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Communicare Sees Infusion of Federal Grants

An infusion of federal grants to local mental health provider Communicare will help expand local services at a time of increased need driven by economic woes, the Coronavirus pandemic and an ongoing substance abuse epidemic.

Six new grants are providing funding for expanded telemedicine, suicide prevention, treatment for individuals in drug court, and children’s outpatient services over the next several years. The agency is actively hiring a variety of staff to implement these expansions and is looking for qualified applicants.

Communicare provides a range community mental health and substance abuse services to adults and children throughout a six-county catchment area including Panola, Lafayette, Marshall, Tate, Yalobusha and Calhoun Counties. The agency, which employs more than 300 health care workers, has a 50-year history of providing services to adults and children.

Outpatient services include individual and group therapy for individuals with substance use and/or mental health issues, medication management, and medicated assisted treatment. In addition to these basic therapeutic services, Communicare provides intensive outpatient therapy, anger management, peer support services, community support services, day treatment for those with IDD, day treatment for those with serious mental illness, day treatment for children, and nursing services. The Haven House is the agency’s adult residential substance use disorder treatment facility, which specializes in the treatment of co-occurring disorders.

New federal grant funding will allow the agency to build on that legacy, expanding treatment options for adults and children, according Executive Director Dr. Sandy Rogers.

A $4 million Assisted Outpatient Treatment grant will fund a new intensive outpatient treatment program designed to provide wrap-around services for individuals who are routinely hospitalized for psychiatric stabilization. The idea is to avoid hospitalization through intensive case management and peer support. Expanded services include the addition of a master’s level mental health therapist at the Chancery Clerk’s office to help families when they seek an involuntary commitment for a loved one. In addition to this position, the program will employ an additional intensive master’s level therapist, a case manager, peer support specialists, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner. The grant will fund the program for four years. The program will be new to Lafayette County and unique in northern Mississippi.

A four-year $4 million Children’s System of Care grant will fund an expansion of children’s mental health services throughout Lafayette, Panola, Tate, Calhoun, Marshall, and Yalobusha counties.

Two grants will focus on expanding substance abuse treatment and prevention programs in the region. The $2 million ACHIEVES grant, will enhance the 3rd District Drug Court program through the addition of an intensive outpatient program in the Calhoun County office, as well as a new clinical case manager.

The Strategic Prevention Framework-Partnerships for Success grant will provide $1.5 million over a five-year period, to implement substance abuse prevention programming in all local schools and colleges within the six-county catchment area. The new evidence-based prevention programming aims to combat underage drinking and impaired driving.

A COVID-19 Suicide Prevention and an FCC telehealth grant are also helping the agency to combat a rise in mental health issues associated with the pandemic and the new reality of lockdowns and social distancing.

Funded through the CARES Act, the suicide prevention grant, will provide $800,000 over the next 16 months for evidence-based suicide prevention training. A portion of the funds will also be used to help victims of domestic violence obtain safe and stable housing.

An FCC telehealth grant helped the agency rapidly roll-out the new service during the early days of the pandemic. Telehealth is still available as a tool for providers but patients often benefit more from in-person services, according to Rogers.

“Although these grants fund very specific programs, Communicare is consistently seeking opportunities to grow,” said Communicare Assistant Director Melody Madaris. “We know that mental health and substance abuse issues are a part of every community. We are here to provide the care and support both the individual and the family may need.”

Community mental health needs are only continuing to grow as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, said Rogers. She noted the agency is seeing an uptick in individuals seeking services and the incidences of severe mental illness. She believes the pandemic and its corresponding economic woes including job and health insurance losses, has caused many patients to delay seeking care.

Individuals always need to be vigilant about their mental health, and that of their loved ones, but it is especially important in the time of COVID as social isolation has increased. “Take care of yourself, mental health is just as important as your physical health,” Rogers said, noting mental health is an “unseen” illness, and all too often patients delay care, resulting in more severe illness.

“Our goal is to provide quality, affordable services to those in need throughout our catchment area,” said Rogers, “Many people do not know what we do until they need our help and assistance. We do the best we can to meet their needs, which includes a Crisis Team that will respond 24 hours a day if needed.”

Communicare operating expenses are also funded through fees for service and contributions from local governments.

For more information about services and employment opportunities visit Communicarems.org, contact 662.234.7521 or follow them on Facebook. A 24-hour crisis hotline is available at 1.866. 837.7521