In a Community Needs Assessment conducted by Pocahontas Memorial Hospital in 2016, one of the most important issues identified by both healthcare workers and community members was the availability of mental health and drug addiction treatment options. Rural areas, in general, have very few facilities for mental health and drug addiction treatment. Mental health and drug addiction problems not only harm the individual, but the individual’s family and friends.
According to the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and National Vital Statistics, Pocahontas County has a higher average of suicides than both the state of West Virginia and the nation. And according to the County Health Rankings, Pocahontas County reports a higher number of “poor mental health days” than most surrounding counties and higher than the national average.
For almost a year now, Heather Sharp-Spinks, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, has been seeing patients in Pocahontas Memorial Hospital’s Rural Health Clinic. Her services can help a variety of patients, including, but not limited to, those dealing with severe depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and phobias. Interventions are also available for family counseling, smoking cessation, weight loss, pain management and end of life care. Sharp-Spinks’ services are a much needed addition to the county and patients can be referred by their primary care provider, or they may self-refer by contacting her directly.
Primary care settings have become a gateway for many individuals with mental health and substance use problems. To address these needs, many primary care providers are now integrating clinical social work services into their settings. Because primary care is not associated with any specific health conditions, there is a reduced stigma for people with mental disorders and their families, as well as improved access to care. Treating both chronic diseases and mental health issues together leads to better health outcomes.
Sharp-Spinks is coordinating a very special opportunity for community health- care and mental health workers.
In December, two sessions will be offered to provide an Adult Mental Health First Aid course. Course participants will receive information on identifying and providing initial help to mental health issues before those issues further develop into crises.
Participants will also receive training on the mental health first aid action plan and its use in identifying and assisting with a person’s mental health needs. Amy Thomas, Coordinator of the Regional Youth Service Center in Beckley, will teach the course.
This is an eight-hour course and will be offered twice in two four-hour sessions. Participants may attend December 5 and 6 or December 13 and 14 at PMH. The course is free and CEU credits are available. For more information and to register, please contact Sharp-Spinks at 304-799-7400 ext. 1110.