Melanie Dallas: Community-based services meet people where they are

Melanie Dallas

While I often write about current events or national health observances as a context for discussing some aspect of behavioral health, from time to time I like to write about specific programs provided by Highland Rivers Health. This is not an effort to "sell" Highland Rivers’ services, but rather to raise awareness of the unique role our agency has in the communities we serve as the state-designated behavioral health safety-net provider.

As a Community Service Board (CSB), part of Highland Rivers’ mission is to ensure behavioral health services are available to everyone in the community, and especially individuals who are low-income, uninsured or have Medicaid or Medicare. In addition, many of our services are designed specifically to support people with complex and persistent mental health challenges who might otherwise be in an institutional setting.

One such type of services is our community-based services. While the name may not suggest these services are anything extraordinary, the fact is community-based services are critical to helping hundreds of vulnerable individuals live independently in their community. Unlike clinic-based services, community-based services are provided in a community setting, often in an individual’s home.

Highland Rivers provides a continuum of community-based services — some highly intensive and others less so — depending on how much support a person living with a mental health condition might need. Here is an overview of the community-based we provide daily in our communities:

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is the most intensive level of community-based services, and individuals receiving ACT services may be visited at home several times a week. Conceived as a "mobile hospital," ACT services are delivered by a multidisciplinary mental health team that includes a psychiatrist, nurse, mental health therapist, substance use counselor and certified peer specialist (as well as employment and housing specialists as needed).

Community Support Team (CST) is an intensive community-based service for people who have had frequent hospitalizations or crises due to severe and persistent mental health issues. The CST team includes a lead therapist, registered nurse, certified peer specialist and Community Support Services (CSS) worker that meet with the individual a minimum of four times a month.

Intensive Case Management (ICM) services help individuals develop strategies and support to avoid out-of-home placement and reduce the need for more intensive services, and coordinate access to other community services and resources. Like all community-based services, ICM helps individuals in minimizing the negative effects of mental health symptoms and addictive diseases that interfere with daily living, independent functioning and personal development.

CSS are medium-intensity community-based services that promote mental health recovery for people with persistent mental health issues. CSS is provided by a case manager that visits an individual at home or in the community twice a month, and is usually delivered in conjunction with ongoing clinical services at the agency. While the other community-based services are specifically for adults ages 18 and over, CSS is available for children and adolescents as well as adults.

Addictive Disease Support Services (ADSS) are similar to CSS in both scope and intensity, but focused on people living in recovery in their community with a primary diagnosis of substance use disorder.

It is important to note that community-based services are generally only available through referral from other and often concurrent program services. Which services an individual receives are based on individual needs and location.

As I have mentioned several times in these articles, I believe Highland Rivers Health is a vital part of the communities we serve. Our staff is outstanding, and I am always glad to help raise awareness of the services we provide. I am proud for our communities to know that in addition to services we provide in our clinics, crisis units, residential treatment centers and other facilities, Highland Rivers also works daily in our communities, providing services where people live and meeting them where they are.

Melanie Dallas is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Health, which provides treatment and recovery services for mental health, addiction and intellectual developmental disabilities in a 12-county region of northwest Georgia that includes Whitfield and Murray counties.

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