Veteran’s Day—November 11, 2017

As the winter cold and holidays fast approach, don’t forget a population struggling with hunger and homelessness, mental health, brain injuries, and substance use disorder at an alarming rate – our veterans.

Because all of these issues are related, many United States veterans are battling multiple issues at once. The national coalition for homeless veterans estimates 11% of the adult homeless population is veterans. The majority are single, live in urban areas, suffer from mental illness, and have alcohol or substance use disorders. Another 1.4 million veterans are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, unemployment, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, 20% of all veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A number of these veterans had experienced a traumatic brain injury.

More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day. The Veterans Health Administration reports nearly 60% of veterans who died by suicide were diagnosed with a mental illness like depression and PTSD.

Substance use disorder is all too common among veterans; especially those experiencing combat, depression, and financial stresses. The National Institute of Drug Abuse conducted a report showing nearly 25% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans showed signs of substance use disorder.

How to Help a Veteran in Need

You can help a veteran you know who may be combating one or more of these issues. Learn to recognize the symptoms, complete an online screening, talk to professionals, and practice self-help tips to help. Remember, the only way to know if someone is living with suicidal feelings, depressions, PTSD, or a substance use disorder is to get the help of behavioral health professionals.

  • 40,000 or more veterans are homeless on any given night
  • 19.5% of veterans with depression or PTSD had a traumatic brain injury
  • Only 50% of returning vets who need mental health treatment get it
  • Veterans comprise 20% of national suicides

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people they care about. If these symptoms last longer than a few weeks, the veteran may be experiencing PTSD.

Ways you can help:

  • Learn as much as you can about PTSD to understand what the veteran is going through
  • Offer to go to health care appointments with them and be there for support
  • Tell the veteran you want to listen, but you also understand if he or she doesn’t feel like talking
  • Plan activities together, like having dinner or going to a movie
  • Do physical activity together. Exercise is important for health and helps clear the mind
  • Encourage contact with family and close friends for support through changes and stressful times

Where to find help:

Suicide Prevention

Dealing with personal, financial, or mental health crisis can become overwhelming. Veterans struggling with suicidal feelings may appear sad or depressed most of the time, feel anxious and agitated, neglect personal health, withdraw from family and friends, perform poorly at work or school, and talk about guilt and shame. If the veteran is thinking about hurting or killing themselves, exploring methods to kill themselves, talking about death, dying, or suicide, or is involved in destructive behaviors like drug use or handling weapons, get help immediately.

Ways you can help:

  • The most important step, and often most difficult, is to ask the veteran if they are suicidal
  • Communicate with concern and without judgement
  • Encourage the veteran to get help. Treatment is available and it works
  • Offer to go with them to talk to health care professionals
  • Learn and participate in coping and problem-solving skills
  • Encourage contact with family, friends, or a battle buddy

Where to find help:

Substance Use Disorder

Veterans often develop problems with alcohol or drug use when coping with mental and physical health conditions, stress, and depression. Signs of substance use disorder include impaired motor skills and speech, health problems, failure to perform at work or school, the ability to drink or use greater quantities over time, the inability to stop drinking or using in spite of negative consequences, and withdrawal—feeling sick when trying to quit drinking or using drugs.

Ways you can help:

  • Start with showing concern, without judgement, for the veteran
  • Encourage them to go to a health care professional
  • You and the veteran should seek support from friends, family, and support groups
  • Remember the process takes time, a lot of hard work, and a lot of support
  • Recovery is a challenging process – be patient and persistent
  • Let the veteran know you appreciate and are proud of the effort and improvements

Where to find help:

Overdose Rescues in Surry County

Recently, three people in Surry County used their overdose kits to rescue another person overdosing on opioids. “It is about saving a life in that moment,” said one rescuer.

Opioid Overdose Reversal Kits used for overdose rescues

Daymark Recovery Services gave Partners Overdose Reversal Kits to everyone in their Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient services in Surry County with an opioid addiction assessment. These recipients, who are in various stages of recovery, are at a higher risk of overdose if they use opioids again because their tolerance is lowered from not using. By giving these people naloxone, they have a method to reverse an overdose should they use again and have an adverse effect.

“I cannot express to you how grateful we are to be able to provide this life saving tool to our patients and their families,” Billy R. West, Jr., Daymark President and CEO. “At a time when there is no Medicaid Expansion and cuts to State Dollars are happening, Partners should be commended for fiscally supporting this life saving effort.”

Naloxone HCl, often known by the brand name NARCAN®, is a safe, non-toxic medication used to reverse overdoses from opioids like prescription painkillers or heroin.

If you or someone you know needs help with substance use disorder, call Partners’ HOPE line anytime, every day at 1-888-235-HOPE (4673). For information about obtaining naloxone, contact a pharmacy or Olive Branch Ministries, Inc. at 1-828-291-7023.

Enrollee Navigator

Reporting Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

Healthcare Fraud, Waste and Abuse cases have received growing attention nationally.  The cost of fraud, waste and abuse in North Carolina is thought to be in the millions.  Most frauds are discovered as the result of a tip.  Tipsters are the front-line soldiers in the fight against fraud.

Who are Tipsters? Individuals receiving support, Parents, Guardians, Care takers, Community Members, Providers, Stakeholders, Employees.

How to report? Partners provides two ways to report concerns of fraud, waste and abuse.  The first is the Regulatory Compliance Alert Line at 1-866-806-8777, where a live person can assist with taking information.  Another is online at https://partnersbhm.alertline.com.

Helpful reporting advice:

  • “I’m not sure if it is fraud, waste or abuse.”  Partners has charged the Department of Program Integrity with assisting in the elimination of health care fraud and abuse. The skilled staff of Partners Program Integrity will determine if it is fraud, waste or abuse.  If it is not, the concern will be referred to the most appropriate department within Partners.
  • “I want to remain anonymous.” When reporting a concern by phone or online, you have the choice to be anonymous. Being anonymous allows the reporter to withhold any identifying information about him/herself. Please note that your contact information is kept confidential, others will not know that you filed the report.
  • “I don’t know how much to report.” The more information you provide increases the chance that the Department of Program Integrity will identify the fraud, waste or abuse.

In the Community 

“Hire a Veteran” Event

Veterans are invited to a free breakfast and workshop held in their honor on Thursday, November 9, beginning at 8 a.m. at the NC Works Career Center, 1391 Bessemer City Road, Gastonia. The “Recipe for Success Workshop,” presented by Gaston College, includes information on veterans receiving Priority of Service, and veterans benefits and resources.

Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week

There are people in our own community who don’t have access to the traditional image of Thanksgiving—warm, homemade meals on a family-sized table in a spacious dining room—because of a lack of food resources or a lack of adequate housing. This year, Housing Visions, is hosting this year’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, from November 11 to 19. Catawba County is joining more than 700 communities across the nation participating in Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week—an annual week of action where local volunteers come together to draw attention to poverty. Take a look at the awareness week’s online poster for a schedule of events.

Foothills Veterans Winter Stand Down

Bring proof of veteran status for free medical services, food, clothing, employment counseling, haircuts, shoes, community resources, education, and fellowship. The Stand Down is on Thursday, November 9, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. with registration and breakfast starting at 8 a.m. The event is at the J.E. Broyhlll Civic Center, 1909 Hickory Boulevard, Lenoir. For more information, contact Larry McMullen at 828-320-2842, Stanley McCormick at 828-759-4680, or Mark Barber at 828-759-2700.

Connections’ Chili-Pottery Fundraiser

Connections, a private, non-profit adult program based on the clubhouse model, is having their Chili-Pottery Fundraiser on Wednesday, December 6 form 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ, 217 2nd Avenue NE, Conover. The event is a time to dine with friends, take home a great piece of pottery, and learn about Connections and its referral criteria. Tickets are available in advance by calling 828-466-0030 or can be purchased at the door.

Behavioral Health Focus is published on the first and third Tuesday of each month and is intended to be a source of information for those working or interacting with behavioral health care in Burke, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Surry and Yadkin Counties. If you would like to contribute, contact Jeff Brucato at 704-884-2564 or jbrucato@partnersbhm.org. Items should be submitted by Wednesday at 3 p.m. for the next week’s issue.

Volume 3 – Issue 8
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