs for children at risk of out-of-home placement,” said Bach. “We also do prevention work. We also do a lot of work with persons with co-occurring disorders, which means in addition to a mental health diagnosis (a person) has a substance use diagnosis.”
This approach helps people recover by offering mental health and substance abuse treatment together.
“We provide psychiatric services,” he added, saying that right now, CCMH is providing treatment through tele-psychiatry.
“We’ve worked with a company for quite a few years and have a good relationship,” Bach said. “It’s always a challenge to keep (doctors), so we try to do that the best we can.”
In addition, CCMH also has a physician’s assistant on staff, along with nurses and case managers.
CCMH Emergency Services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for persons having a mental health emergency requiring immediate assistance. These services include crisis intervention, assessment and prescreening for hospitalization.
We try to make the decision (of) ‘Can this person go home with loved ones, with a follow-up plan?’ or ‘Does the person need to go to a psychiatric hospital for admission?’”
Bach said frequently, staff will call up to 24 hospitals and get 24 refusals for an admission, so the next day that process must be started over again.
“That is not a very good situation,” he said, “and that’s unfortunately a nationwide situation.”
CCMH also has a number of peer-directed services, including Peer Support Specialist Services. These services are provided by individuals who are on their own recovery journey, who have a serious mental illness and are now receiving or have received services from the public mental health system.
These specialists are hired to share their life experiences and provide expertise to consumers that professional disciplines cannot replicate. They provide a wide range of services including health integration, assistance with benefits and housing, community inclusion, health education, and promoting recovery.
There is also the drop-in center in Hancock.
“We have people who have lived experiences and work with parents, adolescents and up, as well as adults.” he said.
Other programs offered by CCMH include Nursing Home Services (OBRA/PASARR). The OBRA team works with area hospitals and nursing homes to identify and address the mental health needs of persons residing in long-term facilities.
The Psychosocial Rehabilitation program includes the Northern Lights Clubhouse, which provides services to members using the Clubhouse Model. Members who are adults with a mental illness are involved in a work-ordered day to operate the clubhouse. Focusing on members’ strengths, talents and abilities provides opportunities to increase independence in the community.
For more information on Copper Country Community Mental Health programs and services, visit CCMH’s website at https://www.cccmh.org/agency-information.