Polk recognizes May as mental health awareness month

Published 10:00 pm Monday, May 8, 2017

Polk has ranked as high as 2nd in NC for suicides

COLUMBUS-The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved a proclamation in April recognizing May as mental health awareness month.

Commissioners also discussed with St. Luke’s Hospital officials that Polk County was ranked in 2016 as North Carolina’s second highest rate per capita of suicides.

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Becky Brodar, community outreach coordinator for St. Luke’s Hospital Center of Behavioral Medicine and Dr. Belynda D. Veser, chair of the Polk County Mental Health Advisory Board and geriatric psychiatrist at St. Luke’s Hospital gave a presentation on the county’s mental health task force on April 25 at the county commission meeting.

Brodar said in April 2011, the hospital was seeing a great deal of people in the emergency department and was using local law enforcement a great deal.

“We were not being respectful of what their needs were,” Brodar told commissioners. “We were asking of them a great deal more than what their jobs were.”

Brodar said St. Luke’s had nine beds for mental health and law enforcement officers were staying longer, so a group got together to see how they could all communicate better. Local officials began a round table meeting to meet the needs of those in crisis and not step on anyone’s toes.

“We addressed our concerns for each other and the needs of the community,” Brodar said. “We needed to initiate a safe meeting; if you came into that room you could say whatever you needed to say.”

The mental health task force incorporated training and education and Brodar said the task force knew in order to keep people focused the group needed projects.

Brodar said with the help of law enforcement, the task force built a safety division tree for all law enforcement and first responders on how to access a scene safely.

On the back are numbers for whatever service a client might need, including for a crisis center, emergency room, mental health provider, etc.

Risk screenings were also implemented in the emergency room for aggressive patients, Brodar said, so people would know if law enforcement needs someone else to come in for safety.

Some of the training done has included for bath salts and K-2/spice training, darkness to light training and a suicide awareness program. The mental health task force includes the CEO, CNO, ED nurse manager, ED doctor and Polk County law enforcement from Tryon, Saluda, Columbus and Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Other things the task force is doing are laminated “pink cards” for law enforcement, first responders, magistrates, fire departments, EMS, 911, 211, highway patrol to place over sun visors in all cars/trucks, to roll out the “pink sheet” for faith based community, CIT training for law enforcement officers and presenting information to other communities.

Brodar said at the time Polk ranked number two in the state for suicides.

“We’re really here tonight to keep the commissioners advised of what is happening with mental health and to invite commissioners to the monthly meetings,” said Dr. Veser.

Commissioner Jake Johnson said he’s a representative on the county’s mental health advisory board and the county is hopefully soon getting a mental health kiosk.

Commissioner chair Tommy Melton said he’s known Brodar for a long time as he’s on the hospital board and she does a wonderful job. Melton also thanked law enforcement for what they do.

“It is a serious problem here in Polk County,” said Melton. “You just don’t know how serious it is in Polk County.”

Polk suicides in 2016

Polk County has ranked as high as second in the state for suicides per capita and the Bulletin reached out to Capt. B.J. Bayne with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office as part of mental health awareness month.

In 2016, Polk County had 13 suicides, with two between the age of 20-40 years old, six between the age of 40-60, and five between the age of 60-80.

There were 24 unattended deaths in Polk County in 2016, which means a person who dies and is not found for days, weeks or months. Unattended deaths sometimes occur when someone kills themself or dies and does not have family or friends nearby to check on them.

Also in 2016, Polk County had one homicide, 30 overdose calls reported and 46 attempted suicide calls reported.

“Suicide has always been that thing you didn’t talk about,” Bayne said. “What people don’t realize is, talking about it is how you prevent people from doing it.”

Bayne also says people don’t realize how much suicides affect the people left behind as well as law enforcement and first responders who have to attend to a suicide.

“You carry a little bit of that with you,” she said, “after seeing it.”

Bayne said the families of suicide victims are the ones who suffer the most but people need to also understand it doesn’t just affect the family, including the people who have to talk to the families and the people that have to pull together resources for the families.

“It’s just such a big impact,” Bayne said. “The numbers are going up and we have to find new ways to give people resources and to give people to talk to.”

Bayne said people are so afraid to get in people’s business that no one talks when people are having problems. She said she wishes mental health didn’t have to be so taboo and that it could be something that everyone could talk about.

“Ask your neighbors if they are okay,” Bayne said.

Polk County has several resources for anyone who needs help or someone to talk to. The county has mobile crisis, where someone can call and help comes to you, a suicide hotline is available and St. Luke’s can evaluate people and give them options.

Mobile crisis is mental health on wheels. Anyone in need can always call the sheriff’s office to get resources, including mobile crisis.

Bayne said someone seeking help needs to understand that doesn’t mean they will be committed.

“That’s not how it works,” Bayne said. “The mental health task force has done such a good job of lining up resources. Just call us and we’ll try to help you. You don’t have to carry all this by yourself. There are people to help, you just have to reach out.”

Bayne said the suicide numbers in Polk only represent the people who have actually died from suicide attempts, it doesn’t represent the people who have tried.

Bayne also said suicide is prevalent in law enforcement officers as well. In the United States, there are more law enforcement officers who kill themselves than officers who are killed in the line of duty.

Bayne said there are options for people out there without ruining the person or their career.

Local help lines and tips

Crisis Service Providers RHA Mobile Crisis (MCM) 24/7/365 Crisis Line—Face-to-Face Crisis Assessment: 1-888-573-1006

Smoky Mountain LME/MCO (Smoky) 24/7/365 Customer Services Line—Access to Care 1-800-849-6127

Family Preservation Services Monday-Friday, 8:00AM-5:00PM—94 White Drive, Columbus, NC 28722 Same Day/Walk-In Access: 828-894-2290 Weekends/After-Hours (Adults): 828-899-0691—Weekends/After-Hours (Children): 828-899-0141 Please call 911 if the individual has a weapon, is violent, is experiencing a serious medical emergency, or has sustained a life-threatening injury.

Additional Behavioral Health Resources

St. Luke’s Hospital Center of Behavioral Medicine: 828-894-3525 x 3339 Senior Life Solutions: 828-894-9890 Emergency Department: 828-894-3311

Polk County DSS Monday-Friday, 8:30AM-5:00PM: 828-894-2100 Weekends/After-Hours: 828-894-0188

Steps To Hope 828-894-2340

Cooper Riis 24/7/365: 828-899-HELP

The Free Clinics Care Navigation and Medications 828-697-8422

Polk Wellness Center Monday-Friday, 8:30AM-5:00PM: 828-894-2222

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Four Seasons
1-888-955-NAMI (6264)

What to do if someone you know needs help

1. Ask the individual or his/her natural supports about the risk of suicide or harm to self/others.

2. Remain calm, allow for space between you and the individual, and listen without judgment.

3. Offer reassurance, give clear instructions, and provide information about treatment options.

4. Be supportive and acknowledge his/her feelings.

5. Encourage the individual to seek professional help; help the individual call his/her own therapist, Mobile Crisis, or Smoky.

6. Ask the individual what helps him/her in a crisis and encourage the use of those skills; contact any natural supports identified by the individual.

Getting Help During a Behavioral Health Crisis

Polk County Guide

RHA Mobile Crisis Management (MCM)—1-888-573-1006 MCM is available 24/7/365 for face-to-face crisis response and intervention. People of all ages who are experiencing a mental health, substance use, or intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) crisis can use this free service—whether they have insurance or not. MCM staff work to safely stabilize the individual at home, work, school, or in the community; their goal is to avoid hospitalization whenever possible. Contact MCM if the individual:

· Has thoughts about suicide or expresses the intent to harm him/herself or others;

· Has difficulty functioning because of thoughts or feelings they experience (e.g., sadness, anxiety, confusion, fear, or panic);

· Hears voices or sees things that make it hard to function, feels like others are “out to get him/her,” or displays irrational behavior;

· Is a drug user who is experiencing withdrawal from a substance;

· Is pregnant and needing acute detox; or

· Displays unmanageable/uncontrollable behavior due to a mental health, substance use, or I/DD concern.

Smoky Mountain LME/MCO (Smoky) Customer Services—1-800-849-6127 Smoky Customer Services is available 24/7/365 to assist individuals who are seeking mental health, substance use, and/or I/DD services. Individuals who call this toll-free number will receive a free telephone screening and will be given a choice of appropriate providers/treatment options. Smoky staff make every effort to schedule a timely initial appointment with the provider of the individual’s choice. Contact Smoky Customer Services if the individual:

· Would like to know what mental health, substance use, or I/DD services are available in the area;

· Would like to start receiving services on a regular basis;

· Has decided to seek help for a specific problem/concern; or

· Feels like he/she needs support, but isn’t sure where to start.

Family Preservation Services (FPS) Walk-In Services—828-894-2290 FPS provides same day, walk-in services for mental health and substance use concerns Monday-Friday from 8:00AM-5:00PM. Individuals can meet with a clinician and participate in an assessment by simply going to the local FPS office. They will receive treatment recommendations and may also meet with a psychiatrist or attend a group that day. Contact FPS Walk-In Services if the individual would like support with:

· Feelings of sadness or depression;

· Anxiety or panic attacks;

· Managing anger;

· Substance use;

· Medication management;

· Thoughts of suicide or harm to self/others;

· Hearing or seeing things that others say are not there; or

· Difficulty with relationships.

Please call 911 if the individual has a weapon, is violent, is experiencing a serious medical emergency, or has sustained a life-threatening injury.

2017 Mental Health Proclamation