Striving to address unmet needs in communities served by the Alexian Brothers, the Board of Directors of the Alexian Brothers Ministry Fund has earmarked more than $94,000 for initiatives ranging from free dental care for the poor to the prevention of suicide among young people.
The grants approved by the board include:
• $30,000 awarded to Lone Oak Free Health Clinic for the addition of a dental clinic to serve the needs of the poor in Lone Oak, a community located near Alexian Village of Tennessee on Signal Mountain.
• $25,000 awarded to Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital (ABBHH) in Hoffman Estates, Ill., to address the unmet mental health needs of individuals with autistic-spectrum disorder through more targeted assessments and developmentally attuned treatment.
• $15,000 awarded to the Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health in Arlington Heights, Ill., for an initiative that will focus on training teachers, coaches and social workers to recognize mental and emotional issues that can lead young people to suicide.
• $15,000 awarded to Alexian Brothers Sherbrooke Village in St. Louis for the production of a DVD entitled,“Nurturing their Spirits: Relieving Loneliness and Isolation Among Older Adults.”
• $9,300 awarded to ABBHH for the development of a telepsychiatry and telecommunications program that would connect the underserved poor in Illinois with ABBHH specialists through video conferences.
In awarding the grants, “the Alexian Brothers are answering the question,‘What is it that we could be doing to address something that is needed in the communities we are serving?’ ’’ says Stan Kedzior, Director of Mission Integration for Alexian Brothers Health System.
The Alexian Brothers for years have supported the Lone Oak Free Health Clinic, which provides medical and dental care for the poor from its location in a local community center. The ministry fund grant will help the clinic address growing demand for dental services by adding a separate room for dental care, says Patrick Lampe, Corporate Director of Mission Integration for Alexian Brothers Health System. Plans call for the new dental clinic to open later this year, he says.
The autism-spectrum-disorder grant awarded to ABBHH will enable the hospital to purchase testing materials that can provide better-targeted, more comprehensive assessments that look at an individual’s cognitive, emotional, social, occupational and adaptive functioning, says Pat Koltun, M.D., Director of Autism Spectrum Disorder Services at ABBHH. “Such assessment data can then be used to inform treatment and enhance the efficacy of their treatment outcomes,” she says.
Demand is growing for strong assessment services as the public becomes more aware of autism and its variations, says Francine McGouey, ABBHH Chief Operating Officer. “With excellent assessments, we can come up with the right intervention,” McGouey says. “We can individualize treatment. When you’re dealing with a spectrum of disorders, there is such a wide variety of needs, and each individual is different, so assessment is extremely important….Because the assessment will be so thorough, we will be able to answer the question: ‘What do we do next?’ ’’
As a result, McGouey expects ABBHH to help more individuals with autism-spectrum disorders, enabling them to enjoy more satisfying and fulfilling lives. “This grant will lead us to being a greater resource for offering intervention for children and their families and for adults who may never have been diagnosed,” she says.
The suicide-prevention grant will enable three staff members of the Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health to undergo special training, known as “Question, Persuade, Refer,” that will allow them to train teachers, coaches and social workers to become more aware of mental and emotional problems that can lead young people to suicide and to encourage students and their families to connect with treatment resources. A key objective will be to reduce the stigma often associated with such problems, which can be a barrier to treatment. “It’s one of those areas that people have a tendency to shy away from, so there is a fair amount of unmet need,” says Dennis Ferguson, Executive Director of the Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health.“ Having the grant gives us a chance to organize this effort, make it more cohesive and hopefully have some effect within the schools.”
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people between 15 and 24, and some mental and emotional problems, such as depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, can start early in childhood, Ferguson says. For this reason, the center will focus its efforts on elementary schools and high schools. Plans call for introducing the program to at least six schools before the end of the year.
The Sherbrooke DVD, a sequel to its successful “Spirituality and Aging” DVD, is designed to address demand engendered by the first DVD for more information about how to reach out to older adults to meet their spiritual needs. The DVD will explore the devastating effects of loneliness and isolation on the human spirit, the critical importance of social contact in late life, and a variety of innovative strategies for enhancing and enriching the lives of older adults.
Alexian Brothers of Missouri plans to partner with the Alzheimer’s Association, the federal Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, faith groups in the St. Louis area, the Washington University School of Medicine’s Center on Aging, the Sisters of Mercy Health System and the St. Louis University Medical School in developing and distributing the DVD.
The telepsychiatry and telecommunications program at ABBHH is expected to address the mental health needs of a large number of underserved poor in Illinois. “In areas outside Chicago , there is a very low number of child and adolescent psychiatrists and a lack of specialty programs,” says Clayton Ciha, ABBHH Director of Business Development.
Many experts believe that telepsychiatry/ telecommunications could be the wave of the future for addressing this issue, allowing individuals and families to consult with behavioral health professionals through video conferences offered by local health-care providers.