The Bridgeway View

Editor Cory Storch, CEO

The Invisible Health-force: Mental Health Workers on the Front Line

Submitted by Lisa Giannascoli, Bridgeway Director of Marketing and Development, and Kimberley Higgs, LCSW, Executive Director, New Jersey Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association

    
Despite stay-at-home orders restricting movement, an irrepressible force of helpers is on the move all over New Jersey right now. Armed with authorizations from CEOs and Executive Directors confirming their essential status, they are the men and women of New Jersey’s psychiatric rehabilitation and community mental health workforce. And they are sacrificing time with their own families to heed their special call to serve and support our most vulnerable fellow New Jerseyans.
They are on their way to work for a mental health agency where they will counsel a fellow New Jerseyan who is receiving help for a mental health condition, to help them to manage their anxiety, fear and trauma, and to obtain medications critical to maintaining their health. They continue to open the doors of community mental health agencies for those who depend on them for the opioid treatment they require to avoid relapsing into the cycle of addiction. Those served by these workers also may need food for empty pantries at home, or basic medications, but without access to transportation or credit cards there’s no way to access or pay for them. This workforce meets those needs, too.
Some people are able to access their mental health agency via telehealth. Others are not because they live alone and don’t have a landline or cellphone on which to receive those critical support calls. Some are homeless. Enter our outreach workers. With limited access to PPE, and sometimes little more than social distancing to protect themselves, they are on their way to the home of a person with a serious mental illness, or to find someone who needs help “in the streets.” They will deliver essential care “in the field”; inside homes, in doorways, vestibules and the front stoops of the people who depend on them daily. They deliver medications, food, check-in on health needs and facilitate access to needed resources. They reassure fears, offer strategies to manage anxiety and reduce the traumatic impact of being alone. Keeping safe during their working hours continues to be challenging and anxiety-provoking task. They face shortages in PPE akin to other healthcare providers as they attend to their variety of tasks and locations each day.
Similar things are happening in group homes all around New Jersey. Akin to nursing homes, these small, homelike settings are staffed 24-hours a day and many of the persons residing in them have significant medical illnesses that accompany their psychiatric care needs. These residents require hands-on assistance with a variety of daily tasks throughout the day and night, every day and night, without exception and with whatever PPE is on hand that day. Our workforce is always there. And we in the community mental health system are not alone. Essential agencies in New Jersey’s non-profit workforce are out every day to meet the needs of our home-bound seniors, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, veterans, victims of domestic violence, and at-risk youth.
When you are out on the road to attend to your essential tasks and see a vehicle with an NF or OP license plate, you are following a mental health professional who is dedicated to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable among us. Please join the New Jersey Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (NJPRA) and our member agencies, in thanking New Jersey’s community mental health work force and all the other helping professionals from the bottom of our hearts for their heroic service.

April 10th, 2020

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Submitted by Lisa Giannascoli, Director of Marketing and Development

In January 2010, the Community Support Team (CST), a division of Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, opened its doors, and since September of 2012 have operated at 93 Stickles Pond Rd. in Newton. For the past 10 years, Bridgeway CST has offered Community Support Services (Supportive Housing); Integrated Case Management Services; Homeless Outreach Case Management; Employment/Career Services; and Partial Care programming. Bridgeway’s mission is to promote, and foster recovery from mental illness and co-occurring disorders. Bridgeway inspires and supports individuals to become productive citizens who are fully engaged in their communities by creating opportunities for wellness, independent living, learning and working and social inclusion.

One CST program, Partial Care, is particularly focused on fostering social inclusion for individuals for whom isolation and loneliness present a serious health risk. Partial Care is a day rehabilitation program, founded in a membership philosophy, available to adults aged 18 and over who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. What the staff at Partial Care know is that creating social network interventions is a critical part of helping someone recover from a mental health crisis. What they know from research is that social isolation can interfere in everyday functioning. It can disrupt sleep patterns, impede focus, and affect both logical and verbal reasoning.  For those who are at high risk, social isolation can result in cognitive decline, depression, neuroticism, hallucinations, and the onset of dementia.

To help members combat isolation and loneliness, the staff at Partial Care along with staff from GoMo Health, a virtual behavioral health provider, created the Every Day Matters program. Every Day Matters delivers care messages by text when program participants are most vulnerable: when home, away from services and supports, and alone with their thoughts. The messaging comes in the morning, before they come to Partial Care, and again in the evenings, when feeling isolated can prompt behaviors that will hinder recovery. Care messages are composed by staff and members together. Some care messages offer inspiration, some suggest healthy activities, some offer uplifting quotes, and others offer links to stories, songs, prayers, and jokes. Members at Partial Care receive the same care messages in the evenings. Sharing the experience of receiving these messages has resulted in animated conversations and new connections among members at Partial Care.

Ron Allen, Partial Care Team Leader, has observed that there is “much more community involvement outside of program,” among members since the implementation of the Every Day Matters program.

 Helise, a graduate of Partial Care, gave an on-camera interview about the program. She said, “when I get those messages, I feel very connected.” Helise’s words are a testament to the value of social inclusion and fostering connections to the program as well as to those attending it. The Every Day Matters program is a testament to Bridgeway’s commitment to its members, staff, and mission. Please go to Bridgeway’s website www.bridgewayrehab.org and click on the Youtube icon to view the video titled Finding Peace, and hear Helise’s story in her own words.

For more information about Every Day Matters, and the whole menu of GoMo Health programs, please visit GoMo Health www.gomohealth.com

Bob Gold and GoMo Health will receive the Distinguished Life Impact Partner of the Year Award at Bridgeway’s annual Chairperson’s Dinner on April 22, 2020, 6:00 PM, Kean University Stem Building, Union, NJ. Please go to www.bridgewayrehab.org/events.html for more information.

The Every Day Matters Team
Pictured L to R: Jane Hindes Miller, GoMo Health; Faithe Swanick, Gomo Health; Ron Allen, Partial Care Team Leader; Diane Piagesi-Zett, Director, Bridgeway CST; Bob Gold, GoMo Health; Lisa Giannascoli, Director of Marketing, Bridgeway; Cory Storch, CEO, Bridgeway

Contact Bridgeway CST, 93 Stickles Pond Rd., Newton at 973-383-8670

March 1st, 2020

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