Behavioral health requires prevention and recovery

The two staff and currently 10 volunteer members of the Behavioral Health Board share the responsibility for allocating certain federal, state, and local funds to support mental health and substance abuse services in Washington County. Traditionally the board has allocated by far the largest portion of its budget to provide treatment services. But in recent years increasing emphasis at both federal and state levels has been placed on the areas of prevention and recovery.

Our board appreciates the critical role played by prevention efforts. Educational programs provide information and cultivate awareness that can both prevent the development of behavioral health disorders and provide training for those who need to recognize and respond to symptoms of both emerging and acute disorders. Realizing the importance of early prevention in the area of substance abuse, our board provides funding to Eve, Inc., to provide education and awareness training in the county schools and to The Right Path which provides school outreach programs as well as sponsors social events and civic activities designed to support healthy behavioral choices. Other prevention measures supported by our board include the Suicide Prevention Coalition; Mental Health First Aid classes, an adult education program designed to help participants respond to persons experiencing acute mental health crises or those who are in early stages of a chronic mental health problem; and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training designed to help law enforcement officers and the community to respond to people experiencing mental health crises. In our support of more indirect means of prevention, we endorse youth civic education programs such as the Washington County Youth Leadership Summit and the Belpre Youth Chamber of Commerce. Strong prevention efforts reduce the need for later behavioral health treatment.

After identifying a behavioral disorder and determining its severity, treatment specialists determine appropriate therapy which includes counseling and perhaps medications. Treatment funded by our board currently centers on L&P Services at their Marietta, Belpre, and Beverly locations. Reinforcing L&P’s counseling, case management, and medical staff are three other agencies: Cambridge Detox Treatment Center which offers drug and alcohol crisis therapy; the Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in Athens which provides residential acute crisis care; and Marietta Memorial Hospital which sponsors local crisis intervention. People in the behavioral health field have long used the saying “Treatment works!” And we mean by this that persons with substance abuse and mental health disorders can be brought back into their communities as functioning, productive citizens. But we are aware that such transformation will not happen if a person simply recycles in and out of crisis intervention and treatment programs and in too many case in and out of the prison system. The final crucial step in an individual’s return to the community requires an array of recovery services.

In the behavioral health field “recovery” refers to a process rather than a final state. Having achieved a reasonably sustained stability, people in recovery are helped to further understand the nature and causes of their condition; are helped to more firmly cultivate behaviors that enable them in achieving an increasing degree of control over their condition; and are helped to form bonds with various support groups made up of peers, family, advisers, and others in the community. The process moves toward an improved quality of life and a widening opportunity to become a productive citizen. The road to recovery is a challenge. To help individuals on this road, our Behavioral Health Board currently helps to fund the House of Hope, a non-residential gathering place where people in recovery can socialize, share meals, engage in recreation, and provide mutual support and encouragement. The Board also endorses and participates in the Recovery Summit, an annual conference which brings together people in recovery to share their experiences and hear from experts in the field. But emerging now is an overdue call at both state and national levels for the expansion of crucial recovery-oriented services. This will require facilities and programs designed to move people onto the road of recovery and keep them there. The Washington County Behavioral Health Board is committed to this vision and to our overall responsibility to build a unified program which coordinates prevention, treatment, and recovery. Visit us at www.washingtongov.org/wcbhb or at our meeting, 7 PM, normally on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Board office 344 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.

Charles Pridgeon is a volunteer member and vice president of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board. Behavioral Health Matters appears on the Opinion page on the last Saturday of the month.