Youth Bureau moves to heal the body as well as hearts and minds

The Carroll County Youth Service Bureau is looking for donors to help in the purchase of a $2,000 Automated External Defibrillator for their Westminster based offices. The device will be an important addition to the services offered the bureau's many clients, especially young people, according to Andie Luchini, director of development and marketing.

"There are at least seven of us here that know how to use a defibrillator, but we don't have the equipment," Luchini said. "With young people coming in, you don't really get all of the early warning signs that they're having a heart issue that you would have with an older person. We really want to make sure we are ready."

The purchase of the defibrillator will mark more than just another service the bureau can provide its clients, however, it also represents -- in a concrete manner -- a dramatic shift in the way the bureau treats its clients. According to Luchini, the bureau, which focuses on mental health and substance abuse issues, has now begun to coordinate treatment for its clients' medical problems as well, to treat their bodies as well as their hearts and minds.

"This a brand new way of looking at how we treat our clients. We are looking at the person as a whole and trying to work at everything that they having going on at the same time," she said. "Your physical health is as important as your mental health, but for a lot a lot of people that go to therapy in private practice, their therapists and their doctor don't communicate. You have your doctor for your body and your doctor for you head."

The problem with treating medical and psychological issues separately, according to Assistant Administrative Director Gary Honeman, is that many times medical and psychological issues are co-occurring, with one issue exacerbating the other. That's why in January, the bureau hired Pam Haines, a community behavioral health nurse, to act as a liaison between client's primary care physicians and the bureau.

"I think mental health and substance abuse has been traditionally been kept very separate from medical care," Haines said. "We sometimes see clients that have a number of specialists and the primary care physician may not know that they are seeing the specialists. We'll ask them, 'Does your primary care doctor know that you are on this [medication]?' and they say, 'No, because he doesn't give me that.'"

Haines is working to pool information between client's doctors, to make sure physicians are aware of medications that might be prescribed by a bureau psychiatrist and that physicians are area, for instance, that a substance abuse patient should not be prescribed and addictive, opioid medication for pain. She will also be providing health screenings for clients and referring those who may have an underlying medical issue to a physician, or assisting those without insurance in finding the community resources they need to find medical care.

"A lot of our clients really do have medical needs that often go unattended," Honeman said. "To have Pam's expertise really is an asset ... To have a healthcare person that can have immediate access to our clients has opened up a new horizon."

This new initiative, and Haines position, were initially funded by a one $46,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, according to Joyce Agatone, director of the bureau's substance abuse program. Although the grant money will not be renewed, Haines is now certified to bill Medicare and Medicaid for her health assessment services, and Agatone said that the income from those billable should be enough to keep the program funded going forward.

"I believe the grant is over at the end of September, but from what I understand is that we will continue doing this," Haines said. "This will be an ongoing process."