The coronavirus pandemic has brought so many things that make up the notion of “normalcy” to a screeching halt — commerce, sports and school, to name a few. But issues like homelessness, drug use disorders and accessible health care never subsided amid the chaos.
They affect Lewis County today just as much as they did before the coronavirus swept across the nation, and with many anticipating the economic fallout due to COVID-19 to outlive the pandemic, there is a belief that behavioral health agencies will have an increasing role to play in the future.
This much is apparent for Community Integrated Health Services (CIHS), a behavioral health agency that in the beginning of 2020 branched off from the Great Rivers Behavioral Health Organization.
CIHS’ mission is to serve the population who have been affected the hardest by a range of issues such as homelessness, substance abuse and inadequate health care, said the agency’s Chief Operating Officer Todd Broderius.
Broderius added that in a nutshell, CIHS views its role as an agency looking to fill the gaps where underserved individuals are being neglected through community-based treatment.
It’s governing board is made up of county commissioners, including Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund, who help identify where their services could be of used.
“All of our commissioners saw little gaps here and there in different communities and those gaps tended to be, by and large, those programs that are for the hardest to serve that are community-based,” Broderius said.
In Lewis County, the CIHS programs most sought after are the Flexible Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) program for adults and the Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe) program for youth and their families, Lewis County Program Manager Crystal Rollins explained.
The functions of the two programs are similar in that they employ a community-based strategy, meaning they develop an individualized plan for a client that uses resources from their team as well as local allied agencies, organizations and businesses to provide whatever services an individual might need.
That could be seeking counseling, medication management, skillset building, finding a person employment opportunities, assistance with finding housing or other services.
The WISe program is very much the same, except it is catered toward issues kids and their families might be dealing with.
Rollins also said she takes pride in knowing that CIHS is one of the only agencies in the county still providing these services in a face-to-face capacity.
While CIHS has been able to carry on its work, the coronavirus has presented some road blocks in the services they provide too.
Broderius reported that since the beginning of March, CIHS has seen its total clientele increase by 24 percent, yet they have seen a decrease in the number of kids in the WISe program.
They suspect this is due to school closures, and with kids out of classrooms and no teachers or counselors to identify possible issues, they slip under the radar.
Within the FACT program, assisting individuals with employment has been particularly difficult. With the unemployment rate surging during the pandemic, many of the local opportunities CIHS would recommend a person to pursue have dried up, Broderius said.
These are a couple of the issues CIHS faces now, but down the road, projections indicate they could be facing another issue.
According to Broderius, Health care authorities at the state level have told him due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the necessity for behavioral health services will surely increase.
Just how much it will increase, Broderius doesn’t know. But he does know that even before the pandemic there has been a workforce shortage in behavioral health for medical staff, particularly in rural areas.
Does this suggest CIHS’ staff will be stretched thin with the potential added workload in the following months and possibly years? It’s too early to say at this point, Broderius said.
At this moment in time, they want everyone who might be needing CIHS’ help to be aware that despite the pandemic, they are still offering their services.
CIHS’ Lewis County office is located at 1707 Cooks Hill Road in Centralia and their number is 360-261-6930.