2023 Summer Newsletter

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Grant Funding Allows GCBHS to Expand services to those struggling with Substance Use

Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS) was recently awarded a two-year $160,000 grant from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, to expand substance use disorder (SUD) treatment through our GCB Connects program at our Madison Road location. Defined as a mental disorder, SUD affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to the inability to control the use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, and medications.

GCBHS has been offering SUD services to clients in Hamilton County for over nine years. Recently, we began integrating Open Access (OA) strategies into our GCB Connects SUD programming. OA is an innovative, trauma-informed intake method that reduces delays in treatment and provides immediate resources to clients or potential clients with the goal of reducing negative health outcomes.

Substance use disorder is a key area of focus for the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, which is investing $30M across the country over the next three years to address the problem. “Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation continues to work with our local community partners across Ohio, including Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS), to provide meaningful solutions to achieve better health for all individuals,” said Dr. Benjamin Boche, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio’s, Behavioral Health Medicaid Medical Director. “This grant will allow us to make significant progress in addressing mental health and well-being in communities across the state with an emphasis on substance use disorders. Through an innovative, trauma-informed intake method, our collaboration with GCBHS will reduce delays in treatment services and supports while providing immediate resources to patients creating a successful pathway to positive health outcomes. We must treat mental health as a driver of whole health, reduce stigma, and advance health equity. Through this wrap-around services approach, impacted individuals will receive solutions that remove

barriers to the care and support they need to enhance their lives and improve their chances of recovery.”

The funding will be used to expand access to treatment and services for those experiencing substance use disorder. The goal is to expand the number of those being served by using a model that expedites the initial assessment process for rapid linkage to counseling and recovery support services.

Open Access is a unique way to engage a potential SUD client because of its immediacy. Many times, if someone is seeking help, they must wait a week or more to be seen by a clinician. Then the moment of “seeking assistance” passes and they do not follow through with seeking treatment. GCBHS has established built-in wrap-around supports including peer recovery staff who can identify with the struggles of individuals experiencing a substance use disorder, as well as assist them in accessing basic needs (housing, food), behavioral health and medical services.

When asked how the grant will impact our organization and the people we serve, GCBHS Director of Addiction Services, Julie Kubin said, “The grant will ensure that immediate diagnostic and recovery support services are in place for individuals who walk through our doors seeking help. Having the ability for individuals to access both mental health and SUD services from the beginning greatly increases their chances of addressing their behavioral health needs in a more comprehensive, seamless, and swift manner.”

SUMMER 2023 IN THIS ISSUE WE FOCUS ON EMPLOYMENT SERVICES | LEARN MORE ON PAGES 2 & 3 Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services gcbhs.com #LIFEchanging
Pictured from left to right are: Jeff O'Neil, GCBHS President and CEO; SUD Clinical Supervisor Matt Mueller, VP of Hamilton County Behavioral Health NikKi Bisig; Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tracey Skale, and Dr. Benjamin Boche from Anthem.

How Having a Job Can Change People’s Lives

Carl has lived with major depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) most of his adult life. He believes it began when he was a child. At 14, he ran away from home. He lived on the streets and had to steal to survive. According to national statistics, over 65% of people who are experiencing homelessness and living on the streets have a mental illness.

Throughout the years, Carl had an inconsistent track record with employment. He tended to be in and out of trouble with law enforcement. Although Carl enrolled in services at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS), he had difficulty communicating his thoughts and needs. Time management was non-existent, and he had a hard time asking for help. “Severe depression is more difficult than people realize,” says Carl. “I wasn’t receptive (to treatment). I thought it was something else.” His depression also made it difficult for him to take care of himself physically and mentally, which made it impossible for him to find and keep a job.

In 2022, things began to change. Carl shares why. “I wanted to beat depression. I would come to a hurdle, and I couldn’t function. I just wanted it out of my way.”

Carl began to do research into his disease, which gave him some insight that he hadn’t had before. “Once I accepted my diagnosis, I felt free – that a weight had been lifted off my shoulders! And that was the first step towards my getting a job.”

Carl began putting in the work with his new GCBHS care manager. They built trust and when she asked him what he needed, he was able to communicate what he was feeling for the first time. As that trust grew, Carl slowly began to turn things around.

In July of 2022, Carl was introduced to Stephen Seta, an Employment Specialist with

GCBHS. When Stephen first met Carl, he says, “He wasn’t very engaged or motivated. He was anxious about the entire process because he hadn’t worked in a very long time. Everything about it terrified him.”

But Stephen didn’t give up. He knew he had to get Carl to trust him. Stephen worked with him to build up his confidence to the point where, in the beginning of 2023, he knew Carl was ready. With his background in recycling and welding, Stephen thought Carl might enjoy working at the St. Vincent de Paul Outlet Store.

hired Carl, who started working part-time earlier this year. “The worst thing we can do is overload a client,” says Stephen. “We want the transition to be as smooth as possible. I mean, Carl hadn’t worked for many years, so we had to gently move forward, taking baby steps.” However, it didn’t take long for Carl to move to full time. “I love the physical part of the job,” he says. “And I really like the people I work with. Craig (his supervisor) is a good guy. They are open-minded to what I’ve got to say.”

Carl has been working at the outlet store for almost 6 months now and he’s won an award for perfect attendance three times. According to Craig, “Carl is a hard worker. He was a little shy when he first started but since then he’s opened up and shown us his great personality. I look forward to what the future holds for him, not only career-wise but on a personal level as well.”

A big part of what a GCBHS employment specialist does is not just finding someone a job – they try to make sure it’s the “right” job so that the client maintains employment and enjoys what they are doing long-term. Says Stephen, “We went to the outlet store for a couple of months. Just walking around and checking it out – getting Carl comfortable enough to be able to apply for a job.”

Through his connections, Stephen introduced Carl to Craig (pictured with Carl above), a manager at the St. Vincent de Paul outlet store. Craig interviewed and

Carl credits our employment program with helping him get to this point. “GCBHS saw that I still had potential. Stephen gives me a little push when I’m doubtful. He helps remove those little blocks so I can see the big picture.” Like many of our clients, Carl was hesitant about what he had to offer but with the support of the GCBHS Employment Program and employment partners like St. Vincent de Paul, he was able to accomplish something he hadn’t been able to do in a very long time and he is very thankful. “I didn’t want to be sick anymore,” he says. “Getting to this point has given me so much more. I feel good about working.”

GCBHS client Carl on the job at St. Vincent de Paul.

How GCBHS Employment Services Help People with Their Recovery

Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS) originally launched employment services at our group homes – by giving clients who lived there the opportunity to earn money by fulfilling groundskeeping or janitorial duties. Our current programs are funded by the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilites (OOD), Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OHMAS), and the United Way.

Over the years, our employment programs have been developed to assist more GCBHS clients with finding and keeping jobs.

GCBHS believes that work doesn’t follow recovery – work produces recovery! Says Hamilton County Director of Employment & Recovery Services Kelly Smith-Trondle (below), “When I train new staff, I ask them… how old were you when you got your first job, how much did you make? Then I want them to consider what our clients might have been doing at that age. Some were experiencing their first psychotic break and trying to finish high school, or dropping out because it was overwhelming.”

She wants staff to remember that many of our clients have never worked before, so they do not have the skills that most of us take for granted.

She explains “A lot of what we’re doing is teaching clients what we learned at our first job. Interview skills, making resumes. We look at a person’s interests, abilities, preferences and determine what the best job match would be for them. We also work with the employers to find out what their needs are.”

In addition, GCBHS provides job supports and coaching, so staff can accompany a client to the job site to learn the job or work on skills they are having difficulty mastering. Says Kelly, “We will go to work with a client and help train, or follow up after a shift to see if they need help. Sometimes we intervene on their behalf with an employer and sometimes we have no contact at all. Our clients determine what they want as far as support.”

The employment team also gives support to a client who is working steadily but needs extra assistance or help those who want career advancement. “We ask them, ‘What do you want to do long-term?’ and then help them find a career,” says Kelly. “This is especially important for younger clients who have a whole lifetime of work opportunities ahead of them.”

The principals the GCBHS Employment program follows are based on a model called Individual Placement and Support – Supported Employment (IPS-SE) which LifePoint Solutions (which merged with GCBHS in 2014) began using in 2006. Joyce Weddle started as the Director of Employment Services in Clermont County in March of 2000. “A new recovery model was being implemented for mental health that focused on recovering roles lost. It allowed people to believe ‘I can recover my housing, my employment, my life!’ That led

OHMAS to award grants to three sites to launch the IPS model. Our Amelia office was one of those.”

The new model focused more on the client and not the job. Says Joyce, “We instill hope and we cheerlead them on. If they lose a job, we keep going. It’s a very positive strength based model. If we concentrate on the right job, the right amount of hours, in the right environment with the right supports… people can work.” She continues, “When you are in recovery, work gives you back your identity and purpose. It connects you to your community.”

The IPS model has been successful for organizations who have implemented it, showing higher rates of success for putting people with a mental health condition to work, when compared to those who do not use it. Employers who participate are not charged for any of the services that are provided to them or the client.

Joyce says another positive is that if something is going on with a client, many times the employment team may be the first to know, “If someone may be having an issue with their mental health and it happens on the job, the employer may contact us. Then we can call the care manager to follow up in case there is something more serious going on.”

cont. on next page >
Employment Specialist Stephen Seta (right), meets with his client Carl.

The GCBHS Employment Team consists of staff in Hamilton and Clermont counties. Each fulltime employment specialist carries a caseload of 20 – 25 clients. Most are integrated into care management teams so the employment staff can build a relationship not only with the client, but with the client’s care manager as well. That way, they both know what is going on with the individual person. Some of these people are newer clients who need help with interviewing, resume writing, job searches, etc. and others are maintaining stable employment and want to touch base when they need assistance. According to Joyce, “How much help they need depends on the person. Some have a master’s degree, and some have never worked before. So, their skill sets are different. We do an assessment which is similar to taking a snapshot of who they are right now. We do job searches, job development and job placements and work closely with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). Once they have a job, we offer support until they get to the point where they tell us they are prepared to handle things on their own."

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“We instill hope and we cheerlead them on. If they lose a job, we keep going. It’s a very positive strength-based model.”
- Joyce
Joyce Weddle (far left) with the Employment Team in Clermont County.

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