Jefferson County Commissioners Proclaim May Mental Health Awareness Month | Local

BROOKVILLE — Jefferson County commissioners proclaimed May Mental Health Awareness Month and heard from Dennis Bembenic of the Meadows Psychiatric Center on the subject.

Bembenic is the community relations liaison for The Meadows and said they are trying to promote mental health awareness as part of the national trend. The organization also posts on social media about it.

The biggest issue currently facing the mental health field is staffing, according to Bembenic. He said he was asked if there were beds available, and he said there were plenty but no staff.

“Our hospital is operating at around 60% capacity. Other hospitals are in the same condition,” Bembenic said.

He said there were both positives and negatives resulting from the pandemic. He cited The Hope Squad, a national suicide prevention organization, which said the adolescent child population had seen a 3% decrease in suicide rates during the pandemic. He said this was attributed to better family ties as the pandemic kept children at home.

“However, what we’ve seen at the hospital level is a huge spike in depression. Kids are interacting socially just as much as they were when they were in school and making those connections. The other part is a more nature aggression from the patient when he comes to see us,” said Bembenic.

Bembenic said it was because of the fear of catching COVID-19 if they seek help at the hospital, so when patients finally come to them they are more serious cases and require a longer treatment to stabilize.

Children haven’t had the opportunity to grow socially during the pandemic, but because they were at home more and families were more interactive, that aspect improved in some children, according to Bembenic.

“So we see pros and cons if you will,” Bembenic said.

He said the staffing issue is across the medical field and across the state. Telehealth was a positive addition, but he said that was being phased out by the state government.

“There are options to do telehealth, but we’re regulated by the state and also insurance and what they’ll pay for, and telehealth is being phased out,” Bembenic said. “We push for it, we demand it.”

Bembenic’s wife is an outpatient clinical worker, and he said his no-show rate has been significantly reduced due to being able to get an appointment via telehealth. Now that this option is gone, the no-show rate is increasing again.

He said telehealth has also helped with staffing issues in some ways. This made it easier for patients to receive services, but on the clinical side, doctors and therapists don’t get the full picture of a patient this way.

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