Tag - Lamoille County Mental Health Services

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Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss
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Helping People Navigate the Health Care System
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Purely Patrick: Supported Employment Helps an Entrepreneur Succeed
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Let’s Go Fishing: A Day Spent Learning to Teach
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Can We Do More For Our Neighbors?
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Lamoille County Mental Health: 50 Years in the Making
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The Developing Brain
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Join us at a Community Forum About Mental Health Treatment in the ER – May 3
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GO PRO (as in Probiotics)
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Meet our Newest Blogger: Dr. David Mooney of Lamoille County Mental Health Services

Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Death by suicide is complicated as is the survivor grief that follows. Did you know:

  • Grief is unpredictable.
  • Grief is complicated.
  • Grief is not one emotion, but many.
  • Grief is exhausting.
  • Grief ambushes you.
  • Grief never really goes away.
  • Grief permeates all aspects of life.
  • Grief is a process, not an event.
  • Only you know how much time you need to grieve.

Monique Reil of Lamoille County Mental Health Services and Jane Paine with Lamoille Home Health & Hospice are coordinating a support group for survivors of suicide loss. Please join us in this safe, confidential space to share your story or just to be surrounded by those who understand and care.

The Survivors of Suicide Loss (SOSL) support group meets the last Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. For location details, call Jane Paine at 888-4651 or Monique Reil at 888-5026.

Helping People Navigate the Health Care System

By: Rebecca Copans

Anyone who has accompanied a loved one to an emergency room knows how challenging it can be to navigate the medical system. Its complex language, daunting costs, and frenetic pace make it difficult for the average person to take in. If the patient has no one by their side and if they are dealing with two or more chronic conditions — plus poverty, food insecurity, and unstable housing — they face even greater challenges in navigating the healthcare system.

Sarah Williams, Lamoille County Mental Health Services (LCMHS) Medical Care Coordinator, has seen first-hand the results of that confusion and it has become her mission to directly challenge that problem. In her role, Williams has created collaborative relationships among providers at LCMHS and community partners, including primary care physicians, endocrinologists, neurologists, pharmacists, and hospital emergency room staff. Her role brings together providers and information systems to coordinate health services with patient needs to better achieve the goals of treatment. “When I look into a person’s eyes, I can see the difference that help has made. They are less stressed and can focus on getting well.”

Having someone to help patients navigate a complex system improves the quality of the care they receive. Outcomes improve as well, as the person receives the kind of medical follow-up that is required to treat their needs. Research across disciplines have shown that care coordination increases efficiency and improves clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction with care. “Greater coordination of care—across providers and across settings—will improve quality care, improve outcomes, and reduce spending, especially attributed to unnecessary hospitalization, unnecessary emergency department utilization, repeated diagnostic testing, repeated medical histories, multiple prescriptions, and adverse drug interactions” writes Susan Salmond and Mercedes Echevarria of Rutgers University School of Nursing.

Through these coordinated partnerships, LCMHS is enhancing the quality of care for the individuals they serve. This gives the individual an advocate, as well as someone to translate the often murky landscape of multiple disciplines of medicine. This has a striking benefit to patients’ mental health, quality of life, and their own sense of optimism as they have one distinct person that can be contacted to help clarify information, track multiple appointments, and identify specialists.

As primary and behavioral health care providers strive to integrate services, care coordination will support system-wide efforts to reduce emergency room visits and hospital stays, which is one of the greatest cost-drivers for the health care system. Based on the foundation of care coordination, primary and behavioral health care integration will make huge inroads in achieving the triple bottom line of health care: to improve the health of the population, to improve the patient experience of care (including quality, access, and reliability), and to control or reduce costs.


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.

Purely Patrick: Supported Employment Helps an Entrepreneur Succeed

By: Rebecca Copans

Patrick and his sister Deseray Lewis sell Purely Patrick goods at Art on Park in Stowe

 

If you wander down Stowe’s Park Street on a summer Thursday evening, you are sure to find a colorful tent filled with specialty food items made and packaged by Patrick Lewis, the entrepreneur behind Purely Patrick.

A vivacious person who sings through his days, Patrick was born with Cerebral Palsy. His parents, Mary Anne and George Lewis, helped Patrick utilize his repetitive hand motions to build a specialty food business. He sells glass Ball jars and plastic water bottles (which are easier to ship) filled to the brim with beautiful dried ingredients like birdseed, recipes for dog treats, sweets like cookies and brownies, savory recipes like soup and cornbread, as well as a number of gluten-free recipes.

Along with his parents, George and Mary Anne Lewis, Patrick is supported by his sister, Deseray, and two LCMHS Developmental Services Supported Employment Staff, Carrie Cota and Miranda Maxham. Carrie has been with Patrick for seven years, and Miranda has been with him for three. Strong relationships and job retention are incredibly important here.

Patrick participated in the Race for Sensory Drive in May with his mother and sister, Mary Anne and Deseray Lewis.

 

“I wouldn’t trade [Carrie and Miranda] for the world. Not just anyone can do this job,” Mary Anne says. The rapport among them is obvious.

“Miranda is the numbers girl, and I handle the technical side of the business, including developing and maintaining the website,” Carrie says.

“Carrie is my techie,” Mary Anne jokes, “and Miranda is a worker bee—they both are!—but Miranda is never afraid of using her muscles. For example, she brings many jars from the Hardware store in for Patrick after his shopping trips. She carries a ton of Patrick’s groceries in at the same time. She is always moving, and very efficient. She is even insured to drive the big lift van and does so willingly and safely.”

Developing the business-side of Purely Patrick has been a learning process. Working with his strengths, over time they developed a concept for creating products that capitalize on Patrick’s repetitive hand movements and that avoid hand-over-hand motions that are difficult for a person who is blind. His Supported Employment staff helps Patrick to ensure that measurements are accurate. But “if there is anything in one of those jars, it’s because he put it there,” Carrie says.

Mary Anne agrees. “It’s not about us doing it, it’s purely Patrick!”

The team tracks Purely Patrick sales—from farmers markets and craft shows to internet sales—and their hottest market is sales from the family-owned Brass Lantern Inn in Stowe. The relationship is mutual. The innkeepers sell a number of Vermont products, from tea to maple syrup, “but the thing we sell the most of out there is Patrick’s products,” says Mary Anne.

When buying the specialty food products, many people don’t realize that Patrick is the innkeepers’ son. It creates a positive awareness of the abilities of an individual with a disability. Even though sales aren’t always robust at some community events, there is value in Patrick’s presence there. “He has some very loyal repeat customers over the years that come to Art on Park year after year,” Carrie says.

Mary Anne agrees. “I see it as a bigger picture; it is exponential networking and I feel that it’s wholesome disability awareness. I can’t tell you how many moms and dads have come up to us and said, ‘I had no idea that a Patrick could be employed.’ It’s inspiring for families of people living with a disability to see the incredible potential in every individual.”

 


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.

 

Let’s Go Fishing: A Day Spent Learning to Teach

By: Chris Hendon

 

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Lets Go Fishing

Looking for ways to expand kids’ summer programming in the Lamoille County Mental Health Services’ (LCMHS) Redwood Program, Dan Gilbert and I attended a recent Let’s Go Fishing clinic offered by Vermont Fish and Wildlife.  We wanted to improve Redwood’s free six-week summer programming and offer kids a chance to get out and do some structured fishing as well as having ongoing access to fishing equipment for these kids’ adventures. Every year a few kids, dreaming about those summer days on a river or lake, ask if fishing can be incorporated into the Redwood summer program. Due to a lack of equipment, every year we have had to say no.

We heard about the Let’s Go Fishing program at Vermont Fish & Wildlife and thought it would be an excellent chance to be able to include any kids who are interested, including—and perhaps especially—the kids who have never touched a fishing pole before. We hope to inspire excitement about getting outside and fishing. This is an activity they can share with friends and family. It creates a life-long skill that encourages patience and mindfulness, as well as an appreciation of our natural world.

As the training day started rolling, we realized this is about much more than simply fishing. It’s about learning about our water ecosystems, about different types of fish in Vermont, and teaching basic skills to build upon such as knot tying and proper casting techniques. Most importantly, it is about getting children and adults outside and engaged in conservation and fishing in a day and age where people are spending less and less time outdoors. The structure of this program teaches skills and knowledge that kids can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Learning about fishing rules and regulations gives insight into breeding habits and the availability of fish in certain bodies of water. The Department of Vermont Fish & Wildlife simply wants people to get out on the water, know what fishing is all about, and most importantly, to have some fun!

The volunteer training itself certified us as Vermont Fish & Wildlife Lets Go Fishing Instructors.  This certification will offer many opportunities to expand our knowledge and training above and beyond the summer programming at Redwood. In addition to a typical “fishing” clinic, Vermont Fish & Wildlife offers ice fishing and fly fishing clinics as long as there is a certified instructor available who is experienced in those areas. They offer dozens of clinics every year, and we can now easily organize clinics for the kids in LCMHS programs. Let’s Go Fishing provides attendees with an educational tote and all the fishing equipment that we will need, as well as ongoing support. I encourage anyone who is interested in expanding their children’s programming to become an instructor. It’s a free, day-long course, and it is well worth it. If you are just interested in learning about fishing or would like to enhance your experience, I recommend taking part in one (or many!) of these clinics. It is all free and enrolling in the clinic gives you the ability to fish even if you don’t have a license.

I can’t recommend this fantastic program enough. If you want to know more you can ask Dan or myself, or reach out directly Corey Hart, a program manager at Vermont Fish and Wildlife, Corey.Hart@vermont.gov.


An avid ice fisherman, Chris is a Redwood Service Coordinator at Lamoille County Mental Health Services and a clinical mental health graduate student at Northern Vermont University. 

Can We Do More For Our Neighbors?

By: Sarah Williams

I was moved to speak at our Town Meeting in Stowe when our neighbors were debating the comparatively large recreation budget versus the nearly nonexistent social services budget. I made the life choice to pursue a career in supporting our most vulnerable neighbors. I do it because if we don’t care for those who are struggling, for those who are in crisis, for those who need a pathway up and out of their trouble, I feel that we all—as a community and as a society—are only as strong as our lowest common denominator. When kids don’t have what they need to be successful in their early years, their chance of success as adults, community members and employees is greatly challenged. The success of our community is what we make of it. Recreational paths are nice, sure, but what makes a strong economy are the people who participate in it. The strength of the people in Stowe is what will make our community rise.

The strength of the people in Stowe is what will make our community rise.

When the public thinks about mental health, often their mind goes straight to emergency rooms and the state hospital—a vision of a person being locked away under a guard of nurses. In reality, the mental health system is infinitely more nuanced. 90% of mental health is supporting people to live healthy, productive and self-directed lives. We do this a number of ways:

  • After a tragedy in schools or at fire stations through grief support
  • creating support systems with foster and adoptive families to ensure permanence for children
  • helping people with developmental disabilities to build relationships and hold meaningful work
  • providing support for someone to return to work after a decade of doubting that they are able to get and hold a job
  • helping someone who is struggling with an issue with a family member or friend, who doesn’t know what steps to take to next; we have a system in place that helps people figure out the steps to ease their troubles and to know that they aren’t alone in figuring out a solution.

The emergency response budget that we passed in Stowe on Town Meeting Day is going to continue to rise unless we start doing things differently. Reactionary response is both expensive and debilitating to the population who are struggling day to day. Consider the economic impact of each of these individual lives:

  • This winter, St. John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church in Stowe erected an emergency homeless shelter that welcomed over 100 people—many of them children from Stowe. How does the lack of stable housing affect the ability of the parents of these children to hold a job, and for their kids to excel in school?
  • Consider the long-term, compounded costs of children going hungry over the summer due to lack of access to the free lunch program. How does this affect their long-term physical and mental health?
  • When the police are responding to mental health calls instead of being available emergencies, how does this affect both the safety of those calling the police, as well as the cost of the police budget? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on social services that get at the root of the problem rather than on emergency services?
  • Our elderly struggling to maintain their independence at home, while battling isolation, physical and mental health challenges. Don’t we owe it to our community elders to support the home share program?

The Stowe social services budget is 0.4 % of the town budget this year, while Morrisville contributes 1.3%–$82,469 to the community partners who help our neighbors, including CapStone, Lamoille County Mental Health Service, Home Share, the food shelf and Meals on Wheels. That is almost two times the amount we contribute to these programs that support our town.

So when I ask the question “Can we give more to our town social services budget?” I am asking you to not only think of Stowe as a great place to vacation and to have fun, but as a great place to live, work and raise a family.  To do this, we need to support the people who live in here who are struggling silently. If you need to hear it will save us money, it will. If you need to hear that giving back is showing your gratitude that you are one of the lucky ones, it is.  Our select board wants to hear that our town cares what happens to those who cannot speak for themselves.  Please contact your select board today and tell them that you support an increase in the social services budget in your town.


Sarah, an LNA who works as a Medication Coordinator for Lamoille County Mental Health Services, lives in Stowe with her two teenage sons.  She is a runner and garden enthusiast.

Lamoille County Mental Health: 50 Years in the Making

By: Savi Van Sluytman, CEO, Lamoille County Mental Health Services

A half-century ago, Lamoille County Mental Health opened its doors to serve the community.  Like you, we know that our neighbors have good days and bad days, ups and downs. It is our commitment that when our neighbors need help, we will be there to reach out a hand.

In the 50 years that we have been serving the Lamoille Valley, the way we respond to the needs of our neighbors has drastically changed. Much of our work happens right in the communities where our consumers live—in their homes, in their schools, in their child care programs, in their jobs.  We know that the best path to health and wellness is the one that ensures a full, meaningful life. A steady job, success in school, strong relationships and good friends, good nutrition and healthy exercise, feeling the sun on our faces and clean, fresh air in our lungs.

Every day at Lamoille County Mental Health, we are taking steps to ensure that no one in our community falls through the cracks. We provide the safety net that so many Vermonters need at some point in their lives. Many of us live here because, yes, it’s a place of rare and often breathtaking beauty, but also because we hold common values: that when a neighbor slides off the road on a snowy afternoon, we stop to help. When someone is struggling with an internal battle, we reach out a hand. Every Vermonter should be able to live healthy, productive lives.

We provide the safety net that so many Vermonters need at some point in their lives. In a state such as this, no one should go hungry, which is why we have a food shelf that on any given week is stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and non-perishable items.

If someone is struggling with the confidence they need to get back to work, we bridge that gap, empowering them to find and keep a job. We help them with every step where they need a guiding hand, and when they are ready to take the next step alone, we step back—but not away.

When someone is struggling with homelessness, we fight fiercely to find housing for them.  When transportation is a barrier to work, our supported employment dispatch team ensures that they can get there. We combat isolation by bringing people together for music and yoga classes, lunch, Special Olympics teams and support groups. After a few athletes in our community expressed interest in creating a Special Olympics swim team this fall, we found a head coach and we are scouring the community for assistant coaches and swim partners to accompany athletes in the pool, as well as a sponsor to cover the cost of using the pool at Johnson State College—please reach out if you are interested!

As we look to 2018 and our 51st year, we are thrilled to bridge community partnerships as we work to implement a capital campaign to support community needs. Our 2018 capital campaign goals are to:

  • Build an Imagination Center to benefit children with autism, behavioral and learning disabilities, as well as for elders with dementia;
  • Fund the Tiny House Project. Build four independent living “tiny houses” for people with developmental disabilities on the Oasis House property;
  • Provide matching funds to support the creation of affordable housing for people at risk of homelessness in community centers where it does not currently exist.

With these efforts, we seek to better serve the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.  To learn more, visit www.lamoille.org.

 

The Developing Brain

By: Rebecca Copans

Lucy, 3 years old, heading to her first day of preschool.

As a parent, you want nothing more than for your child to be happy and healthy, to make friends, and to be accepted and integrated with their peers. When one of those pieces doesn’t fall into place as you would hope, you start asking questions.  You talk to your friends and neighbors, you ask for help from your primary care provider, and you call Lamoille County Mental Health Services.

From when she was a toddler, my daughter Lucy struggled with communicating her needs in a socially acceptable way.  As an infant, we taught her baby sign language and she was incredibly proficient in verbal language at an early age. Also from a young age, however, she was paralyzed by social pressures and extreme shyness. When she was three and entered preschool, it didn’t go well. A brand new teacher fresh out of college combined with some energetic kids is a recipe for chaos. Sprinkle in social, emotional and behavioral challenges, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

It all came to a head when we were invited to a birthday party in March, seven months into the program and I saw firsthand what she had been trying to tell me week after week. She would come home and say, “No one played with me today.” Or, “I don’t have any friends at school.”  Impossible, I thought. This is preschool, where they learn to be friends and care about each other equally—right? Wrong. It was like watching a car wreck. I was rooted to the spot, transfixed as parents chatted around me, oblivious to the scene that our children were playing out with each other. There were leaders and followers, cliques and bullying, and passive-aggressive exclusion that was closer to how seventh-grade girls infamously treat each other. This was a 4-year old’s birthday party. I was shocked. I have never felt so acutely that I failed as a parent. I didn’t listen to this tiny little person tell me over and over that she needed help figuring out how to navigate an incredibly stressful situation. It was like a language that everyone else could speak but her.

We asked for advice, I cried a whole lot, and ultimately we changed schools. Within three weeks of being enrolled in her new school, her teachers surged to action. We created a plan and began pulling in an incredible array of wrap-around services.They suggested screenings and behavioral interventions and within months and with some incredible people in her corner, things began slowly to improve, tiny step by tiny step.

From under a porch chair “fort”, 5 year old Lucy weaves a story for her brother Hazen.

Lucy, who suffers from a heady mix of debilitating shyness, ADHD and learning disabilities, was taught to scaffold mental prompts that allow most children seemingly automatically to wait for a turn at the paper towel dispenser (rather than pushing past to avoid having to think of something to say—and then say it—to the child blocking her way), to wait quietly in line to go outside for recess, to ask a teacher for help navigating a problem, or, the Everest: to ask “can I play?” Working with the behavioral interventionist, we created a playbook so that her family and her teachers were all working from the same place and using the same language.

Those early interventions helped to rewire her brain. She was given the tools to ask with her words rather than by hurling her body through space, and was able to integrate gracefully into playing with her peers by having a coach whispering prompts in her ear. As those prompts become ingrained, and with her incredible early educators mimicking the behavior interventionist’s language, the social fabric of her life became more normalized. By the time she entered Kindergarten, that coach standing by her shoulder was no longer needed, and in fact, her problem-solving skills became tools that her Kindergarten peers learned from Lucy.

When Lucy was a toddler, we thought that her actions were simply normal—we had nothing to compare it to. We thought parenting was simply the hardest job on the planet and didn’t realize how much help was available in the community. I didn’t know that our designated mental health agency or our local parent-child center offered resources for someone with Lucy’s developmental challenges, and for us, as parents raising her. I had the misconception that those agencies were reserved only for low-income Vermonters. We had no idea where to turn and grew increasingly panicked.

Studies from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University have shown that in the first years of life, a developing brain forms one million connections every second. By the age of by the age of five, 90% of the brain is developed. If we had waited until Lucy reached Kindergarten before putting behavior interventions in place, the work in bending her trajectory would have become much more difficult.

Lucy is far from alone on her path. A 2015 VT Digger story noted,

“Vermont has the highest rate of identifying students with emotional disturbance in the country. As a percentage of all students who received special education services in the 2012-13 school year in Vermont, about 16 percent were identified with an emotional disturbance, according to federal data. That is more than twice the national average of 6.3 percent.”

Some experts have argued that Vermont is simply doing a better job than other states at early identification and intervention.

During the 2016-2017 School Year, the School-Based Clinician Program at Lamoille County Mental Health supported over 120 children like Lucy from preschool-age to high school seniors. These dedicated individuals provided individual, group, and team support for students in their learning environments. School-Based Clinicians teach and practice mindfulness techniques with children, organize running and fitness groups, support skill development in the areas of self-advocacy, self-regulation, identifying and verbalizing emotional states, peer conflict resolution, verbal and non-verbal communication, and development of reciprocal play skills. They also facilitate training sessions for an increase in trauma-informed approaches in schools. These services are now available in 12 schools with a potential to serve over 200 children in the Lamoille Valley.

The Redwood Program at LCMHS contracts with school districts to offer wrap-around, full-year behavioral interventions for children. The children engaged in the program during the school year then attend a six-week summer camp that has precipitously lowered the crisis rate for kids returning to school in the fall. The Redwood Summer Camp is free for students enrolled in the Redwood Program and prevents a lot of kids from needing more expensive therapies. It maintains structure for the children during the summer and builds and strengthens the relationships between the kids and the incredible cohort of behavioral interventionists.

At 7 years old, Lucy is thriving with school-based supports.

The Access Program at LCMHS offers Community Skills Work (CSW), allowing children to connect with this service when in crisis. At its peak this year, the CSW Program served approximately 60 children at one time. In addition to weekly visits with children, the program also supports activities such as Wellness Camp, Children’s Emotional Wellness Day and the Resource Parent Curriculum Plus (RPC+) Children’s Group—an incredible program that supports placement stability for children in foster care. The CSW Program is connected with several local organizations, offering access to activities such as swimming, ice skating, gyms, game rooms, and State Parks.

During that first year of preschool, I was sure that Lucy would never be able to succeed socially in school.  Now as a second grader, she has wonderful friends, she is successful in dance and gymnastics, she is able to have playdates that don’t reliably devolve into tears, and on any given day a stranger in the grocery store wouldn’t know the challenges she faces—all things that would have seemed impossible four years ago. Without those early interventions, this trajectory would be heading in a very different direction. When parents are at a loss as to how to help their child, they need to know that they aren’t alone and that help can be found right here in Lamoille. Parenting is hard in the best of situations and if you are struggling, some days it just feels impossible. Support is just right down the street. If you or someone you know could use some help with a child who is struggling, don’t wait until it’s a crisis to ask for help.

If you or a child you know needs help, call Lamoille County Mental Health at (802) 888-5026 or visit www.lamoille.org.


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.

Join us at a Community Forum About Mental Health Treatment in the ER – May 3

Join Copley Hospital for an important discussion about mental health care on Wednesday, May 3, at 7 p.m. at Green Mountain Technology & Career Center.

The event will feature “Nowhere to Go: Mental Health Treatment in the ER”, a multi-media presentation produced by the Copley Hospital Ethics Committee in collaboration with students in the Creative Media, Art & Design class at Green Mountain Technology & Career Center.

A panel discussion and Q&A session with professionals working on the front lines of mental health care will follow the presentation:

Michael Brigati, Emergency Services Nurse Director, Copley Hospital
Monique Reil, Mobile Crisis Team Manager,  Lamoille County Mental Health Services
Dale Porter, RN, Emergency Services

We hope you will join us for this important community conversation about mental health, its challenges, and what is needed to improve care.

GO PRO (as in Probiotics)

By: Dr. David Mooney

There is now ample research and preliminary trials to support the ability of gut microbes to influence mood and behavior. Numerous studies have also shown that the administration of probiotics can even reverse certain psychological disorders.

what-are-probiotics

A brief history:

Fermented foods have provided probiotic bacteria in the gut throughout history. All traditional cultures fermented their foods, lived in and with nature, and ate from it in a way that promoted a now endangered diversity of gut microbes. Food fermentation dates back more than seven thousand years to winemaking in the Middle East. The Chinese were fermenting cabbage six thousand years ago.

The Russian scientist Elie Mechnikov, considered the father of immunology, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908 for his investigation of the benefits of lactic acid bacteria to human health. He studied the correlation between the longevity of Bulgarian peasants and their consumption of fermented milk products. He suggested that “oral administration of cultures of fermentative bacteria would implant the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract.” Mechnikov believed that toxic bacteria in the gut contributed to aging and that lactic acid could help prolong life. He coined the phrase “probiotic” to describe beneficial bacteria.

People have enjoyed one form of fermented food or another long before probiotics became available from health food stores. Think sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), yogurt (fermented milk products), and kimchi (a spicy condiment usually made from cabbage or cucumber that is the national dish of Korea).

There is no better way to consume a rich array of healthy bacteria than to consume them through wholly natural sources, such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and other fermented vegetables. Bacteria consumed in this manner are easily accepted by the body. They work in various ways. They help maintain the integrity of the gut lining; balance the body’s pH; serve as natural antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals; regulate immunity; and control inflammation. In addition, probiotics suppress the growth and even invasion of potentially pathogenic bacteria by producing antimicrobial substances called bacteriocins (proteins that inhibit or kill the growth of “bad bacteria.”) As these bacteria metabolize their sources of fuel from your diet, they liberate various nutrients contained in the foods you eat, making them easier to be absorbed. For example, they increase the availability of vitamins A, C, K, and many of the B group vitamins.

Most people do not have any side effects to probiotics but for some, especially those whose gut bacteria has been out of balance for years, there can be a “transitional period” when existing problems such as gas and bloating can actually be aggravated.

When choosing a probiotic, it is important to choose one that has the strains that have been demonstrated to be effective for your needs:

For the immune system: L. paracasei, L. rhamnosus, L. acidophilus, L. johnsonii, L. fermentum, L. reuteri, L. plantarum, B. longum, and B. animalis.

For anti-inflammatory functions: L. paracasei, L .plantarum, and P. pentosaceus.

For depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric concerns: Strains in the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genuses have been shown to have an emerging role. Look for high-quality probiotics that contain a variety of strains in the billions.

Be Well,

Dr. Mooney


Dr. David Mooney is a native Vermonter and serves as the Medical Director at Lamoille County Mental Health Services. He completed his premedical studies at the University of Vermont and obtained his medical degree at American University of the Caribbean. Dr. Mooney then returned to Vermont where he completed his residency in psychiatry and also a fellowship in Public and Community Psychiatry through the University of Vermont. He has decades of experience in hospital and community psychiatry. His main interests lie in Integrative Medicine for all types of mental illnesses, combining traditional and holistic approaches.

Meet our Newest Blogger: Dr. David Mooney of Lamoille County Mental Health Services

Dr. David MooneyDr. David Mooney is a native Vermonter. He grew up in Newport and is the Medical Director at Lamoille County Mental Health Services. He completed his premedical studies at the University of Vermont and obtained his medical degree at American University of the Caribbean. Dr. Mooney then returned to Vermont where he completed his residency in psychiatry and also a fellowship in Public and Community Psychiatry through the University of Vermont. He has decades of experience in hospital and community psychiatry. His main interests lie in Integrative Medicine for all types of mental illnesses, combining traditional and holistic approaches.

Dr. Mooney enjoys spending time with family, skiing, beekeeping, raising chickens, and playing bass in the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra.