Archive | February, 2009

Addiction Connections Resource, Inc.

20 Feb

acr_logoI had a great meeting this afternoon with Doe Ladd — President of Addiction Connections Resource, Inc.  They publish a resource guide for support services that families struggling with addiction may need.  The guide includes a very useful directory of symptoms to watch for short-term and long-term with several major abuse substances.

They also have a regular newsletter and, most importantly, family support groups in Cecil and Harford Counties.

Doe seems to have lots of knowledge about navigating the resources available to fight addictions.  She can be reached at 443-417-6406, through her email address at acr2(at), or at


Blue Light Small Portable Units from Philips

20 Feb


Russell Arnold with Philips Home Healthcare Solutions recently donated four of their goLITE M2 golite_m2_open_full“BLUEWAVE” light therapy units for use with seasonal depression and sleep disorders.

We have one of these units in use in our Aberdeen PRP community room, one unit has been sent to the Aberdeen MHC (mental health clinic) for use by therapists with their clients, and two units are deployed phillipslightbox1at our Dundalk and Catonsville PRP locations.  Potentially hundreds of clients now have access to these units.

The nice feature about these units is that they are very small and portable.  They can run on battery — so clients can move them around from table to table.  Recent research seems to show that only certain bluelight spectrums of sunlight are required for benefits — and so smaller LED portable units phillipslightbox3like these have been developed.

More on BLUEWAVE and it’s research claims can be found here and here.

Additional Light Therapy Options

20 Feb

We have been overwhelmed lately with the generosity of companies responding to our earlier requests for help with SAD and sleep disorder light therapy options.

Once again, Full Spectrum Solutions, Inc. came through with additional lighting units.  They are the company that supplied us with overhead lighting some weeks ago for the Aberdeen PRP client lounge.

fslamp1The Aberdeen PRP has now been able to enhance the client telephone and study area with one of their BlueMax Dimmable Task Lamp & Light Therapy Unit.  This will serve as both a light for clients making telephone appointments and as a light therapy station in our client lounge.  This is a very nice desk lamp with a flexible head and high quality construction.

Full Spectrum also supplied us with an UltraLux I Light Box, which is a nice compact unit that is fully dimmable (unlike other models on thefslightbox1 market).  This unit is being set-up at our Dundalk PRP location — enabling several dozen more clients to have access to light therapy.

Thanks again Full Spectrum and Joelle Kolhagen for your assistance.


CCBC Mental Health Program Advisory Meeting

19 Feb

Sonya Myers (Program Director, Dundalk & Catonsville PRPs) and myself both attended a program advisory committee meeting this morning at CCBC Essex for the mental health associates program.

We’ve been largely pleased with the interns and employees we get from their program.  Trevon Cumberbatch is a current intern at the Aberdeen site doing a bang-up job helping teach the nutrition class and provide 1-on-1 help in the exercise room.

The purpose of the meeting was to solicit improvement suggestions for the curriculum.  Here are some of the areas that attendees expressed a desire for improvements in — many as the result of shifting needs in our population:

  • Writing Ability.  Otherwise strong candidates are often weak in the ability to string sentences together on reports.
  • Groups and Teaching.  PRP rehabilitation counselors do lots of groups and classroom instruction.  More experience in this would be desirable coming out of school.
  • Forensics. Skills at dealing with the increasing population of clients with a criminal background would be helpful.  This is occuring all across the state .  Practice with finding issues of concern buried in hospital records.  Skills in being fair but firm.
  • Psychotropic Medications.  Greater knowledge of them and an understanding of why they are sometimes a good thing.
  • Substance Abuse.  Greater knowledge of substance abuser needs — we are all seeing more dual diagnosis clients.
  • Geriatric Care.  PRP populations across the state are aging.  Skills in addressing the needs of older clients.

Other presentation topics included efforts to design and implement articulation and transfer agreements between high schools, CCBC, and 4-year institutions.  In this way it would be easier for students to pursue degrees and careers in mental health.

It was a useful meeting — I’m happy to be included on tuning the training programs that supply our workforce.

— Michael

MHA Transformation Office Focus Group

12 Feb

We were happy to receive a visit today from Steve Stahley, Transformation Office Consultant for MHA’s Mental Health Transformation Project.  He conducted a focus group with our consumers on the topics of what recovery means to them and what they think is important to achieving it.

Clients were very happy about many aspects of our program.  They specific discussed:

  • Appreciating the mental illness education component (thank you Erin for new Psych 101 class this past fall)
  • Being concerned with physical health and nutrition as well (thank you all staff for hammering in the importance of the holistic approaches for months)
  • Feeling appreciated and part of a community.
  • Feeling they are being listened to.

Stephen says that when he first started out he was mainly concerned with self-sufficiency, self-motivation, and independence.  As he has listened here and at other programs he is continually hearing about the importance of community, belonging, and feeling appreciated.

I’m looking forward to his report later this year on what consumers across Maryland think about the topic of recovery and how various programs are implementing it.

— Michael

WRAP Plan Musings

12 Feb

Cynthia Owens and three clients attend the three-day “Developing a WRAP Plan” (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) training last week at the Bon Secours Spiritual Retreat Center in Marriotsville, Maryland.   The training was run by Cheryl S. Sharp and Debbie Andersen with On Our Own.  Thank you for the training!

WRAP is a comprehensive system for knowing what to do to further and maintain your recovery.  Typical WRAP plans are living documents (binders) with crisis plans, early warning signs, useful tools to recovery like relaxation exercises, lists of triggers, etc.  Clients work with them ideally every day in order to take charge of their recovery.

The state of Maryland is very invested in WRAP.  The Aberdeen PRP is already well into this subject but I’d like to integrate it better into our program when I can figure out how.  All of our counselors have been through some basic WRAP training through our Essential Learning online classroom system as well as classroom training here at Key Point.  And of course (per both COMAR state regulations and plain common sense) our clients have an every increasing role and say in the setting of goals in their individual rehabilitation plans.

Cynthia and all the clients came back from the training totally jazzed.  They are excited and want to do this right away.  They see the value.

So do I.  Here’s what I’m grapplng with:

  • Groups and Program Format: To what extent is the intense group bonding experience supplied at the recent training a requirement for implementation?   We can easily do more skills training on development of plans.  But — how do we find a way to change our program format to allow for hours of group time?
  • Staff Training: WRAP as currently envisioned is mainly a peer-run process.  Many of our PRP clients are still  in need of some staff help when planning and functioning.  How do I get enough staff (and clients) trained at a deep enough level to build momentum and commitment?
  • Time: 3 days is a lot of training time!   Then there is the 5-day facilitator’s training too.   Meanwhile WRAP looks time-intensive — as a group process or one-on-one between counselors and individual clients.  It’s a lot to ask with current workloads.

I want to understand how to make this more scalable and help it convert from a format taught with peer-run drop-in centers in mind into a format for an institutional environment.

We are slowly figuring it out.  Ideas welcome.

Thanks, Michael

Recovery from Mental Illness

12 Feb

steve_1_finalSteve teaches the Aberdeen PRP’s Recovery from Mental Illness class on Thursdays @ 10:10am.

While there is a lot to gain from the mental health treatment there is also a lot for someone to lose.  Most perspectives in the mental health field are heard from the clinical staff (therapists, psychiatrists, and support staff) and often the voice of the person in recovery is lost in a labyrinth of clinical opinions and treatment options as they learn the role of a patient.  This experience occurs systemically from inside mental health institutions and in worst case scenarios the person in recovery may experience a decrease in their quality of life from the very institutions the seek treatment from.  Today in class we looked at this issue that can result from hospitalization for inpatient mental health treatment.

Members participating in class read scripted question and answer interviews from actual inpatient accounts at Willard State Hospital (which was closed in 1995) in New York State.  Though the inpatient accounts were gruesome to read, members participating in class used these accounts to discuss how recovery from mental illness can occur from a seemingly tragic environment. Other texts referred to in class today were Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin, by Norah Vincent and Ten Days In a Mad-House by Nellie Bly.

These texts were used to compare how treatment models have changed over the decades to reflect the movement towards personal recovery.  However, overall internal change to the mental health system is slow.

The application from the class discussion focused on personal awareness and advocacy  in the mental health community being an important tool to people in recovery.