About one-third of college students (32%) report that stress impedes their academic performance.


Doing Good - Therapeutic Foster Care Program

Dr. Randy Staley accepts Associate Chief Medical Officer for Ozark Guidance

Ozark Guidance is pleased to announce that Dr. Randy Staley has accepted the position of Associate Chief Medical Officer with Ozark Guidance. Dr. Staley joined the Ozark Guidance team three years ago as a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

“Dr. Staley’s expertise in child and adolescent psychiatry, general psychiatry and pediatrics have been a wonderful resource and support for the work we are doing and I believe will prove to be even more valuable in his new leadership role,” Dr. Lance Foster, Ozark Guidance Chief Medical Officer, said.

Dr. Staley is board eligible in General Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Pediatrics. He earned his medical degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine in Little Rock. He completed his residency training in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. He served as chief resident in his final year of training. Dr. Staley is professionally affiliated with the American Medical Association and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Staley’s new role will include supervising advanced practice nurses and psychiatric residents, supporting training and education throughout the center, taking a lead role as liaison to the medical community of Northwest Arkansas and continued clinical work in our child and adult division.

The Ozark Guidance mission is saving and changing lives by providing compassionate, quality mental health services. Ozark Guidance is a local non-profit community mental health center that serves over 14,500 Northwest Arkansas residents including 4,800 children each year. Comprehensive mental health services are available for adults and children at clinics located in Bentonville, Berryville, Huntsville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale and Siloam Springs. For information call Staci Clinkscales 479-750-2020 or visit the web site at www.ozarkguidance.org

Ozark Guidance Develops Auxiliary

Ozark Guidance recently formed an Ozark Guidance Auxiliary to allow more community leaders to become involved in the advancement of the Ozark Guidance mission and to help breakdown the stigma associated with mental illness. 

According to Tom Petrizzo, CEO, “Mental illness is a medical condition.  With proper treatment and care, individuals can lead a very satisfying and productive life.  Mental illness is more prevalent than cancer, heart disease and diabetes, yet people are reluctant to talk about mental illness. The Auxiliary will give more people an opportunity to become directly involved with Ozark Guidance and hopefully spread the word to friends and family that it’s okay and very normal to receive counseling and treatment for a mental disorder.”

Members of the Ozark Guidance Auxiliary will assist with the coordination of special events and provide volunteer assistance in some of the Ozark Guidance’s service programs.  Presently, the Auxiliary has 25 active members who include: Mitzi Traxson, Karen Gray, Mandy Mackey, Carrie Murphy, David Bates, Jennifer Irwin, Shelly Haynes, William Henke, Susan Henke, Marsha Reinert, Gilda Underwood, Kelly Zega, Summer Wright, Amiee York, Susana O’Daniel, Kristin Guyton, Matthew Brown, Annette King, Danny Dotson, Mary Sparks, Marty Yarbrough, Amy Anschutz, Susan Upchurch, Melanie Charlton, Travis Spieth and Misti Snow.

Membership on the Auxiliary is open to anyone who has an interest and a passion for giving their time and talent to support the Ozark Guidance mission: Saving and changing lives by providing compassionate, quality mental health services. Individuals who are interested in learning more about the Auxiliary should contact Jane Guyton, Executive Vice President of the Ozark Guidance Foundation. “We are very excited to have such quality individuals joining our Auxiliary.  Next year Ozark Guidance will celebrate its 40th Birthday. It would have been impossible to sustain the quality of our services without the support of our community volunteers.  The Auxiliary provides a more structured method for people to become connected to our mission,” Guyton commented.

The Auxiliary executive committee consists of Chair, David Bates, Vice-Chair, Amiee York, and team leaders Karen Gray, Shelly Haynes, Jennifer Irwin, and Susana O’Daniel.  According to David Bates, the Chair of the newly formed auxiliary, “It is an honor to help build the OGC Auxiliary and to become an advocate for one of the oldest, largest, and most successful non-profits in Northwest Arkansas”.

OG Celebrates 40 Years of Excellence

Ozark Guidance (OG) will celebrate 40 years of providing mental health services for the residents of Northwest Arkansas in 2010. CEO and President, Tom Petrizzo announced that the press conference will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Springdale Country Club. Governor Beebe will be sending his liaison, Joyce Dees, for Health and Human Services to participate in the press conference and Don Tyson, one of OG’s earliest, essential supporters and other founding Board members will be honored at the ceremony. The press conference will include an unveiling of the new Ozark Guidance logo, a special blue bird designed by Terra Studios to mark this hallmark occasion for OG, and the launching of a mental wellness awareness campaign for 2010.  


After the accompanying luncheon, the guests will enjoy a cake challenge contest with four local participating bakeries: Brick House Kitchen, Harps Bakery, Rick’s Bakery and Shelby Lynn’s Cake Shoppe. The guests will sample the cakes and select the one with the best taste and design to become the official baker for Ozark Guidance’s 40th Anniversary celebrations. Jane Guyton, Executive Vice President of the Ozark Guidance foundation explained that Ozark Guidance will be hosting several special events throughout 2010 to mark this milestone in the history of OG and Northwest Arkansas. “We will also be launching a special mental wellness awareness campaign with teal as our banding color”, Guyton said. She also commented that Ozark Guidance is planning several events throughout the year to help NWA residents to better understand mental illnesses and to help break down the barriers and stigmas associated with mental illness. 


Ozark Guidance is a local not-for-profit organization with locations in Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville, Rogers, Siloam Springs, Eureka Springs, Huntsville and Berryville. All services for children and adults are focused on the mission: Saving and changing lives by providing quality, compassionate mental health services for all people.

Annually Ozark Guidance provides services for over 14,000 Northwest Arkansas residents including over 4,500 children.

Ozark Guidance Goes Smoke-Free

On Monday, October 5, 2009, Ozark Guidance facilities will go smoke-free. This decision was made by executive leaders with input from a number of staff members.

Tom Petrizzo, President and CEO, said the rationale for going smoke-free was three-fold. “As an employer, Ozark Guidance has an obligation to create the healthiest, safest and most supportive work environment for its employees. Across the country, thousands of entities have implemented the smoke-free work environment and property policies. The results of these initiatives are overwhelmingly positive in the initiation of smoking cessation efforts by and for employees.”   

“Second, as a healthcare service provider, Ozark Guidance’s goal is to provide the most comprehensive, cost-effective quality mental health care possible. And third, as a community member, Ozark Guidance provides leadership in increasing the health and well being of the community and is concerned with its having a positive influence in the community as well as maintaining expert status as a leader in the healthcare and mental health field in NW Arkansas. Ozark Guidance’s vision statement states we will lead the way in meeting the mental health needs of the people of NW Arkansas. Going smoke-free is consistent with that message and vision.”

To implement the smoke-free policy, a task force was formed to develop a multi-step action plan and to address any issues or barriers in the transition to smoke-free campuses. In August, employees were given the opportunity to attend smoking cessation classes free of charge and nicotine replacement therapy was made available at all sites. In September, smoke-free enforcement for employees began.

The last step in the smoke-free policy implementation process takes place Monday, October 5, with the removal of any remaining smoking receptacles, “butt” patrols at all sites, and smoke-free enforcement for clients, visitors, and contractors.

A Breakdown Next Door

From the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sunday, August 30, 2009:

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.

Dr. Catalina Melo interviewed on KNWA

More Americans Using Antidepressants, KNWA, Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Watch Video:  http://nwahomepage.com/content/fulltext/?cid=110641

"There are more people losing their jobs, more stress because of it," said Psychiatrist Catalina Melo. Dr. Melo's patients give her many reasons for being depressed - and sometimes she prescribes antidepressants to help them.

Between 1996 and 2005, the number of people taking antidepressant medications almost doubled in the US.

"It is a tool that can be very useful in some cases," Dr. Melo said.

According to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, in 1996 less than 6% of Americans used antidepressants. In 2005, that jumped to more than 10% of people taking the drugs, with roughly 27 million Americans on antidepressants.

Melo said those numbers have spiked because now there is less stigma associated with depression and mental illness.

"People are being more accepting of depression being an illness, so people are more prone to approach their physicians about symptoms," Melo said.

Although the drugs may help some, Dr. Melo stresses they shouldn't be prescribed unless needed - and they are anything but a quick fix.

"We see people who are very ill, and an antidepressant can be lifesaving, but there are other things like exercise, or the way that you eat or your relationships, that are just as important," Dr. Melo said.


Family Health Today with Dr. Lance Foster

Watch Chief Medical Officer Lance Foster, MD on the Jones TV Network show "Family Health Today" discussing the importance of mental health and wellness. (From May 2009)


Ozark Guidance Represented at Hill Day

The National Council of Community Behavioral Healthcare recently organized its annual national Hill Day. Hill Day is an opportunity for council members from around the country to come together in Washington D.C. to attend briefings on health and mental health policy issues and meet with their senators and representatives.  

Ozark Guidance president and chief executive officer, Tom Petrizzo, was chosen to be among the Arkansas delegation. The goal is to advocate for the needs of member centers at the national level. Advocacy issues this year included the inclusion of mental health care in any health-care reform legislation, to provide community mental health perspective on rule writing to enact mental health parity legislation that was passed last year, to advocate for an increase of $100 million nationwide in the mental health block grant, which has not been increased in 15 years, and to advocate for the creation of federally qualified behavioral health-care status for community mental health centers.

Petrizzo and the Arkansas group met with U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, U.S. Reps. John Boozman, Marion Berry, Vic Snyder and Mike Ross and staff of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor.

Octogenarian Just Refuses to Quit

SPOTLIGHT NANCY McVEY : Octogenarian just refuses to quit
BY MICHELLE PARKS Posted on Sunday, June 28, 2009    URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/Northwest_Profiles/263056/
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.


First Lady Likens Mental Illness to Butterfly’s Metamorphosis

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.

Plummer Celebrates 30 Years at Ozark Guidance

From the Siloam Springs Herald Leader, by Jessica Weekley

A fairly consistent stream of humility and faith in humanity have become a theme in Charles Plummer's life.

"I was alive when President Kennedy was making his speeches, I was around during the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," he said. "I guess you could say I got the bug. That's what really started making me want to be in the field of social work." During his meager beginnings as a young boy watching the earth-changing political churning of the early 1960s, Plummer decided that he too would undertake a cause greater than himself.

As an extension of that ultimate dream, this year commemorates Plummer's 30th anniversary working for Ozark Guidance, a private non profit community health center. Since 2000, after being transferred from an Ozark Guidance office in Springdale where he worked for 20 years, he has served as director of the Siloam Springs' center on Holly Street. "Working here for 30 years is certainly an accomplishment but my goal is 45," Plummer said. "So really, I'm not there yet. I'm only two-thirds of the way."

Plummer attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where he earned a degree in social work. In 1979, when Plummer was 22 years old, he was hired by David Williams, the former chief executive officer of Ozark Guidance.  Despite the fact that the company didn't have any positions available at the time, Plummer applied, convinced his way into an interview and got the job he had been hoping for.  "I thought then and I have always thought since that if you want to be in the mental health field in this area OG is where you want to be," Plummer said. "Since the beginning my personal and professional ideas have been in harmony with those of the company."

Today, at 52 years old, he still carries a hefty patient load, oversees adult and child outpatient services and manages school based services and a local therapeutic day treatment center. He works over 40 Ozark Guidance employees in Gravette, Gentry, Decatur and Siloam Springs.  "Before we opened this building we probably delivered 1,000 hours of direct care to patients," he said. "In the next year we will deliver over 250,000 hours. I don't think any of us ever expected it to be this big."

In the years since Plummer started work with the company, Ozark Guidance has burgeoned from an original team of less than 40 employees to more than 600 today.  His seasoned resume highlights such accomplishments as originating the state's statewide Project Graduation program in 1989. For 10 years prior to beginning Project Graduation, he worked as the director for an alcohol safety program that is directed toward educating court ordered DWI offenders.  "The alcohol safety stuff really became my cause and what really pulled me in because at the time 35,000 people in the United States were killed in alcohol related incidents," he said. "All of those deaths were preventable." 

A major point in DWI school that Plummer emphasized was not that it's wrong to drink alcohol, but that it's irresponsible to drink and then drive.  "Law enforcement catches approximately one in 500 people who are out drinking and driving - one in 500, can you believe that?" he said. "I told the students, 'I know that you're mad that you were caught for drinking and driving, that you got a DWI and that you had to pay a fine, but you weren't one of those 35,000 that were killed."  In attempting to develop a culture based around the unacceptability of drinking and driving, developing promotional campaigns and peddling the information on the streets, Plummer stumbled upon the idea of Project Graduation.  "Project Graduation is kind of a legacy," he said. "We started it a long time ago, so many schools picked it up, and hopefully it will go on forever as a safe alternative for graduating seniors."

In the late 1980s and early 90s, Plummer also worked as Director and therapist for Habberton House, a psychiatric hospital for children. After his five year stint at the 33 bed hospital, he moved on to work at a Therapeutic Day Treatment Service Center where he designed, developed and managed clinical programming for the center's client base among other things.

In his long career, Plummer has consistently worked in both adult and children outpatient services, he said.  The strength to serve the community over the years doesn't come solely from within, Plummer noted. A background of being raised under the watchful eye of two very strong, independent women ushered him to the position in which he stands today.  "My mom, a single parent who raised seven children, worked on a assembly line to keep us fed," he said. "Everything that I learned about service, determination and dedication I learned from her."

In 1970, Plummer's mother, Jenious Alexander, moved her children from the Bay area of California to Sulphur Springs in search of a better life for the family.  Along with six of her children, Alexander moved in with her mother-in-law who was known for her pioneer style and ability to beat her teenage grandsons at arm wrestling.  "Grandma taught me about respect and the importance of taking care of seniors," Plummer said. "I remember going out with her to check on our elderly neighbors and going grocery shopping for them."

At 14, Plummer got a job working in construction and began saving money. With the help of a brother, he was able to put a down payment on the home that his mother still lives in today.

A family friend and mentor, Al Dunagin of Gravette, was another of the mentors peppered throughout Plummer's childhood. Believing in the young boy from California, Dunagin made it financially possibly for Plummer to attend college.  "He helped me get where I needed to be but I didn't know what I wanted to do when I first went to school," Plummer said. "I stayed in the dorm, took one psychology class, and I was hooked."

Today, with two children of his own, Nikki and Matthew, Plummer visits his mother often and never hesitates to reminisce about the roots that paved the path to his life's work.

"This just feels like what I was supposed to do, it's my calling," he said. "When we moved here as kids this area gave so much to our family and this is my way of giving back."  While serving in a central position of authority, Plummer makes it a point to take things one day at a time, treat individual clients with care, be fair with employees and relax when possible.

"It still strikes me as funny sometimes," Plummer said. "I've been here for 30 years and now I hire people right out of grad school that are 22 or 23 - just like I was. I still view myself as one of them."

Increasing Inpatient Beds:  A Team Effort

Behavioral Healthcare Magazine
Issue Date: May 2009
Increasing inpatient beds: A team effort
Multiple stakeholders work together to add beds in Northwest Arkansas
by Tom Petrizzo, MSW, JD
Many communities struggle with an inadequate number of inpatient psychiatric beds. This problem was particularly acute in Northwest Arkansas, a growing area of the state. To address this situation, multiple stakeholders came together to open a new 28-bed adult inpatient psychiatric unit at Northwest Medical Center-Springdale. This is a story about the importance of collaborating to meet a desperate community need.
The problem
Northwest Arkansas is a growing community comprised of four counties with nearly 450,000 residents and is home to the corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Tyson Foods, Inc.; and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. These large companies have fueled the area's economic engine and population growth to such a degree that locals call this situation the “Arkansas miracle.”
In the recent past, the adult inpatient mental health needs of Northwest Arkansas residents were served by a local hospital's inpatient psychiatric unit. However, that unit closed in 2002, lowering the area's bed capacity to fewer than 2 beds per 100,000 residents.
The local community mental health center, Ozark Guidance Center, has five contracted beds at a private, stand-alone psychiatric hospital in Fayetteville. When those beds were full, which occurred frequently, the mental health center sent patients to hospitals in Tulsa, Oklahoma (2 hours from Fayetteville); Joplin, Missouri (90 minutes); and Little Rock (3 hours). These distant choices separated patients from their local supports, families, and providers, and made continuity of care a real challenge.
In 2002, a county judge pulled together a panel of local leaders to discuss a solution. The group developed a blueprint to reopen the unit at a local general hospital. Yet after two years of intense study, planning, and discussion, the hospital initially chosen to operate the unit declined, citing financial and risk concerns.
In 2005, the Care Foundation, Inc., a local community foundation, stepped up to facilitate another series of meetings among community stakeholders, including representatives of three local hospitals, Ozark Guidance, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Psychiatric Research Institute. Out of this group, Northwest Medical Center-Springdale stepped up to host the inpatient unit on a vacant floor that was ready to be remodeled.
Northwest Arkansas Acute Care Mental Health Task Force (left to right): Cris Arias, director of psychiatric services, Washington Regional Medical Center; Michael Hollomon, MD, medical director, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Psychiatric Research Institute (PRI)-Northwest; Lee Christenson, chief operating officer, Northwest Medical Center-Springdale; Tom Petrizzo, MSW, JD, president and CEO, Ozark Guidance Center; Judy Smith, clinical manager, UAMS PRI-Northwest; Jan Huneycutt Lightner, program officer, Care Foundation; Laura Tyler, PhD, administrator, UAMS PRI; Michele Stewart, chief operations officer/chief nurse executive, Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas; Tom O'Neal, consultant/facilitator, Care Foundation. Photographer: Greg Russell
Defining roles
A four-part plan was developed to make the unit a reality. First was defining the local stakeholders' roles.
Figure. The stakeholders' roles and contractual relationships (as of press time).
         Northwest Health System (parent of Northwest Medical Center-Springdale) is the unit operator and facility manager.
         The UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute is the unit's medical director and staffs the unit with psychiatrists and residents.
         Ozark Guidance is the local screener of patients needing inpatient care, the fiscal intermediary for start-up and operating funds allocated by the Arkansas General Assembly, and the purchaser of inpatient beds for uninsured patients.
         The Care Foundation facilitates the stakeholder group and provided start-up funds.
         Washington Regional Medical Center in neighboring Fayetteville and Mercy Medical Center in nearby Rogers are financial contributors to offset primary care needs of patients on the unit who do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover their primary care needs.
The plan's second part was securing adequate funding to remodel the floor and sustain ongoing operations.
In 2005 and 2007, the state legislature appropriated state General Improvement Funds (GIF) for inpatient psychiatric services. The total GIF amount from both sessions was just over $2 million. Approximately one-half of the total GIF amount dedicated to the project was held in the governor's fund, over which the governor had absolute discretion to release or hold the funds for other state needs as he saw fit.
In March 2008, the stakeholder group began advocating to have the governor release the GIF dollars so the unit could be remodeled. Initially, the governor's office was not receptive to releasing the funds because of uncertainty about total state tax revenues for the fiscal year and because of many infrastructure needs due to an unusual number of violent storms, tornadoes, and floods in Central Arkansas in February and March 2008. After much effort, the stakeholder group successfully obtained the governor's release of the GIF dollars in July 2008. The table summarizes the inpatient unit's funding, including the GIF dollars.
Table. Funding for the new inpatient unit
Remodel and start-up expenses
General Improvement Funds (GIF)
State legislature and governor
Start-up costs (hiring staff, purchasing supplies and equipment)
Care Foundation, Inc.
Operating expenses
Uninsured bed subsidies
Up to, 100,000/year
State funds paid to Ozark Guidance
Primary care services for those who do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover their primary care needs
Up to, 000 per source/year
Mercy Medical Center and Washington Regional Medical Center
Inpatient care
Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance
 The group planned a media event in early August in which the governor would come to Springdale and announce the release of the funds to Ozark Guidance (the designated fiscal intermediary) and make statements in support of the stakeholder group's efforts to serve the mental healthcare needs of the citizens of Northwest Arkansas. Yet on the day the governor was to make his announcement, the state Democratic Party's chair was shot and killed in his office in a random act of violence. Unfortunately, this emergency necessitated the governor's absence from the event; he was actually en route to Springdale but instructed the pilot to return to Little Rock.
The stakeholder group received news of the shooting 20 minutes before the announcement and public comments were to occur. After much debate, the group decided to go forward with the announcement despite the governor's absence. TV and print media professionals as well as more than 100 community members, including legislators and local city officials, had assembled to hear the governor's remarks. After the announcement, a reception was held at Ozark Guidance. The governor attended a more celebratory reception at Northwest Medical Center-Springdale last month.
The plan's third part was maintaining adequate communication among the parties so that critical information would flow and forward momentum would continue. Since late 2007, meetings were held monthly, and once the governor released the GIF dollars in July 2008, the stakeholder group shifted to weekly conference calls to maintain the flow of communication, coordinate media and public relations efforts, and begin discussions about operating the unit.
Throughout the unit's planning, media coverage and community awareness played a vital role in keeping a spotlight on the stakeholder group's efforts, reminding community leaders of the great need for the adult inpatient unit in Northwest Arkansas. After the public announcement last August, two local newspapers ran editorials stating what a great day it was for Northwest Arkansas to be on the verge of having more adult inpatient psychiatric beds available. One was titled “After six years, help is on the way,” and the other was titled simply “Glory be.”
Staffing and operations
The plan's fourth part was staffing and operating the unit. The stakeholder group agreed that the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute would staff the unit with psychiatrists and residents and serve as the unit's medical director, while Northwest Health System would staff the unit with nurses and clinical support personnel. Northwest Health System also contracted with Horizon Health Corp. to provide unit management services, including strategic planning, financial pro-forma preparation, unit design and floor configuration, staffing recommendations, safety/security plans, and marketing strategies.
In conjunction with Horizon Health, the stakeholder group drafted protocols for admission, continued stay, and discharge, as well as a menu of primary care consult services with corresponding rates. The unit is scheduled to begin accepting patients this month.
Collaboration at its best
This initiative embodies one of the grand principles of providing behavioral healthcare services in an era of shrinking resources and tightening budgets: collaboration. The collaboration exemplified by this project surpasses simple agreements to “work together” or “exchange referrals.” It is an unwavering commitment of time, resources, and dollars to create a vital service for a community. That is collaboration at its best.
Tom Petrizzo, MSW, JD, is the President and CEO of Ozark Guidance Center in Springdale, Arkansas. Founded in 1970, Ozark Guidance offers a continuum of mental health services for adults and children. It has 520 FTEs, 8 locations, and a $33 million budget for FY '09.
For more information, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Behavioral Healthcare 2009 May;29(5):12-17

CEO Tom Petrizzo on KNWA Today 5/14/09

Pack the Park Monday!
Reported by: KNWA Today
Thursday, May 14, 2009 @09:27am CST

Watch the Video of CEO Tom Petrizzo on KNWA Today:  http://nwahomepage.com/media_player.php?media_id=352991

Pack the Park 5/18 At Arvest Ballpark Monday, May 18 Come out and watch the NWA Naturals take on the Tulsa Drillers at 6:30 pm at Arvest Ballpark. Purchase discounted Reserved Seating tickets for $6 each and half the amount, $3 each, goes to Ozark Guidance. This is a better price than group rates. And it's the perfect opportunity to gather your family, friends, colleagues, or clients for a fun night at the ballpark and to Live Your Life Well! Funds raised will help Ozark Guidance save and change lives by providing compassionate, quality mental health

Mental Health Facility Unveiled

From the AR Democrat Gazette / NWA Times April 20, 2009:  http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/258451/

SPRINGDALE - Jerri Skaggs of Bentonville had to make do when the Northwest Arkansas region's only inpatient psychiatric unit for the most acute cases closed nine years ago. Back then, Skaggs depended on Highland Hall, an acute unit in Springdale, whenever her adult son's schizophrenia required emergency treatment.  But when Northwest Medical Center closed the 20-bed psychiatric unit in April 2002, Skaggs was left without the kind of support she needed to help her care for her son Chad Skaggs.  "I've had one or two crises with him since Highland Hall closed," Jerri Skaggs said. One time, her son was having seizures. Taking him to cities outside the area wasn't a good option for them.  "I'm not one of those people who've gone to Tulsa," she said, and Little Rock is even further from home when a frightening emergency occurs. "You need to be able to stay in the community."

Though her son needed a bed at a mental health unit designed for the most severe crises, she instead turned to an outpatient program offered by Ozark Guidance Center in Springdale, whose staff did its best.  On Wednesday, the Skaggses were on hand during an open house christening a long-awaited new mental health unit.  The new 29-bed Behavioral Health Unit will begin accepting its first patients Tuesday, officials said.  It will be hosted by the same hospital that closed its predecessor, but this time around there are six regional partners committed to making the unit a success.

The grassroots Northwest Arkansas Acute Care Mental Health Task Force spent years getting various groups to commit to the cause, resulting in the six-way partnership:  Northwest Health System renovated the vacant fourth floor of the north patient tower at its Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, which cost $1.9 million. The governor's office announced last August it had dedicated more than $2 million in General Improvement Funds for the unit - $1 million from Gov. Mike Beebe's share of the fund and legislative appropriations from the 2005 and 2007 sessions totaling more than $1 million.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' Psychiatric Research Institute will staff the unit with psychiatrists and psychiatry resident physicians. It also has established a small outpatient clinic to help patients before and after admission to the unit.  Ozark Guidance Center will dispense state funds to the unit. The center also will provide services such as screening, consultation, and pre- and post-admission outpatient help.  The nonprofit Care Foundation Inc. in Springdale will give up to $415,000 in startup costs during the first two years, and Washington Regional Medical Center and Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas each will give up to $65,000 a year to cover medical consultations for some low-income patients.

"It's been a long haul since the unit closed in 2000," said Tom Petrizzo, Ozark Guidance's chief executive officer, adding that the effort is unique in the nation. He and others credited his predecessor David L. Williams as a primary driving force behind the new mental health unit, along with former Washington County Judge Jerry Hunton and state Sen. Sue Madison.  The new unit formally was heralded as offering 28 beds, but officials giving a tour later in the morning said it was actually 29.

Beebe told about 200 people at the announcement that mental health services have been on the "front burner" at the state Capitol for the last decade, and that Northwest Arkansas has been "particularly underserved."  "Twenty-eight beds is huge," the governor said. "It's better than zero beds."

A welcome side effect is that the new unit also has created 36 new jobs at Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, spokesman Greg Russell said.  The UAMS psychiatric institute also has been adding beds for acutely ill mental patients in Little Rock this year, and has opened 30 beds in a 40-bed unit thus far, said Dr. G. Richard Smith, director of the UAMS psychiatric institute.  Chad Skaggs, now 29 and residing in an assisted-living apartment complex in Rogers that helps him manage his condition, took a tour with his mother, Jerri Skaggs, after the announcement.  While quietly surveying the unit's communal center, which included an activity room, quiet room, and dining room, he seemed pleased and flashed a little smile.  "It tells me that there are people who really care, who really care, about mental illness," Chad Skaggs said shyly.

In April 2002, the Springdale hospital - then under different leadership - closed Highland Hall, leaving the area without Medicaid-covered beds for adults in need of acute mental health care.  Mental health providers have said that Medicaid pays for inpatient psychiatric care for those ages 22-64 as long as they are in a general hospital setting, which includes the State Hospital in Little Rock.  Some mentally ill patients have private insurance or Medicare and can be admitted to private, freestanding psychiatric hospitals if there's available bed space (but the overall bed shortage has tended to squeeze them too).  Many other patients must rely on either the State Hospital or general hospitals with psychiatric units. Fewer beds mean patients end up in Arkansas' jails, emergency rooms and homeless shelters - or displacing mental patients in need of intermediate levels of care.

People probably don't realize the effect the new unit will have on the community, said Doug Arnold, chief executive officer of the Springdale hospital's parent, Northwest Health System.  "This service may or may not see someone bleeding - but it is going to save lives. It is going to save families," Arnold said. "It will have an impact on future generations.  "This is huge."

Adult Psychiatrist Joins Ozark Guidance

Ozark Guidance Chief Medical Officer, Lance Foster, MD, announced the addition of general psychiatrist Catalina Melo, MD, to the mental health center’s treatment team. Dr. Melo has specialized in the treatment of chronic mental illness and community psychiatry.

Originally from Colombia, Dr. Melo received her medical degree from the Instituto de Ciencias de la Salud CES in Medellin, Colombia where she was awarded Best Intern of her class. She completed her psychiatric residency at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, a highly respected psychiatric training program. Dr. Melo is board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

“Dr. Melo’s arrival will assist Ozark Guidance in continuing to provide the highest quality, timely, psychiatric treatment to our clients in Adult Services. Her command of two languages offers a distinct advantage for the growing population of Northwest Arkansas. Having also trained at the University of Virginia, I knew the caliber of psychiatrist she would be and she was highly recommended by my former associates.” Lance Foster, MD said.

Ozark Profile:  Ozark Guidance Chief Medical Officer

Posted on Monday, February 9, 2009

URL: http://www.nwanews.com/nwat/News/73850/

Psychiatrist Lance Foster spent two and a half years working at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and said he learned from the experience because he worked with people from a variety of disciplines.

It is the same kind of work he does at Ozark Guidance Center, where he has worked for the past 10 years. He was promoted to chief medical officer in July.

He said he likes the community approach to psychiatry.

"My religious beliefs and work beliefs and family beliefs fit with community," he said.

Foster grew up in Cabool, Mo., which is east of Springfield, Mo., and earned his medical degree at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Although he remembers wanting to be a doctor from the age of 5, he did not decide on psychiatry until he was in high school.

Foster said his initial experience at UMKC in psychiatry was not a good one and he had thought about going into emergency medicine. But a mentor and subsequent experiences made him stay in the field.

He said he decided on child and adolescent psychiatry when he went to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville for his residency and after he and his wife, Kelly, started having children of their own.

"I just kind of fell in love with it," he said.

While he works with patients of all ages, Foster said he loves to interact and help small children, and even teaches a Sunday school class for 3-yearolds at the family's place of worship, Fellowship Bible Church in Lowell.

There is a shortage of child psychiatrists, he said, and he does not understand why, because he enjoys working with children.

"When they have a feeling, it's not hidden," he said. "They show you who they really are."

Working with young chil- dren, he said, can help build on the "scaffolding" that starts in early life; in other words, the earlier the treatment, the better.

He said he sees a lot of change when he works with young children and their families.

Being a parent, he said, "certainly makes me humble" and helps him to think about what other parents and children are going through, that "life is not all neat and clean" - that sometimes it is messy.

After he completed the fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry in Virginia, Foster and his wife, Kelly, who had already started their family by that time, wanted to go overseas.

Foster decided to spend a year in Springdale working on a temporary basis for Ozark Guidance Center, which paid his housing and provided him a car. Then, after a year, he and the family headed to Melbourne, population about 4 million, where they lived, worked and absorbed the culture.

"It was pretty wonderful," Foster said. "The people were friendly. They like Americans. They are a very welcoming group of people."

The couple's daughter, Harper, 10, was born there. Their two sons, Graham, 16, and Nolan, 14, picked up Aussie accents to bring home, although they have since faded.

While in the country, Foster worked in his field and Kelly, a surgical registered nurse at North Hills Surgery Center in Fayetteville, worked in her occupation. They also found time to travel throughout the country.

He said he thinks he and Kelly "see the world the same. She's been a good life partner for this journey so far."

When he was working in Australia, he said, the approach looked more like the community service model that existed in the United States 20 or 30 years ago.

"It's a team approach," he said.

He said he worked with a lot of different therapists and it was a good career move.

"It was very educational," he said. "I felt like I was continuing my learning down there."

The family, which lives in Fayetteville, came back to the area from Australia in 1999, and Foster worked at Ozark Guidance again. He had meant for it to be temporary, but, as he looked for a position in community psychiatry at other places, he said he found that the grass was not greener. He took a position as a staff psychiatrist and later became the associate medical director under Dr. Travis Jenkins before he arrived at his current position.

As chief medical officer, Foster is responsible for the supervision, recruitment and retention of staff physicians and nurses and clinical quality facilitation and development. He also serves as the medical liaison with key medical community stakeholders and is a member of Ozark Guidance's executive leadership team.

"I really believe in what Ozark Guidance is doing, and to be a part of that and support the docs is a good thing," he said.

Foster said he still spends most of his time working with patients, with about eight hours a week devoted to administration.

He collaborates with the therapists and other staff on treatment plans.

As for the administrative side, a key project Ozark Guidance is a part of is the opening of a 30-bed psychiatric unit at Northwest Medical Center in Springdale.

"There's a lot of people in this," he said.

Ozark Guidance Center, he said, serves a lot of the indigent population, the working poor of the area.

"We're the conduit for some of the state money," he said.

He said having a local place to hospitalize people is important - to keep people in their communities.

He said that, while hospitalization is necessary at times to stabilize people, it is important to work with people in the community to make sure they are getting what they need in their lives.

He said he believes in changing the "real life" of the person for lasting change to occur.

"Our objective is to get them back in community," he said. "We believe very much in community."

He said that community approach also means Ozark Guidance Center working with other agencies and doctors in the area to help people.

He said it also includes being out in the schools, including when tragedy strikes, as it did last Sunday when two Fayetteville High School students, Forrest Daniel Turner, 15, and Beau Allen Spencer, 16, died in a fire.

Community psychiatry, he said, "fits my whole belief system. I believe that we're all in this together."

Hard Times a Mental Strain, Experts Say

Posted on Sunday, February 8, 2009

URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/Special/251892/

Area psychiatrists and psychologists have seen a rise in cases involving people who have reached a breaking point or have had previous mental conditions worsen for one reason - the downturn in the economy.

As financial insecurity has increased for area residents, so has the number of people treated for - among other ailments - various forms of depression.

"It's the little things that really can set somebody back," said Cris Arias, director of psychiatric services at Washington Regional Medical Center.

Those little things - a Thanksgiving dinner that cannot be made, a tank of gas that cannot be filled, Christmas presents that cannot be purchased - form the last straw holding together a person's psyche, she said.

"It's like they were able to cope with the marital problems. They were able to cope with the depression, but then something like their [car] battery breaks down ... and that's it. And it's like, 'Now I'm suicidal because I'm at my wit's end.'"


For six years, Arias has worked with Dr. Michael Hollomon, the hospital's medical director of psychiatric services, on what she refers to as the "front lines" of mental health. The two worked at Ozark Guidance Center in Springdale before moving to the hospital to tend to crisis interventions in the emergency room. Arias said in mid-December that two to six patients are checked in daily.

Hollomon also referred to a group of people who seek him out in public places such as the grocery store who would never walk into an emergency room for mental health reasons.

"Crises are so individual. I'm not seeing it so much within the emergency room," Hollomon said. "The people that I think have been most dramatically impacted are those that felt the safest.

"People that are [usually] financially secure are facing economic difficulties that they have not been emotionally equipped to deal with."

Hollomon said the group most affected mentally are in the their mid-30s to their 50s and are midway in their careers before losing their jobs or homes.

The major symptom of patients, Hollomon said, is anxiety, which often picks up steam and changes into a depressive disorder with symptoms including problems with sleeping or eating and the feeling of being frozen and unable to move.

Prescription medications have been highly effective, he said.

"Obviously they do not take away the problem," Hollomon said. "They don't bring back the job, but they help people with coping and trying to make a new plan."

Susan Shackelford, a clinical psychologist in Fayetteville, said in order to help her clients deal with stressors such as the crumbling economy she teaches them coping skills "so they can leave here as if they were their own behavioral therapist.

"It's less about what they do with me in here during that hour and it's more what they do and what they're willing to do when they leave here," Shackelford said.

She said that one positive from the current situation is that based upon her talks with clients, families have made a more concerted effort to unite and spend time with each other.

"It's almost as if families are rallying together and they're getting back to some of the basics. ... It's as if cohesiveness in families and relationships has gone up," Shackelford said.

A majority of Shackelford's clients see her about 14 times before coming for "tune-ups" caused by varying stressors. In mid-December, those clients were wondering if they could afford to continue making appointments after the new year, when they would have to meet a new deductible on their insurance.

"I can't get them in fast enough. Everybody wants to get in by the end of the year," said Dr. Angela Chapman, a Fayetteville general psychiatrist, in mid-December.

Chapman said more people booked appointments for psychiatric evaluation but then did not follow through when they realized they could not afford the evaluation fee.

"They probably had to make a choice between mental health care and paying their rent," Chapman said.

Although Chapman is not always a proponent of heading straight to medication to help her clients, when she does, she tries to prescribe generic drugs instead of their brand name counterparts, often saving patients up to $40.

"They're appreciative of that," she said.

Tom Petrizzo, chief executive off icer at Ozark Guidance, said he has seen two main themes form as the economy struggled. First, clients have asked to space out appointments further than in the past. This was especially true last summer when gas prices skyrocketed.

Second, uncompensated care has gone up 10 percent over the past year, 25 percent over the past two years.

"It's really strange, because I keep thinking if there is a time that Ozark Guidance services are really needed, this is it," Petrizzo said. "We can't keep doing [uncompensated care] from a budget standpoint. We would go bust, so it's really a Catch-22."


It's not just adults who have felt the strain of the unstable economy. Children of all ages have been coping with the same forms of depression and anxiety that afflict their parents and caretakers, such as social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety that can heighten into panic attacks, said Dr. Matthew Crouch, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Crouch has worked with children as young as 3 years old and some in their mid-20s who still rely heavily on their parents financially.

"Kids universally understand when their parents are stressed," Crouch said. "They are really good at reading people's body language, and so even if it's not discussed directly, if parents are distressed about their finances, then the kids know that something is wrong.

"Many of the kids that I see have almost guilt because their parents are so open about financial struggle, so it kind of makes the children feel that it's partially their fault. Like 'OK, I'm expensive. I cost money.'"

Crouch encouraged parents to share financial information with their children only when they absolutely have to.

Medications are often more effective in children because their symptoms are truly biological in nature without any other complications associated with adults such as personality or substance abuse issues. After working with a child in therapy for up to 10 weeks, Crouch might prescribe Prozac, which is the only antidepressant that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for children 6 and older.

When the economy finally does get on track and the current recession becomes a page in America's collective history books, area mental health professionals hope important lessons are learned in regard to their field.

"Hopefully people will become more introspective and take more accountability for their mental health and be willing to be more active in treatment," Chapman said.

"I would say that life is about change, and when there is a down, like we're in now, you know an up is coming. And if we can find ways to pull community resources, medical resources, psychological, psychiatric sources together ... then we help each other," Shackelford added.

Hollomon compared the galvanizing power of the current economic crisis to that of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"In some way, we lost our innocence in 9/11," he said. "We lost our sense of safety and it's akin to losing the safety when you don't have a job to go to and you can't afford the home that you live in.

"I think what we all need to remember is that we're all going to have hard times. This is a hard time that's hit us nationally. We can get through hard times."


Ozark Guidance Adds Adult Psychiatrist

Psychiatrist Brian Mooney, M.D., has joined the treatment staff of Ozark Guidance, which has headquarters in Springdale. He will work with clients in crisis stabilization and adult services at the nonprofit community mental health center. Mooney was in Louisiana during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, helping those affected by traumatic events. He received his medical degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and his psychiatry residency was at the University of Oklahoma at Tulsa.

Psychiatric Unit Opens at UAMS in Little Rock

from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette / Northwest Arkansas Times

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences opened its 110, 000-square-foot Psychiatric Research Institute on Tuesday on the same site that saw the opening of the Arkansas Lunatic Asylum 125 years ago.
The modern and airy sixstory glass and brick structure is a stark contrast to the imposing 12-building stone complex that once housed the state’s mentally ill. It shows how much mentalhealth care has changed, said Dr. G. Richard Smith, institute director and chairman of the UAMS Department of Psychiatry.
UAMS’ new $ 32 million facility has been eight years in the making, said UAMS Chancellor Dr. I Dodd Wilson. It will have inpatient and outpatient services for patients, and research and educational facilities for UAMS faculty, staff and students.
“We wanted things to be open and bright,” Smith said. “The issue of stigma in mental health is very pervasive.”  It’s the first time in about 30 years that UAMS will have inpatient mental-health services for adults and the first time in 20 years that it will have such services for children.
“We want to meet needs that are not being met in our state right now,” Smith said.
Officials said the Little Rock institute is the latest piece in ongoing efforts to improve mentalhealth care in Arkansas. Legislators, federal judges and patient advocates have criticized services statewide over the years for failing to meet the needs of Arkansas ’ mentally ill.
Legislation in 2007 mandated the state develop a “system of care” to identify mental-health needs in the state, fill gaps and better coordinate services among agencies and institutions.
Arkansas’ first lady, Ginger Beebe, went on a statewide “listening tour” last summer, visiting 37 counties to hear from 80 families coping with children with mental-health problems. She said she heard numerous stories of parents unable to get the care their children needed. The institute will help produce doctors to treat Arkansas’ mentally ill. More mental-health professionals are needed throughout the state, especially in rural areas that lack such services now, she said. “This [institute ] will reach all around the state, but it’s just a beginning,” Beebe said.
IMPROVING CARE Finding adequate care is a challenge Little Rock resident Nell Spears knows well. Her son started showing symptoms of mental illness when he was about 12. He began having trouble completing routine tasks and would withdraw from others around him.
He would get up from his desk at school and walk off in the middle of the school day, and teachers would find him wandering down the street. Spears said they would sometimes get calls from neighbors in the middle of the night to tell them their son was six blocks away.
They took him to see doctors in Little Rock and Dallas, and he spent three years at an inpatient facility in Dallas. Her son was 16 before he got an accurate diagnosis at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md.  “We had to leave Arkansas to get him help,” Spears said. “Basically, there wasn’t anything here to get the services he needed.”
That was more than 20 years ago. Today her son is 34 and lives alone with the aid of 24-hour professional supervision.
Services in Arkansas have improved, and the new institute will help advance research, improve care and decrease the stigma associated with mental illness, Spears said.
Arkansas’ mental-health system has been criticized in the past for not providing adequate services to patients. In 1993, two Pulaski County slayings involving mentally ill patients focused public attention on flaws in the state’s mental-health system. The following year, the state developed plans to more closely monitor dangerous mental patients and studied other ways to improve services for Arkansas’ mentally ill.
In July 2002, a report by a state task force cited poor coordination among state agencies and recommended broad changes in the way the state cares for the mentally ill. In June 2006, U. S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele wrote that the 2003 death of a 60-year-old mentally ill patient in the Benton County jail exposed “a very serious, complex and difficult problem” of how to “properly and promptly deal with acutely mentally ill” people who end up in city or county jails. Eisele advised state officials to correct problems that delayed Donald Winter’s admission to the State Hospital.
UAMS’ INSTITUTE UAMS officials estimated that 300 people packed into the new building’s ground-floor atrium and crowded along the edge of the second-floor balcony for Tuesday’s opening ceremony. It started with a New Orleans-style brass band and closed with a spray of blue, red, yellow and green confetti. The Arkansas Lunatic Asylum, which opened on the site in 1883, later became the Arkansas State Hospital and was replaced in the 1960 s. The state sold the land to UAMS and opened its new 152, 000-square foot State Hospital farther west down Markham Street last May.
The institute’s second floor will have outpatient services starting Monday. Inpatient services will be offered on the fifth and sixth floors, with the first patients to be admitted Feb. 3.
A 3-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging system on the lower level will allow researchers to see the brain at work.
UAMS closed its 15-bed inpatient children’s psychiatric unit around 1988, which served children age 2-13, said Scott Gordon, Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Those services, which had been at UAMS for 11 years, were transferred to Children’s Hospital.
The hospital’s Turning Point program included a 21-bed adolescent unit and a 21-bed children’s unit. It closed around 1995 because of growth in similar services at other facilities, a lack of space and federal Medicaid regulation changes that reduced the average patient stay from 30-90 days to about seven days, he said.
“When we first started that project there were very few child and adolescent beds in central Arkansas,” Gordon said. “We were trying to fill a void.”  UAMS closed its inpatient adult psychiatric unit in 1977 because of a lack of funds and demand for growth in other areas of the hospital, Smith said.  By offering inpatient services again, UAMS will be able to care for patients who aren’t responding to care elsewhere, Smith said.  “It’s the right thing to do and part of our obligation,” Wilson said.
The institute will have 40 inpatient beds, divided evenly among four units. There will be an adult acute-care unit, a unit for those aged 2-13, a unit for geriatric patients suffering from dementia and a unit for patients who have both serious medical and psychiatric illnesses.


Mental health counselor earns national play therapy honor

Sarah Gheen, a mental health professional in Fayetteville, was presented a 2008 Gold Branch Award by the Association for Play Therapy on Oct. 17 during its annual conference in Dallas. The award recognizes one of more of the 43 branch chartered by the association that have annual performances that significantly exceed minimal criteria regarding growing membership, communicating with members, providing play therapy continuing education workshops to mental health professionals and publicly promoting the value of play therapy. As president, Gheen assured that the Arkansas branch satisfied such criteria.

Gheen is a licensed professional counselor and employed by the Ozark Guidance Center. Play therapy continues to gain popularity as an effective modality by which licensed mental health professionals use developmentally appropriate play-based interventions to better communicate with and counsel clients, especially children.

Foster Named Chief Medical Officer

Lance Foster, MD, has been promoted to Chief Medical Officer for Ozark Guidance. Dr. Foster earned his medical degree from the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Kansas City, Missouri. He completed his general psychiatry residency and fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia where he was chief resident before serving as an attending psychiatrist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

As Chief Medical Officer, Foster is responsible for the supervision, recruitment, and retention of staff physicians and nurses and clinical quality facilitation and development. He serves as the medical liaison with key medical community stakeholders and is a member of Ozark Guidance’s Executive and Leadership teams.

Foster is not new to Ozark Guidance. In fact, he has been with the organization for almost 10 years and has served as Associate Medical Director under Travis Jenkins, MD. Foster says, “I see some exciting times for the future of Ozark Guidance. We have amazing young professionals coming up through the organization, as well as seasoned clinicians who have a great love for the work and for the people we serve.”

Dr. Foster is board certified in general psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and also board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He is professionally affiliated with the American Psychiatric Association, Arkansas Psychiatric Society, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American College of Physician Executives.

Jenkins Celebrates 35 Years of Service


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. 

Collaboration Solution To Mental Health Care Void

By Susannah Patton - 11/3/2008  -  Arkansas Business

Mental health advocates in Northwest Arkansas are finally seeing the result of years of pushing for more psychiatric services in the region.
After four years of dealing with a void in mental health care, a task force formed to address the issue has received about $2 million in General Improvement Fund money from the state legislature. The money is to cover the cost of renovating a floor at Northwest Medical Center-Springdale to serve as a psychiatric unit.  Construction will begin in November on the 29-bed acute mental health unit in the hospital's north tower that will be operated by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in partnership with Northwest Med.
Since Highland Hall, the psychiatric unit at Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, closed in 2002, health care professionals have been hard pressed to find a place for patients in need of acute inpatient psychiatric care.
Tom Petrizzo, CEO of Ozark Guidance in Springdale, said the Northwest Arkansas region ranks among the lowest in the state in patient beds per capita. According to 2006 data, Northwest Arkansas has 5.5 beds per 100,000 people compared to 48 beds per 100,000 in central Arkansas. The southwest region has 27 beds per capita and the northeast region has 8.4 beds per capita. The southeast part of the state ranks the lowest, with 4.4 beds per 100,000 people.  Adding 29 beds to the area will double the availability of beds, Petrizzo said, bringing the number to 11 beds per capita.
The private Vista Health in Fayetteville leases five public beds to the facility for indigent patients, but those beds are full at least a third of the time.
In that case, he said, patients have to be sent out of state to facilities in Joplin, Springfield, Tulsa or wait for a bed to become available at the state hospital in Little Rock.
In psychiatric emergencies, sometimes the patients end up in the emergency departments or intensive care units of local hospitals, Petrizzo said.
In September, Universal Health Services, a publicly traded hospital management company out of King of Prussia, Pa., broke ground on an 80-bed facility in Fayetteville called Springwoods Behavioral Health.
While the facility will add treatment options to the area, including substance abuse treatment, Petrizzo said it doesn't address the needs of low-income or uninsured patients.
Since the facility is freestanding, and not associated with a general hospital, it can't receive Medicaid reimbursements for acute psychiatric care.
There have been several attempts since 2002 to replace the 20 beds that were lost when Highland Hall closed.
In the months following the closure, Washington County Judge Jerry Hunton chaired a task force to find a replacement for the beds and a funding system to support it.
The group secured $500,000 from the legislature in 2005 in order to renovate a floor of the former Washington Regional Medical Center campus in Fayetteville for a 16-bed unit.   The plan was derailed, however, when Washington Regional decided not to participate in the plan.
A new task force was quickly formed to continue the group's efforts.
The result is a six-partner collaboration between Northwest Medical Center, UAMS, Ozark Guidance, the Care Foundation Inc., Washington Regional and Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas.
Hunton said the effort gained momentum when UAMS decided in 2006 to open a satellite campus in Northwest Arkansas.   When UAMS started looking at the area as a location for its satellite campus, Hunton made sure that mental health would be included in the plans. "They promised to make that one of their priorities," he said.
UAMS will staff the unit with psychiatrists and provide program oversight. The school will use the unit as a teaching site for residents, expanding its psychiatry program in Little Rock, in hopes of addressing a statewide psychiatrist shortage.  UAMS will also establish an outpatient clinic, which will serve patients once they are discharged from the unit.
Northwest, besides providing the space for the unit, will staff the unit's nurses and support personnel.
The Care Foundation is providing $415,000 in start-up costs for the first two years, which will include the initial hiring of psychiatrists and nurses.
Washington Regional Medical Center and Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas will each contribute $65,000 to take care of the primary care needs of the patients in the unit.
Ozark Guidance will serve as the fiscal agent for all of the funds and will also provide screening services for patients as well as outpatient services.
Washington Regional CEO Bill Bradley said the unit will eliminate some of the burden on the emergency departments at hospitals.   "Like all area hospitals we are caring for the patients with psychiatric issues in our emergency room, and for those requiring admission, primarily in our ICU," he said. "This unit will allow more optimal care for these patients' unique needs."   Bradley said the unit will provide a better solution than the proposal of a 16-bed unit, which Washington Regional's board of directors considered and eventually declined in 2005.
The board had concerns that the unit was undersized and that the funding for the unit was inadequate.  "This would have surely resulted in Washington Regional turning away other patients, something we were unwilling to do," he said. "It did not seem to be a solution to the area's need and placed an exclusive burden on one hospital versus a collective solution as we have forthcoming."
Lee Christenson, COO of Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, agreed that the new arrangement, which he called a "blending of public dollars," will make a unit more financially viable this time around.
In addition to getting Medicaid reimbursements, the unit will receive money from the state's department of human services budget. "In the past, a high percentage of patients had no ability to pay. Over time that erodes your ability to provide the service," he said. "Through this partnership, it makes it viable once again to provide that service for the community."

Ozark Guidance has tools to put kids on the right path

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. ”


Panel:  Heart patients should be screened for depression

Story Highlights

  • Heart patients are three times more likely than others to be depressed
  • Only half of heart doctors say they treat depression in their patients
  • Depression can result in poorer outcomes and a poorer quality of life
  • AHA panel recommends asking heart patients two questions to screen them

Read the full story on cnn.com:  http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/09/29/heart.patients.depression.ap/index.html


Mental Health Project Could Happen This Year, Early 2009

The Morning News--Local News for Northwest Arkansas
By Doug Thompson

FAYETTEVILLE -- Bids on a 28-bed acute mental health facility could be awarded as early as October and the project in operation by December, organizers said Wednesday.

That's an optimistic timetable but an attainable one, said Lee Christenson, chief operating officer for Northwest Medical Center-Springdale. The project should be up and running by January, he said.

Christenson, Laura Tyler of the University of Arkansas for Medical Science and Tom Petrizzo of Ozark Guidance met with at least 60 local health care providers and interested members of the public on Wednesday morning. The three answered questions on the project, which also gets financial support from Mercy Health Systems and Washington Regional Medical Center and other support from the Care Foundation, a local nonprofit group, among others.

Petrizzo is chief executive of Ozark Guidance, a local not-for-profit mental health group that will provide outpatient services and be in charge of state taxpayer money going to the project. Tyler is administrator of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences psychiatric research institute. The university will provide the doctors at the Springdale unit. Northwest Health will provide the space for the unit on the fourth floor of Tower One at the Springdale hospital and hire the nurses and other staff.

Having so many participants is necessary because no entity can be solely responsible for paying for the project and also be financially viable, panel members said. The last local treatment option for acute mental health care cases closed in 2002 for budget reasons. Part of that financial strain was caused by having responsibility for patients that had mental conditions but a bigger part of the treatment needed involved substance abuse, particularly methamphetamine, panel and audience members said.

This project will concentrate more on predominately mental health cases, for more reasons than just budgetary ones, Petrizzo said. "Having people with chemical dependencies in the same place as people with acute mental health issues wasn't the best patient mix," he said.

Acute mental health cases had to be referred to locations in Tulsa, Okla., and Joplin, Mo., since 2002, panel members said. Audience members who work in emergency rooms and other medical services related to these patients told the panel that those out-of-state providers were beginning to say no to requests from Northwest Arkansas.

The project will receive a one-time $1.6 million grant of state taxpayer money for renovations in Springdale and at the Booneville Community Hospital. The Booneville hospital will open up 10 of its 25 beds to acute mental care cases and Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance will help operate another 15 beds at that hospital.

Reinert Cup Awarded at Annual Golf Tournament


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.

CEO Tom Petrizzo & Democrat Gazette team

Zinke Appointed to Foundation Board


 Marjorie L. Zinke of Fayetteville has been appointed to the Ozark Guidance Foundation Board of Trustees. After retiring from the Department of Human Services in 1999, Zinke began serving on the Ozark Guidance Governing Board. 
Governing Board Chair Keith Vire, PhD, reported, "Marge has many years of experience working with nonprofit organizations and with the Department of Human Services. This experience, coupled with her own personal experiences with the mental health system, make her uniquely qualified to serve our Foundation Board. She is a tireless worker and will do whatever it takes to further the mission of Ozark Guidance and the Foundation."
As a Trustee, Zinke will assist the Foundation in new resource development to fund the Ozark Guidance mission of providing high quality, cost-effective mental health care services to the citizens of Northwest Arkansas. 


Vorsanger Honored by Mental Health Council

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.  


Area Psychiatric Unit Gets State Funds At Last

URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/234208/

SPRINGDALE — Acutely ill mental patients in need of overnight stays once again will have access to Medicaid-funded beds in Northwest Arkansas, officials said Wednesday in announcing the long-awaited release of state funding.

The announcement of more than $ 2 million in General Improvement Fund money means a restoration of beds the region lost in 2002, and then some, for a 29-bed Springdale unit expected to open in January.

And an additional $ 800, 000 went to Booneville in Logan County as start-up money for a planned 25-bed psychiatric unit. Another $ 80, 000 will go to help a Little Rock clinic add four mental health beds.

The bulk of the $ 2, 944, 000 funds a partnership among the state’s medical school, a mental health center and three hospitals in Washington and Benton counties, and a nonprofit that all have made the Springdale project possible.

The funding will allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to expand its psychiatric residency program into the state’s northwest corner, where it will operate the 29-bed psychiatric unit in partnership with Northwest Medical Center-Springdale.

In April 2002, the Springdale hospital — then under different leadership — closed Highland Hall, a 20-bed unit, leaving the area without Medicaid-covered beds for adults in need of acute mental health care.

Mental health providers have said that Medicaid pays for inpatient psychiatric care for those ages 22-64 as long as they are in a general hospital setting, which includes the State Hospital in Little Rock.

Some mentally ill patients have private insurance or Medicare and can be admitted to private, freestanding psychiatric hospitals if there’s available bed space. Many others must rely on either the State Hospital or general hospitals with psychiatric units. Fewer beds mean patients end up in Arkansas’ jails, emergency rooms and homeless shelters — or displacing mental patients in need of intermediate levels of care.

“Sometimes we’d send them down to Little Rock or over to Oklahoma — wherever we could get a bed,” said Tom Petrizzo, chief executive officer of Ozark Guidance Center Inc. in Springdale, which will serve as the conduit for state funds for the Springdale project.

Since Highland Hall’s closure, more than a half-dozen attempts to restore the Medicaid beds have failed.

In August 2005, Ozark Guidance learned that Washington Regional Medical System in Fayetteville wouldn’t commit to being the center’s sole partner in opening and operating a 16-bed unit at its former hospital campus.

Later that year, Ozark Guidance’s then-CEO David L. Williams said his center was in talks with Washington Regional Medical Center, Northwest Medical Center-Springdale, what was then St. Mary’s Hospital in Rogers and the former Gravette Medical Center Hospital. His goal was to secure multiple partners who could share the burden of caring for the most ill patients.

On Wednesday, officials announced a six-partner coalition for the Springdale mental health unit and their responsibilities: Northwest Health System, the Springdale hospital’s parent, will renovate a vacant floor in the hospital’s north tower, most likely the fourth floor, using $ 1. 9 million of the state funds it will get, said spokesman Greg Russell. The system also will provide nursing and support staff for the psychiatric unit and infrastructure support. UAMS’ Psychiatric Research Institute in Little Rock, headed by Dr. G. Richard Smith, will provide direct patient care and program oversight. The program will be used as a teaching site for UAMS psychiatric residency and fellowship programs. The institute also will establish an out-patient clinic to serve pre- and post-admission needs of some of the main unit’s patients.

Ozark Guidance, in addition to serving as fiscal intermediary, will provide screening, consultation services, and pre- and postadmission outpatient services. The center will help Northwest Health provide indigent services for those needing acute care.

Care Foundation Inc., a nonprofit in Springdale that helped assemble the coalition, will provide up to $ 415, 000 in start-up costs during the first two years. It will coordinate an advisory group to routinely review the program’s operation and results “as a safety net,” according to the foundation. The foundation was established in 1998, when the sale of Northwest Health System resulted in the transfer of assets into an endowment for the community. Washington Regional Medical Center and Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas each will provide up to $ 65, 000 a year to cover the physical health-care needs of the program’s low-income mental patients.

Gov. Mike Beebe had planned to make Wednesday’s announcement in Springdale, but news shortly after noon of the shooting of Bill Gwatney, chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, prompted the governor’s plane to turn around about 10-15 minutes into the flight and return to Little Rock, said Beebe’s spokesman, Matt DeCample.

Officials in Springdale canceled and rescheduled the news conference a couple of times before deciding to go ahead, though they said the Little Rock news dampened the celebration they had planned.

Of the $ 2, 064, 000 released for the Springdale project, $ 1, 031, 000 came from the governor’s share of the General Improvement Fund from the 2007 legislative session and $ 579, 000 came from the Legislature’s share of the 2007 funds, Petrizzo and Russell said. Another $ 454, 000 in legislators’ general improvement money made up the remainder of the released funds. That money had been set aside in the 2005 session before Washington Regional’s withdrawal derailed the original plan.

For the Booneville project, Beebe pitched in $ 500, 000 of his GIF share and the Legislature kicked in nearly $ 300, 000.

Pete Kennemer, chief executive officer of Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center in Fort Smith, said the released money will give Booneville officials a start on plans for 25 new psychiatric beds, a project that falls in his center’s six-county coverage area.

When Booneville Community Hospital moved into a new building, it left its old home vacant on the same campus, Kennemer said.

As a federally designated “critical care access” hospital, the hospital can operate 25 beds maximum, but it got approval to operate 10 additional mental health beds without jeopardizing its status. His center would operate the other 15 so long as a federal grant and a state grant come through, he said.

Kennemer said he’s never seen a community put out the welcome mat for such a project for the disadvantaged as had Booneville, which lost 800 jobs when a fire gutted its Cargill Inc. meat plant on Easter Sunday.

Booneville will get a reward for its big heart when the acutecare mental unit puts out helpwanted notices, he predicted.

“We think we can restore at least 25 percent of the jobs that were lost.”

The crisis unit at the Little Rock Community Mental Health Center got $ 80, 000, which it will use to add four psychiatric beds to the eight it already has, said Thomas Grunden, the center’s executive director.

That will make 12 beds for the center serving patients one step down in intensity from the acute level, he said.

“This is for people we would see in emergency rooms that, after screening, would not require hospital inpatient care but would need supervision for a period of stabilization,” Grunden said, adding his center is often a next step for someone emerging from acute care. “The general length of stay in a crisis center is three to five days.”

Williams and other advocates have said no region of the state offers a full range of care for psychiatric patients, meaning one region may be overwhelmed by intermediate patients and another by acute patients. No one hospital offers the holistic treatment — for mind, body and substance abuse problems — that patients often need to recover.

Governor’s Office: Mental Health Funding Coming To Northwest Arkansas

By Doug Thompson
The Morning News

SPRINGDALE - State taxpayer money for acute care mental health treatment is coming to Northwest Arkansas next week, the governor's office confirmed Wednesday.

Getting mental health centers equipped and staffed for emergencies in Northwest Arkansas has been a priority for the region's law-enforcement agencies, medical community and legislative delegation for more than four years, after the last acute-care hospital treatment center closed.

Appropriations passed in the 2005 legislative session, but the deal with the Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville fell through. Another package was put together in the 2007 session.

Gov. Mike Beebe will announce that he will release some of the $2.2 million limit he was authorized to spend on the issue, his office confirmed Wednesday.

"I can tell you we're working on an event in Northwest Arkansas next week about that, but can't give a whole lot of detail," spokesman Matt DeCample said.

Those details, including who will provide the service, tentatively are planned to be announced during a news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the chapel at the Jones Center for Children and Families in Springdale, organizers said.

During legislative debate, there was discussion of renovating the former Washington Regional building in Fayetteville, which now houses the state-run Fayetteville Veteran's Home and is a prospective satellite campus for the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences.

The money for the proposed center comes from the state's General Improvement Fund, which consists mostly of money that was not spent out of state appropriations at the end of each fiscal year and of interest earned on state deposits.

The Legislature and the governor each get shares of the money to distribute. Request for money from the fund always exceeds the amount of money in the fund, allowing the governor discretion in choosing how to distribute his share.

This budget cycle, $500,000 from the House and $291,428.57 from the Senate will go toward the mental health project, plus up to $2.2 million from the governor.

Legislation for this was co-sponsored by much of the Northwest Arkansas House delegation, along with many House members from the Fort Smith area.

State Senators from Washington and Benton counties also pooled much of their general improvement allocations to the project.

Ozark Guidance Sponsors Educator Training

BY BRETT BENNETT Northwest Arkansas Times

SPRINGDALE — The director of a Colorado center that provides therapy services for young children dealing with emotional and mental health issues spoke about his methods to local teachers and mental health professionals Thursday.

Barry Chaloner, director of the Center for Early Intervention in Durango, Colo., was brought in to conduct a three-day workshop at the Holiday Inn in Springdale by Ozark Guidance Center. Based in Springdale, Ozark Guidance provides a variety of mental health and counseling services.

Chaloner’s seminar was targeted for elementary, pre-kindergarten and preschool teachers. Those who attended the workshop received credit for professional development.

As part of the workshop, Chaloner showed footage of times when he interacted with students as they were beginning to behave in an aggressive manner. There isn’t always a definitive right or wrong answer for dealing with a child’s misbehavior, he said. He told the teachers, “You’ll have to take what works for you and what doesn’t.”

Chaloner said he believes in zero tolerance regarding violence against people, saying that acts must get some sort of response. One of the videos showed him making a young boy change seats after the boy pinched another student on the neck. “You can’t allow real violence to occur,” he said. “You really need to respond to it. It has to be a meaningful (response ).”

He said he also thinks teachers need to be consistent in setting limits on what is acceptable behavior and that rules should be “simple, clear and concrete.”
He thinks social and emotional development are almost as important as academics in early childhood education, he said. Part of an instructor’s job is to be able to process what a child is feeling, he said.

While a teacher cannot allow a student to be violent and destructive, there are times where children are angry, Chaloner said.  Depending on the context, there may be ways in which they can be allowed to express their frustrations rather than glossing over them, he said.

“Can you imagine going to a counselor and them saying, ‘ I only want to hear nice things about you?” he said.

Dina Rega, director of marketing for Ozark Guidance, said the organization tries to offer training programs for area educators from time to time. Such programs are offered on an irregular basis as funding allows, she said.  “We try to do things like that for our (school ) partnerships,” she said.

Besides the Springdale facility, Ozark Guidance Center has satellite offices in Bentonville, Berryville, Fayetteville, Huntsville and Siloam Springs. A year ago, the center’s School Based Ser vices in Fayetteville moved into a building at 60 W. Sunbridge Drive. Rega said the center is making plans to expand its Fayetteville office to offer more day treatment services for students.

Estrogen May Ease Schizophrenia in Women

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.

Read full story

Hill Joins Ozark Guidance Board of Trustees

Jeanie Bartlett Hill recently accepted a position on the Ozark Guidance Foundation Board of Trustees.  Hill attended the University of Arkansas where she received a BS in Education and taught special education in Springdale, Dallas, and Tulsa. 

Hill learned about Ozark Guidance many years ago while teaching and has seen first hand the benefits of mental health services with her students. She joined the Ozark Guidance Governing Board of Directors in 2006 and will now also serve on the Foundation Board of Trustees. As a Trustee, Hill will assist the Foundation in new resource development to fund the Ozark Guidance mission of providing high quality, cost-effective mental health care services to the citizens of Northwest Arkansas. 

Hill has been a very active volunteer in Northwest Arkansas. She was the founder of the Woodland Soccer Association and coached for many years. In 2004, Hill received the Dorothy Lundquist Volunteer of the Year award for Fayetteville Public Schools. She and her husband Mike, CFO of Signature Bank, have three daughters, Areta, Cara, and Blair.

For almost 40 years, Ozark Guidance has helped tens of thousands of people in our community live better lives by providing quality mental health services ranging from counseling and educational programs to more intensive levels of care. The non-profit community mental health center’s main campus is located at 2400 S 48th St in Springdale with easily accessible satellite offices in Bentonville, Berryville, Fayetteville, Huntsville, and Siloam Springs. For more information, call (479) 750-2020.

Ozark Guidance Receives State Recognition

July 7, 2008 (Bentonville, AR)  The day rehabilitation services component of the Ozark Guidance Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Program based in Bentonville has been selected to receive the first Exemplary Program Recognition by the Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health for providing quality care focused on active client participation and positive treatment outcomes. 

This component of ACT is an adult psychosocial rehabilitative day program that offers a variety of group therapeutic sessions and activities based on the individual’s specific treatment goals. Group topics range from aging issues, women’s issues, men’s issues, to sessions geared toward individuals with co-occurring behavioral health and substance abuse disorders. Ozark Guidance staff and clients are well-versed in distinguishing active participation and attendance in program activities. By making this distinction, the program attempts to engage individuals in active treatment geared toward successful treatment outcomes and recovery. The program monitors and measures treatment outcomes and makes adjustments in treatment as indicated to assure the highest level of success.

Ozark Guidance employees worked diligently over eighteen months to transform the day rehabilitation services program to reflect the most current standards of care. The Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health reported that this level of staff dedication and management support is evidence of a dedication to quality behavioral health care. The formal award presentation will take place July 8 at 11am in the Division of Behavioral Health Services at the Central Administration Building conference room located at 4800 West 7th Street, Little Rock.

The Ozark Guidance ACT Program is one of two such assertive community treatment programs in the state of Arkansas. For almost 40 years, Ozark Guidance has helped tens of thousands of people in our community live better lives by providing quality mental health services ranging from counseling and educational programs to more intensive levels of care. The non-profit community mental health center’s main campus is located at 2400 S 48th St in Springdale with easily accessible satellite offices in Bentonville, Berryville, Fayetteville, Huntsville, and Siloam Springs. For more information, call (479) 750-2020.