Health First Has Plans for Life’s ‘Unexpected Challenges’ with Behavioral Wellness Program
By Health First // January 24, 2021
Behavioral Wellness is an intensive outpatient mental health, wellness program for all ages
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – After a trying 2020, it’s understandable if you’re uneasy about what the new year might have in store.
Fortunately, one resource is helping folks prepare for the good, the bad – and the totally unexpected. Health First’s Behavioral Wellness (formerly Senior Behavioral Wellness) teaches new coping skills and strategies that focus on emotional well-being and mental health.
“What I’ve seen over the past five years of managing this program is you’re going to get to the place where you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired,” says DeAnn Collins, a Health First program manager and licensed clinical social worker.
“But many of us don’t know how to make that change happen for ourselves.”
Behavioral Wellness is an intensive outpatient mental health and wellness program for people of all ages. Its offer? Decreased levels of anxiety, irritability, and even rage, as well as raised levels of motivation and productivity, even problem-solving.
This new year, what was Senior Behavior Wellness became simply Behavioral Wellness. That’s because the population seeking services is increasingly under 65 years of age, DeAnn says.
Many have Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance coverage, not Medicare. This summer, the unit saw a steady intake of people of all ages (and coverages) suffering distress, partly explained by the COVID-19 pandemic, she says.
“We became frustrated with having to turn people away and then they were waitlisted because there is a therapist shortage in our community.”
Real help for real suffering
The aim of Health First is well-being – the cumulative wellness of the whole person. Studies suggest that people with acute anxiety or chronic depression are more likely to suffer actual physical pain and ailments, and those sufferers are more likely to visit hospital Emergency Departments and primary care providers.
Preventive health strategies point to mental healthcare as a first step toward avoiding an emergency.
What’s more, DeAnn says, emotional despair is not “a normal part of aging.” They may be present when situational stressors rise, but we can adopt the techniques to respond well. Health First’s Behavioral Wellness is about empowering individuals to deliver self-care with proven results.
Trial and error – and progress
For many, changing our circumstances means first understanding there are treatment options.
Education is a big part of the therapeutic work at Behavioral Health. With two psychiatrists on staff, medication is one of those treatment options, and medication management while participating is part of the program. Some pharmaceutical regimens will have a greater impact than others. Fine-tuning is a priority for doctor and patient.
“There are proven interventions,” DeAnn said. “If one doesn’t work adequately, we try another, and it’s the same for behavioral interventions. The benefit of our program is we expose clients to proven therapies, and they have the opportunity to practice them in a safe environment.”
Medication may not even be the most appropriate treatment for some individuals.
Group therapy isn’t your ‘thing’?
Many individuals here are not on medication and prefer to learn the behavioral skills to help manage symptoms of depression or anxiety.
“People come in skeptical, especially about group therapy,” DeAnn says. “They say, ‘I’ll sit in the group but I won’t talk.’”
Group therapy is the primary mode of treatment at Behavioral Wellness. Program participants commit to an initial 30 days, which is about the amount of time that it takes for someone to tell whether the group is the right fit for them, DeAnn says
“I’ve found these same people come back and say, ‘I felt so comfortable I was able to share on the first day.’”
In 2020, the pandemic sent us indoors and out of touch with friends and family. Middle-distance and casual relationships that fill out our social circles suffered. Group therapy focuses on relationships.
It empowers us to counsel and comfort others even as we ourselves are participants.
Most group settings today are virtual (by video conferencing technology) through a portal that complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). For people who cannot attend from home, Health First is able to meet that need, too, with safe – distanced and masked – in-person groups.
Senior mental health is still top of mind
From losing a spouse to learning to cope with physical and/or mental decline, Behavioral Wellness is still dedicated to helping seniors cope.
The Memory Disorder Clinic, led by Dr. Visalakshi Srinivasan, provides services for residents concerned about cognitive performance – and the caregivers who help them.
But “there’s a need in our community to increase access to mental health services for all ages,” DeAnn says.
“What we find is, for the individuals who put the effort in, when they implement the strategies we outline in our group, does lead to improved well-being. They become more capable of handling challenges – even when they’re unexpected.”
Call 321.434.7604 for information about accessing our Behavioral Wellness services.
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