From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sunday, August 30, 2009:
JULIA ROBINSON SHIMIZU IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
A week ago, my husband and I spent the day knocking on doors and apologizing to our neighbors. The night before, I had called 911 for an ambulance to transport our schizophrenic son to the hospital. Again. He didn’t want to go. Again.
He pushed me away from the phone and began raging at the 911 operator as we ran from the house. Almost immediately, there were two police officers on our front lawn. Our son stood in the kitchen, shouting at them to leave. They called for backup; four, then six officers on the front lawn. Patrol cars blocked traffic on the narrow street in front of our North Hollywood, Calif., home. Our son called 911 again, screaming, shouting: “There are police officers here, make them go away!”
I tried to reason with the police: “We just need an ambulance.” But by this time, it was out of my hands. Two more officers arrived and ordered me to the edge of my yard, away from the view of the kitchen window. Another pair of officers pulled me aside, asking me what had happened. “I called an ambulance,” I said, watching two more officers stride across the brown lawn. One, her dark hair pulled back in a tight bun, carried a shotgun wrapped in what looked like bright green cloth. She paused to smile at me, “Just bean bags, not lethal,” and stood at the ready under the mulberry tree.
We have been through this so many times before. We’ve heard all the arguments from well-meaning people about how Big Pharma is bad and that we should try diet or therapy or other things. But from here in the mental health trenches, the reality is very simple. When our son takes his prescribed psychotropic medications, no one would ever suspect the depth of his illness. But when he is off his meds, he is unable to eat, sleep, bathe or make sense. He is overtaken by delusions: The Red Hot Chili Peppers have used his name without his permission; sitting on his guitar case is the same as playing the guitar. He regularly becomes violent when we suggest he should resume his medication or stop smoking pot. Oh, yes, pot. Research has shown that marijuana use is toxic to schizophrenics, that it exacerbates psychosis. It was an astounding surprise to me that marijuana could be so dangerous.
As more and more officers arrived, my cell phone rang. Our son. I held the phone away from my ear so my husband and I could both hear it. “How could you do this to me? I hate you! Stop being my mom!”
There was still no ambulance, but now officers had pulled the screen from the dining room window and climbed inside. There were shouts, thumping and thrashing as they tackled our son. Four officers carried him down the front steps, howling and spitting. They pulled a hood over his head, handcuffed him, hobbled him with an ankle leash of thick webbed nylon and set him on the curb.
This is his sixth hospitalization in less than a year and comes just eight days after his previous discharge. At 24, he is no longer covered by our insurance, but this may be to his advantage. We’ve been told he can now access services through the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, and we’re hopeful there may be more options for him now.
With severe mental illness, nothing is certain. Except that we owed our neighbors an apology for the disruption. It felt odd, standing on doorsteps of neighbors we hardly know, telling them we were sorry. All those who answered their doors were quick to wave our apology away: “No, no, no problem.”
We were hesitant to share our story with our neighbors, but giving up the pretense of privacy offers us a chance to be free of the burden and shame of this mystifying illness. By being open, we may even be able to help someone. Our letter to our neighbors included information about NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an all-volunteer grass-roots organization dedicated to helping individuals and families living with mental illness.
Our odyssey has taught us many things, but none more important than these: Mental illness is no one’s fault. Treatment works. There is hope.
SPOTLIGHT NANCY McVEY : Octogenarian just refuses to quit
FAYETTEVILLE - The living room walls in Nancy McVey's condominium are painted pale yellow, magnifying the sunlight so that the room looks like an indoor garden. Like her home, she looks on the bright side of life, approaching troubles with a positive attitude.
She recently visited her son, Kelly, in Michigan, during one of his monthly furlough weeks from work. At least, she reminds him, he has a job. When her husband, Kent, was alive, they enjoyed traveling - the Mediterranean, Europe, the Galapagos Islands.
The couple were on their way to a two-week time share when he passed out while driving 70 miles per hour on cruise control. She turned off the Dodge Caravan and waited for impact with a tree. "Fortunately it didn't involve anybody else," she says.
Fearing her husband was dead, she headed to the roadside for help. A truck driver drove right by her, getting in the other lane instead of pulling over. Not so with a woman driver, and the next woman. They prayed for her husband, still trapped in the van, and a third woman arrived, having called 9-1-1. McVey calls the women her three "good Samaritan angels."
After an exam at the hospital, doctors discovered Kent had a brain tumor. He went to Little Rock for an operation and a round of chemotherapy and radiation - and never got sick from the treatments. Then, more tumors appeared.
After his death in 2001, just two months after their 50th wedding anniversary, Nancy McVey approached the pastor at her church, Central United Methodist. She said she wanted to "witness," or share the meaning of this experience, with her fellow churchgoers. The pastor asked her to do that for all three services.
She spoke about the three women, how her husband never got sick from his treatment and how he was energetic right up to the end. He was at a Rotary meeting two weeks before his death, and people were truly surprised when he died, because he didn't seem sick.
She'd just lost her life mate, and she was counting her blessings. "If you really stop and think, you'll count blessings," she told the congregation. "And you need to thank God for them."
Kent McVey had worked 41 years for Standard Register, his only employer. He was offered jobs supervising either 41 people in Dayton or four people in Fayetteville.
He almost didn't take the job in Fayetteville because he didn't have supervisory experience. His wife suggested he might take the job so he could get that experience. So he became the plant manager and eventually retired from there.
Still, she wasn't sure about living in a small town, and "came sort of kicking and screaming." But she adjusted, and she quickly got involved. After he died, her two sons and daughter asked if she wanted to stay in Fayetteville. She can visit them, her 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren whenever she wants. But this had become home. "My friends and my church are my support group," she says.
McVey, 81, has been helping people ever since she moved here 50 years ago, even though she worked full time for several years as manager of Norm, a furniture store.
Her neighbors, the first couple she met, got her involved in the local mental-health association. She served on the local, state and national boards. At that time, there was no way to dispense prescription drugs for the mentally ill locally, so a doctor came up monthly from Little Rock to see patients.
"The idea was to get an actual center started," she says. They did that when she and the late Betty Lighton helped start Ozark Guidance Center in Springdale.
When McVey answered an ad for a volunteer probation officer for juvenile court, she said she thought she was sort of old to work with troubled youngsters. They told her she was perfect because they needed someone who was a "grandmotherly type."
When she volunteered for Rape Crisis, she answered the phone and offered support to women. She also went with victims to the hospital for exams, sometimes two women in one night. If a rape case went to trial, she stood there with the woman, too.
McVey was working once a week at the Washington Regional Medical Center gift shop when she filled out the application for Faith in Action. On it, she simply said she wanted to help people.
She didn't want to clean houses, so that mostly meant driving people to medical appointments and beauty parlor visits. She often took one woman in her 90s, who never married and never learned to drive, to the doctor.
McVey also became good friends with a widow whom she met while they were hospital volunteers. The woman lived alone until the last two years of her life, which were spent at a nursing home. McVey visited her every day, and she was there when the woman died at 100.
"It's just very fulfilling to be able to help someone else and hopefully enhance their lives," says McVey, who has worked with Faith in Action for 10 years.
She's also a member of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, which gives her the opportunity to keep her finger on the pulse of the community. She typically serves as a diplomat, attending new-business ribbon cuttings. She also enjoys the intellectual aspect of discussing business.
"This community has been so wonderful to Kent and me," she says. "And now that he's gone, I feel very strongly now that I need to pay back in some way to the community for what they've done for us." "I feel like I've had a pretty full life, and an interesting one," she says.
For fun, she plays Bunco with members of a couple of groups.
Arkansas First Lady Ginger Beebe compared mental illness to a butterfly's metamorphosis on Friday.
"Those who suffer with mental illness struggle to be free, much like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon," she said. "They struggle for a diagnosis, and they struggle to find a facility that can treat them. But once they find that treatment, they emerge more beautiful than before." Beebe served as keynote speaker during Ozark Guidance's second annual Butterfly Festival. The event takes place each May, as a culmination to Mental Health Month. This year's butterfly release took place at the Gerald and Vicki Harp Park on the Springdale main campus.
"It's important for us all to remember why we're here today," said master of ceremonies Jennifer Irwin, of radio station Magic 107.9. "One in five people will experience mental illness. It's a disease that affects more people than cancer, diabetes and heart disease." According to Irwin, mental illness ranks as the No. 1 reason for hospital admissions nationwide.
Friday's event, dubbed "Metamorphosis: Freedom Through Mental Health," featured the release of more than 500 monarch butterflies. The release signified the thousands of Northwest Arkansas residents living with mental illness who have hope for a better future. Specifically, the butterflies represented those being treated with mental illness, those struggling with the disease, those who care for the mentally ill, and those who've lost their lives.
"People with mental illness suffer every day," Irwin said. "Unfortunately, it's a disease that has negative stigma in society. This is a time to not only reflect on the lives that are broken or lost, but also a time to recognized those who've recovered." In honor of Mental Health Month this year, Ozark Guidance has launched the Live Your Life Well campaign to provide people with specific, research-based tools that can combat stress and promote health and wellbeing.
"We don't have enough facilities in our state to treat those affected with mental illness," Beebe said. "Northwest Arkansas is very lucky to have Ozark Guidance. It helps those suffering emerge from their cocoonlike state to go on living long, wonderful lives." Beebe, who's known for being a mental health advocate in Arkansas, named Ozark Guidance as the largest mental health facility the state. "Mental illness is a disease, and it needs to be talked about," she said. "We need to raise as much funding and awareness as we can."
Located at 2400 S. 48th St. in Springdale, Ozark Guidance is a nonprofit, private community mental health center with satellite offices in Bentonville, Berryville, Fayetteville, Huntsville and Siloam Springs. The facility treats those suffering with mental illness through a variety of treatments, including individual counseling, education and rehabilitation.
Butterflies released during Friday's ceremony were available for purchase through the Ozark Guidance Foundation. Proceeds will benefit children's mental health services in Northwest Arkansas.
Travis Jenkins, MD, has been a steadfast advocate and skilled service provider for persons with mental illness in Northwest Arkansas at Ozark Guidance for 35 years. He received his medical degree from UAMS and completed his residency at the William Hall Psychiatric Institute in South Carolina where he served as Chief Resident.
In 1973, Jenkins joined Ozark Guidance and served as Medical Director for over 30 years. During his tenure he helped grow the organization to the largest community mental health center in Arkansas. The care, education, and training Dr. Jenkins provided has touched the lives of thousands of area residents and improved the health and well-being of those individuals, their families, and the community at large.
Ozark Guidance President and CEO Tom Petrizzo says, “Travis has not just helped thousands of individuals and families throughout his career at Ozark Guidance, but he has done so with great dignity, utmost professionalism, and flair. When I’m out in the community I regularly hear outstanding comments from former clients or family members of clients that he helped.”
Recently, Dr. Jenkins became Chief Medical Officer Emeritus for Ozark Guidance. In this new role, he will continue his excellent clinical work, but also be an ambassador, trainer, and historian for Ozark Guidance and the local mental health community.
From the Siloam Springs Herald, October 12, 2008
Throughout the year, the mental health of local students is overseen by two collaborating entities in Siloam Springs.
In addition to in-school counselors hired and employed by the Siloam Springs School District, for the past nine years, counselors and case managers from Ozark Guidance Center have also had a strong presence within local schools.
“ We are here to try to provide mental health services for kids and families more intensive than school counselors might be able to address, ” said Blaine Hubbard, coordinator over OGC school-based services for Siloam Springs and surrounding areas. “ We have offices at all of the schools and deal with many of the longterm issues that our students face. ”
Since 1970, Ozark Guidance Center has heralded itself as a private, Joint Commission-accredited, non-profit community provider committed to the goal of bettering mental health in Northwest Arkansas. The agency has presence in Washington, Benton, Madison and Carroll counties.
Similar to school counselors, OGC professionals are licensed by the state.
Siloam Springs School District shares nine master degree holding OGC counselors, nine case managers and multiple community resource personnel with nearby schools, Hubbard said.
“ In such a large population of students there are always going to be students who have a wide range of problems that take an extraordinary amount of time and attention to help them work through their issues and find ways to cope and adjust, ” District Assistant Superintendent Kent Raymick said. “ It is very difficult for our regular school counselors to adequately provide those services and OGC fills the void very effectively. ”
Completely separate from the OGC services, for the past several years, the local school district has employed a set of licensed professional counselors to serve students attending Siloam Springs schools.
With only one or two onstaff counselors positioned within each school and enrollment at an all-time high, the additional services provided by OGC are a welcome supplement to existing services, said Raymick.
“ The local schools and superintendents have been so great in helping with our services and giving us space in the schools, ” Hubbard said. “ We want the families and the schools involved — if they aren’t on board, we’re in trouble. ”
Less than 15 counselors are listed on the district’s payroll, and with a recent enrollment report of 3, 759 students within the district and population expected to rise in upcoming years, the extra help is welcome for intensive, lengthy issues. Anywhere from 10 to 40 student clients per school are served by OGC counselors each week, Hubbard said. In addition to providing onsite clinical services, OGC staff handle crisis intervention, some ancillary clinical services and individual, group and family counseling. “ I know without their services many students would not receive the level and depth of help they need and deserve, ” Raymick said. “ That is not meant to be indictment of our regular school counselors. They do a fantastic job as well in dealing with students ' issues, but the reality is that the expectations and job responsibilities they have in working in public school is so wide-ranging that it is next to impossible for them to handle all of the problems and issues that many of children face in their struggles with emotional and social issues or home situations that put them at high risk of dropping out of school or worse. ” Individual schools provide OGC representatives office space and telephone services on campus but are not required to make payment for services rendered.
As per the agreement between the district and OGC, services are paid by thirdparty reimbursement, which includes private insurance, federal program reimbursement or payment from individual families. “ Kids come referred to us from a variety of places — their parents, the court system, schools, physicians, ” Hubbard said. “ We do what we can to find a funding source. We try to help the parents as much as we can. The most important factor in all of this is the success of the child. ”
On average, students referred to OGC services spend one hour per week with a counselor and one hour per week with a case worker.
Students receive services during school hours and are removed from classes during the least intrusive times possible according to Hubbard.
With parental consent, OGC counselors consult with teachers and occasionally visit client homes after-hours for family sessions.
“It makes a huge difference for these kids if everyone is working together for them, ” Hubbard said. “ Both the parents and the kids feel much more supported when we’re all on the same page. ”
Within the next couple of months, OGC plans to open a therapeutic day treatment center in Siloam Springs.
Over the summer, OGC purchased the building located at Harvard and Carl streets that was formerly occupied by the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club.
“We hope to have it up and running very soon, ” Hubbard said. “ We’ll be able to provide both therapy and education simultaneously. It will be a more intensified service. ”
The 8, 000-square foot building is currently undergoing renovations that include dividing the building into classroom space.
When the center opens, 15 to 20 OGC employees will work at the new site that will host students for eight hours per school day.
The day site will have the capability to serve more than 30 students.
“This will be really good for the community and kids who need it once it gets going, ” Hubbard said. “ We’ll help develop structure, discipline, learning, with the ultimate goal of getting them back into the schools. ”
The Ozark Guidance Foundation hosted their 13th annual golf tournament on Friday, August 15 at Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club in Fayetteville. This year’s tournament raised more than $40,000 through cash & in-kind donations. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit children’s counseling services. Annually Ozark Guidance provides counseling services for over 4,000 children.
The first place teams in both the morning & afternoon flights were presented with The Reinert Cup, named in honor & memory of the late Jerry Reinert, former president of First Security Bank Springdale. Mr. Reinert was a 12-year member of the Ozark Guidance Foundation Board of Trustees and chaired the inaugural golf tournament in 1995.
The morning flight Reinert Cup winners was the KNWA team, which posted a low gross score of 56. Team members included Dan Scoff, Travis Spieth, Patrick Guyton, and Norm DeBriyn. An afternoon low gross score of 53 secured the Reinert Cup for the Democrat-Gazette team whose team members included Hector Cueva, Matt Dura, Aaron Hargis and David Long.
Major underwriters of the tournament were Tyson Foods and Packaging Specialties. Tournament sponsors included Arvest Bank of Springdale, AstraZeneca, Gerald Harp Properties, Prairie Grove Telephone Company, The Schmieding Foundation, First Security Bank, Catering Unlimited, Longer Investments, National Home Center, and Signature Bank of Arkansas. Media Sponsor were CitiScapes, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Morning News, KNWA and KIX-104. A Rolex watch was provided by Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry as the hole-in-one sponsor. Red Ball Productions supplied tents and tables for the BBQ lunch provided for all golfers & volunteers by Catering Unlimited. In all, 39 teams competed in the morning & afternoon flights.
On Tuesday, August 12, at the annual Mental Health Council of Arkansas convention in Hot Springs, Fred Vorsanger was honored for his years of dedicated service to the needs of persons with mental illness in Northwest Arkansas.
For many years, Vorsanger has been committed to the growth and continued financial success of Ozark Guidance. Under his leadership, the Ozark Guidance Foundation grew to a permanent endowment in excess of $3 million and there are partially restricted foundation funds in excess of $1 million. He was instrumental in the growth of these funds through his personal efforts and diligence in communicating and working with local donors and family foundations in Northwest Arkansas.
During his tenure on the Ozark Guidance Foundation Board, Vorsanger contributed countless volunteer hours hosting Foundation fundraising events, such as golf tournaments, dinners, and most recently a successful butterfly release. He is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Foundation remain strong so that it furthers the mission of the Ozark Guidance. Under his leadership on the endowment fund committee, a portion of the endowment earnings are added to the Ozark Guidance operating budget each year in an effort to promote and retain the vital mental services needed for the clients and families served by Ozark Guidance.
The Board of Directors and the staff of Ozark Guidance are extremely proud that the Mental Health Council of Arkansas awarded its 2008 Community Service Award to Fred Vorsanger for his dedication and unselfish commitment to the residents of our Northwest Arkansas.
Vorsanger is a Vice President Emeritus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and currently is the arena administrator for the Bud Walton Arena. He served on the Board of Directors of the Ozark Guidance from 1990 to 1994. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Ozark Guidance Foundation since 1994, and currently holds the position of Board Chair. He served as Vice Chair of the Foundation Board starting in 1995, and has served as Chair for the last six years.
Vorsanger has been a tireless supporter of the University of Arkansas, its students, and the broader community of Northwest Arkansas. He served as Mayor of Fayetteville and as President of the Fayetteville Rotary, as well as District Governor of the Rotary District, which encompasses Northwest Arkansas.
8/4/08: CHICAGO (Reuters) - Adding estrogen to routine medication helped reduce the number of psychotic symptoms in women with schizophrenia, researchers said on Monday.
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