RCCS Tidbit of the Month: Identity

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The RCCS Tidbit of the Month is part of Telecare's Recovery-Centered Clinical System curriculum to reinforce a culture of recovery in mental health service programs. For more information, click here.

 

In Telecare's Recovery-Centered Clinical System (RCCS), we say we are all on a journey heading somewhere. For some of us, the path is clear. For others, it's not.

Regardless, all journeys require a vehicle to transport us. In the RCCS, we think about identity (who we are) as the vehicle we use to take us on our life's journey.

In our national culture today, we’re constantly asked to think about who we are — and who we’re not. Whether it's through identity politics, immigration status, tribalism, racial bias, or privilege, the conversation about identity is growing bigger and, sadly, often more divisive.  If we're not careful, our relationships and recovery culture can also get defined by labels of people (job titles, roles within the team, staff vs. managers).

At Telecare, we strive to remind ourselves to remain curious and approach our relationships by seeking to understand each other, not from what we think we know, but rather from a more humble position of recognizing what we don't know. We call this cultural humility.

 to download a pdf version of the rccs tidbit of the month,  Click here .

to download a pdf version of the rccs tidbit of the month, Click here.

The RCCS works from the perspective that each of us is uniquely different. This uniqueness encompasses an individual's lived experiences, and how they interpret the outside world. If we see and know others by being curious and open to other's values, beliefs, and worldview -- rather than building relationships based on assumptions -- our relationships become deeper and stronger. Judgment is reduced. And we can provide services that are respectful and culturally curious. The RCCS thus helps to counter the assumptions and stigma that permeate the dominant culture.

We also know that who we are today may be, in some ways, different than who we were five years ago today. Who we are five years from now might be different than who we are today. The RCCS includes two conversations to help begin this exploration. The conversations are: 1) My Story, My Values, My Identity – Now, and 2) My Identity - The Future. These conversations can be used between staff and clients, as well as between staff and staff. They help people get to know each other and remain curious. They also help us to see and know each other, not as labels or as a member of a group, but as individuals with unique stories, gifts, and talents.

Practice:

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  1. Complete the My Identity - Now conversation tool.
  2. Partner with someone and share your completed
    Identity Now circle.
  3. Be curious. Ask your partner questions about who they are.
  4. Is there any part of your identity you would like to change in
    any way?
  5. How might your identity be different five years from today?

Read More About the RCCS:

More RCCS Tidbits of the Month

Recovery Spotlight: Gresham Creates a Wellness Labyrinth

 The team at Telecare's Recovery Center at Gresham view their completed labyrinth on the east lawn of their campus.

The team at Telecare's Recovery Center at Gresham view their completed labyrinth on the east lawn of their campus.

At Telecare, the program environment is a foundational part of our recovery model. This means we strive to create environments that are inclusive, welcoming, and create a space where recovery can thrive.

Telecare's Recovery Center at Gresham program in Oregon recently added a unique feature to their recovery environment : a wellness labyrinth created with staff and resident participation. 

 The Labyrinth design.

The Labyrinth design.

When you visit the Gresham campus, you will find a low-profile design with handcrafted stepping stones interspersed with pavers. The design, created at the direction of art therapy intern, Glee Lumb, is conducive to mindfulness and taking time for reflection and serenity in a fast-paced world. 

Labyrinths have long been used as a tool for mindfulness and meditation all over the world. A specific path is laid out to create a structured walking meditation that offers a pattern thought to enhance the right-brain activity. Walking the path can be a relaxing, often spiritual experience, which aids our members to safely and gently explore their own thoughts, emotions and memories as well as practice a new form of grounding and being.

 Research shows that labyrinths can offer other common benefits, including:

  • Creating greater awareness of thoughts, emotions, and memories
  • Reducing stress, agitation, and anxiety
  • Replenishing energy
  • Creating more clarity, focus, and peacefulness
  • Decreasing somatic stress and worry
  • Stabilizing blood pressure, gain higher physical and mental relaxation
  • Improving overall wellness and health
  • Nurturing a spiritual connection to the earth and a higher power
  • Aiding in the practice of letting go and living one day, one step at a time

Read More About Recovery Environments at Telecare:

Morton Bakar Center "Goes Wild" for National Nursing Home Week

National Nursing Home Week was recognized from May 13-19 and is celebrated annually at Telecare's Morton Bakar Center. Each day of the week was centralized around a theme. On Wednesday, May 15, the team celebrated "MBC Goes Wild" — staff dressed up in safari gear and animal print while others brought their pets into work. Birds, dogs, and bunnies paraded through the building throughout the day so that residents could touch and play with them.

One staff member was able to bring her relative's horse, Jugete ("toy" in Spanish), to MBC for the residents to interact with. MBC had never brought Jugete in before, and it was such a special treat for residents and staff alike to touch and take photos with the horse. They opened up the back patio area for the horse to stand in and for residents to be able to view and play with the horse safely. Residents of MBC were pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

How to Fill in a Garden with Gratitude (and Ditch the Dirt)

Telecare Gratitude Garden

As mental health service providers, the benefits of practicing gratitude have been on our radar for quite some time. Research tells us taking the time to cultivate a regular practice, gratitude improves sleeping habits, lowers blood pressure, and can significantly increase life satisfaction and a sense of wellbeing.

At Telecare, we strive to create a company culture in which gratitude thrives. For most people, the biggest challenge of practicing gratitude is finding the time, so we wanted to find an easy way for our staff and the people we serve to practice wherever they are. What we found was even better: a simple way to practice gratitude and connect with others that also promotes a healing environment. We planted a Gratitude Garden.

What is a Gratitude Garden?

 Shannon mong, Director of Innovation Initiatives, found destiny at the solar exclipse in 2017. A few months later, Telecare began piloting a gratitude program based on these cards.

Shannon mong, Director of Innovation Initiatives, found destiny at the solar exclipse in 2017. A few months later, Telecare began piloting a gratitude program based on these cards.

Unlike an actual garden, a Gratitude Garden includes far less dirt and worms. The idea stems from two women who created Gratitude Blooming, a card deck created by them with handwritten themes based in nature to inspire mindful reflection. The founders later expanded their idea to create a Gratitude Garden Kit, "a playful and interactive gratitude experience designed to create inviting spaces for people to contribute their seeds of gratitude and wisdom with the messages they leave behind."

Each kit contains a poster and postcards featuring the designs from their card deck with a prompt written on them.

So, how did Telecare get involved with Gratitude Blooming?

"I was at the solar eclipse last year in Oregon and sat beside people pulling cards from an unusual looking deck," said Shannon Mong, Director of Innovation Initiatives. "I'm a curious person, so I asked what they were. They told me to pull a card, and I got one with a beautiful flower on it and that said destiny. I thought, okay, here we go! I want to learn more."

Growing Gratitude

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Inspired by the properties gratitude and nature have, Shannon later  tracked down the women and learned Gratitude Blooming was based near Telecare's corporate office in the Bay Area – destiny! They met and discussed putting together a gratitude project to engage both employees and clients, breaking down barriers around education or personal experience.

Shannon recruited sixteen Telecare leaders to pilot the use of large Gratitude posters at their programs. Each month the program employees and clients plant "seeds" of gratitude by writing and posting reflections in response to a unique prompt on each poster. 

Highlights from the Field

Our Gratitude Garden pilots at our programs ended in spring. Below is feedback from our programs that implemented a garden at their facility. 

This July, Telecare's corporate office is planting a "gratitude garden" in Alameda, and in the future, we're excited to continue collaborating with Gratitude Blooming to explore new ways to spread gratitude more deeply throughout the organization. 

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  • "People who never talk in our group sessions were sharing stories and opening up with their peers. By the end, they were having conversations without the facilitators." – Melissa Planas, Clinical Director at TEIR, a community-based Transition Aged Youth program in Stockton, California.
  • "When we first took the idea to members, the response to ‘gratitude’ was instant: I’m very grateful for Telecare. It was nice to hear for the staff, because it isn’t always verbalized." – Rachel Schwartz, Administrator at Kaiser Downey, a community-based Intensive Recovery Treatment Program in Bellflower, California.
  • "Clients are so happy to fill the posters with messages. One client is really involved and consistently promotes it during community meetings. The clients and staff are more positive, motivated, and engaged with one another." – Jennifer Sevilla, Director of Nursing at Gladman MHRC, a 40-bed Mental Health Rehabilitation Center in Oakland, California.       

Programs that Piloted a Gratitude Garden

Interested in Learning More?

Gratitude Garden kits vary in the number of items and price and have corporate and community options available.


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RCCS Tidbit of the Month: Judgment

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The RCCS Tidbit of the Month is part of Telecare's Recovery-Centered Clinical System curriculum to reinforce a culture of recovery in mental health service programs. For more information, click here.

 

 
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According to the report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, stigma is "a cluster of negative attitudes and beliefs that motivate the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with mental illnesses." The report also says, "Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment."

Stigma perpetuates two significant myths about people with mental illnesses: 1) They are violent; and 2) They do not recover from their mental illness.

Both are false. Studies show that, at most, mental health status contributes a trivial amount to the overall violence in society (as we know, people with serious mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence). Studies also show that people who have mental illnesses can and do recover from their illnesses.

Stigma and discrimination can have a negative impact on someone's physical and mental health care. Health care providers may not provide the necessary treatments to people with mental illnesses. For example, people with schizophrenia who are hospitalized for reasons unrelated to mental illness are at least twice as likely as patients without schizophrenia to experience medical problems associated with poor outcomes, including death. One hypothesis is that a lot of the increased risk may result from inferior medical care. For example, studies have indicated that healthcare professionals might not take the medical symptoms of people with schizophrenia seriously, leading to a delay in treatment. Mental health care providers may act coercively or impose mandatory treatment on people with mental illnesses.

So, what can you do to fight stigma? One of the first steps is to acknowledge that we all harbor some level of stigma and judgment toward others or toward ourselves. Discussing the source of those judgments can assist in fighting our myths and giving us real information to bust those myths. Participating in NAMIWalks and joining others trying to educate our society and bust stigma and myths can be energizing and raise our hope. Programs hiring and supporting Peer Staff in their important and unique roles, also reminds us all that recovery is possible.

Watch:

Practice:

View any or all of the videos with your team. Following the video, have a group conversation using the following questions:

  1. What about the video stood out for you?
  2. What surprised you?
  3. Can you connect or relate to anyone in the video or any of the messages you took from the video?
  4. Did you find yourself feeling judgment or stigma about anyone in the video? Why do you think? View the videos with clients/members and have a similar

Read More About the RCCS:

More RCCS Tidbits of the Month

  • July 2018: Identity

Telecare Supports Legislative Bill AB1971

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Telecare Corporation is a mental health care provider that offers recovery-centered programs and solutions for people with serious mental illness and complex needs. We serve 30,000 individuals per year, many of whom have severe mental illness and are gravely disabled.

As such, we are in full support of AB1971, co-sponsored by the California Psychiatric Association with the Steinberg Institute and the County of Los Angeles. We support this important step toward helping people receive respectful, necessary, quality care. The bill has passed out of its house of origin and is awaiting committee hearings in the second house. 

What AB1971 Does

AB1971 updates the criteria to consider someone gravely disabled, expanding the definition to include those who are unable to recognize or care for their own urgent physical medical needs because of their mental illness.

Why We Support AB1971

The number of homeless people who are dying on the streets has nearly doubled since 2013. Last year, Los Angeles County alone reported 831 deaths, with the total number statewide reaching into the thousands. Many of these deaths were due to untreated physical illnesses such as sepsis and other infections, diabetes, heart conditions, and life-threatening injuries.

This bill helps to support those gravely ill persons who are unable to care for their own physical needs due to mental illness.

For More Information

The full text of the bill is here (click)

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May is Mental Health Month!

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Each year, we recognize May as Mental Health Month to build awareness and decrease stigma around mental illness. Telecare program staff and members participate in health fairs, NAMIWalks, and other local events to provide information on supportive services and promote wellness in their communities. 

Check out the images below for a glimpse into what programs did for Mental Health Month!

A Walk in the Woods: Recovery Center at Gresham's Team Retreat

 Oxbow Regional Park, Multnomah County, OR. Photo by Ilya Yakubovich/Flikr

Oxbow Regional Park, Multnomah County, OR. Photo by Ilya Yakubovich/Flikr

In March, the staff at Telecare's Recovery Center at Gresham program in Oregon enjoyed a fun and recovery-centered retreat at the YMCA Camp Collins alongside Oxbow Regional Park in Multnomah County.

This was the second annual retreat for the Gresham team. Each year, they break into groups for single-day trips away in the woods to take advantage of the majestic landscapes Oregon has to offer. The days are filled with activities that incorporate some "awarenesses" from Telecare's Recovery-Centered Clinical System (RCCS), a clinical approach to recovery that puts respect, nonjudgment, and power-awareness at the forefront of treatment.

"As an office coordinator, the role-playing definitely connected me to the everyday issues recovery specialists, nurses, and peers are facing," said Don, Office Coordinator at Gresham. "I liked the peripatetic meetings: it was good to walk and talk, especially in nature."

"We really focused a lot on power-awareness and discussed possible scenarios that can often lead to power struggles, which we obviously want to avoid," said Rachel, Medical Records Technician. "I have worked here a long time so it is amazing to see that this list has diminished greatly."

Read more about the RCCS in action and download some available resources by clicking here.

What is Telecare's RCCS?

In 2002, Telecare rolled out the Recovery-Centered Clinical System (RCCS), an innovative clinical approach to delivering mental health services that we developed in the course of 20 years. Below, we've outlined a few highlights for you to learn more about the basic structure of the RCCS and what it looks like at our programs.

The Culture

The RCCS promotes culture as a primary intervention. It addresses losses brought on by years of living in and being served by “power-over” systems and living in the greater dominant culture. The goal is to create increased awareness and behaviors that reverse the loss of power, judgment, motivation, individual uniqueness, and respect and dignity.

The Conversations

The RCCS has five conversation areas to help engage staff with clients and begin building relationships that will support an individual’s recovery journey. Staff use conversational tools to help re-awaken hope and support people in resuming their unique recovery journeys. Find more details about the five conversation areas by downloading our Culture & Conversations: The Basic Framework of RCCS handout.

The Measures

The Recovery Centered Measures (RCM) is a validated tool that Telecare programs use to measure their recovery-centered culture. Staff as well as individuals served give feedback on how the culture impacts them and services being delivered. Results are used to identify and grow strengths within a program as well as provide an opportunity for culture improvement initiatives.

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RCCS in Action

From the development of programs to the delivery of services, the "awarenesses" of the RCCS show up in all sorts of ways. The model continues to evolve with our industry and is adaptable to the many types of programs we have. Our programs also serve a wide array of populations, and to be the most effective we need to have strong partnerships with our customers, communities, and the individuals we serve.

Recovery-Centered Environment

To support the RCCS, Telecare designs its programs to create an environment where recovery can thrive. When a person chooses to walk through the doors of one of our programs, our goal is to welcome them to a home-like space where they feel safe and supported. We use art and color to inspire tranquility and mindfulness. Our nursing stations are typically open, not enclosed, to promote inclusivity and engagement with residents.

Resilience in the Workplace

While we know the work we do can be both rewarding and inspiring, it can also be demanding and stressful. It was Maya Angelou who said it best: "Nothing works unless you do."

Finding a self-care practice for healing from or managing these stressors at work is essential for the wellbeing of staff, as well as for those they are supporting in recovery. Telecare staff use the RCCS's guided conversations and our Staff Resiliency Toolkit to build relationships with each other based on trust, teamwork, and wellness. 

Showing Up and Being Present

We believe recovery is all about partnership—we partner with our members, our customers, and our local communities to ensure we do whatever it takes to engage individuals in our services and deliver the best possible outcomes.

Training for Staff and Leaders

Telecare is committed to creating programs where recovery thrives and where culture is sustained to reinforce the values and principles of the RCCS. With that in mind, we have designed a robust training program for all staff and leaders of the organization. These trainings target new Telecare staff by introducing them to the two components of the RCCS: the program culture with its five awarenesses, as well as the five conversations of the RCCS.

In addition, clinical supervisors attend in-person trainings that dive deeper into the five conversations: exploring identity, awakening hope, making choices, reducing harm, and making connections. These trainings help clinical supervisors develop their understanding of the intent and purpose of each RCCS conversation; understand the characteristics of being a good mentor, including giving and receiving feedback; learn and practice a strategy for skill building practice using a coaching feedback tool; and learn treatment/service planning using the RCCS conversations as targeted interventions.

Additionally, program leaders attend the annual "RCCS for Leaders" training. This in-person training helps leaders develop skills to evaluate where and how the program practices exert power and control, and how to evaluate when and how to safely increase authentic control. Leaders also understand their role in facilitating the importance of staffs rituals that build hope and resilience.

Downloadable Resources

Check out some resources we developed for the RCCS by clicking the links below!

Learn More

If you'd like more information about our RCCS, tools we use to measure recovery culture, or related presentations and materials, please email: RCCSusage@telecarecorp.com.

La Casa Skills Day Event

Submitted by Matt Ehler, Administrator of La Casa MHRC

In February, La Casa had their second annual Skills Day for the nursing departments of all three program: the MHRC, MHUCC, and PHF.

This year the Skills Day was on 2/22 (1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) and 2/23 (7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) to cover all three shifts—AM, PM, and NOC—to help our nursing staff get their annual competencies. Additionally, it provided us an opportunity to cover any areas that may need special attention in a structured format. This year, there were 10 booths with the following topics:

  1. Infection Control/Employee Health/Flu Vaccine (All)
  2. Fire Safety and SDS (All)
  3. Client Monitoring and Observation (All)
  4. Vital Signs (All)
  5. CPR/Chocking Prevention (All)
  6. Emergency Procedures - Codes - CPI (All)
  7. Head to Toe Assessment and Medication Safety/Destruction/Donation (Licensed staff)
  8. Code Blue Documentation/Adverse Event Reporting (Licensed staff)
  9. DTO/DTS/Elopement Risk Assessments (RNs)
  10. Employee Handbook (All)

In order to staff the tables, we utilized a mixture of all staff including nursing staff and interns, HR, and department managers. In addition to the training benefit, it also allowed us the opportunity to reconnect with different staff members and work together as a campus. It was a great success and we trained about 120 staff members!

Recovery at the Santa Ana Riverbed

Bringing our recovery model to life: Telecare partners with Orange County Health Care Agency in helping the homeless relocate from the Santa Ana Riverbed.

In Orange County, 30 Telecare staff members showed up to help the county’s Health Care Agency provide clinical assessments to more than 700 individuals experiencing homelessness who were being transitioned from the Santa Ana Riverbed to motels throughout the county.

“We were proud to be able to respond to their call,” said Ed Bienkowski, Telecare’s Regional Director of Operations in Orange County. “I got a request on Saturday night over President’s Day weekend to see if we had anyone available to assess the mental health needs of people being moved the next week. I texted our administrators, and within an hour they all got back to me with staff lined up to help.”

That Sunday and Monday, staff members and interns from Telecare’s TAO, TAO South, STEPS, and Orange County AOT programs came with their cars and trucks to assist the county with moving belongings and providing clinical assessments.

"I was there to offer compassion and support for those who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of getting into a motel," said Jyoti Gustafson, Personal Service Coordinator (PSC) II at Orange County AOT. "Some had jobs, some had pets and family, others had not been homeless for long and just needed a place to regroup. They were people in their community who would benefit from linkage to a variety of resources. By us being there on a united front with the county and interacting with those who needed placement, we may be a familiar face down the line if that person is ever referred to our program or in need of services."

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"Going to the riverbed was a reminder of why it is so important to do what we do every day," said Angela Pierce, PSC II at TAO South. "It was a humbling experience and a great reminder of the cultural diversity of both our members and Orange County in general, and the need to provide resources and the support to allow people to have fulfilling lives. It was also a reminder to be mindful of each other's uniquenesses and to be present when engaging with individuals—comforting people when they express sadness, celebrating people when they achieve their goals. We were able to show people we are there to support as best we could, even if it was just to ease the stress, anxiety, fear, or whatever they were experiencing at the time."

We are grateful to have such a committed team of Telecare staff members who respond with great heart to help others in times of need. We are honored to be a helpful resource to our customers and in our local communities.

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SHOP/TRAC/TMRS Participate in Stanislaus County’s Point-In-Time Count

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The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) mandates an annual Point-In-Time count and survey of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Telecare’s SHOP/TRAC/TMRS, initially just SHOP, was asked by Stanislaus County in 2003 to assist with the Point-In-Time count and have assisted every year since then. There are various other county and community agencies that either volunteer to participate in the count or donate bags of goodies to include snacks, socks, blankets and lists of local resources. The Point-In-Time count is an important effort that ensures the voices of people experiencing homelessness in our communities are heard and efforts are made to provide appropriate services. It also helps Stanislaus County develop more effective plans and measure progress towards ending homelessness.

The Performance Improvement Team has provided a survey tool that provides a means for gathering information directly from the individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness about their needs and causes of homelessness. One of the most prominent issues is the lack of stable and affordable housing options. Efforts to target this area are evident with the creation of the Stanislaus Homeless Outreach & Engagement Center.

Telecare’s Outreach & Engagement Team enjoys participating in the annual count to build and maintain relationships, listen to the amazing stories told and to better understand the needs of this population. Huge shout-out to this team for never complaining about such an early start and always being willing to serve others the best way they can!

San Bernardino ACT Goes Above and Beyond in their County!

San Bernardino County’s Department of Behavioral Health recently recognized a staff member at Telecare’s San Bernardino ACT program for going above and beyond. Check out what our county customer said below, and congratulations to Rebecca for the great work!

Last night, one of your Telecare ACT’s staff, Rebecca, was very helpful to me and my partner. We had a difficult case, in which a client came to ARMC with very little information, except that she is a Telecare client and her name, due to her low cognition. Rebecca assisted us with trying to piece together of which Telecare program. She helped us contacted other Telecare programs to see if the client is open with them. Once we’ve came to the conclusion that the client is from Riverside County, she provided us with RISE number. She contacted us back to ensure that we made contact with RISE at the end of our shift. Please extend our appreciation to Rebecca (I don’t know her last name) for assisting us during her after hour call. She spent about an hour with us trying to figure out who and where our client came from and was very gracious and patient with us.
— Ann Pham, County of San Bernardino, Department of Behavioral Health

Cordilleras Suites Celebrate the Season

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The residents and staff of Cordilleras Suites celebrated the season of giving with their annual Thanksgiving Tree. This year’s theme was gratitude, inspired by one of the principles of RCCS. The tree was up for several weeks and displayed all of the things that residents were grateful for in their lives. It was a wonderful display of their values, their hopes and dreams, and ultimately, of themselves.

California Fires: Southern California

As you may know, California continues to experience a devastating wave of wildfires. The most recent fire outbreaks have been in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and are spreading to other nearby counties. The fires have destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of natural areas as well as homes and businesses. Thousands have already been evacuated and thousands more are expected to be evacuated in the coming days, as the fires move into densely populated areas. Firefighters have warned of extreme fire risk, with high winds and dry conditions prevalent across the region. The smoke has temporarily closed Highway 101, a major freeway in the area, and several schools and businesses have closed due to smoke and fire risk.

As a mental health provider with program locations in these areas, we are acutely and sorrowfully aware of how our employees, the people we serve, and these communities are being affected by the fires. We have made a donation to the Red Cross on behalf of everyone at Telecare Corporation to help with general disaster relief.

Important to Know:

  • We have heard reports that Lyft is offering free rides up to $40 for evacuees to evacuation centers in LA County who used the promo code "LASAFERIDES." You may wish to confirm this in your area. 

Fire Evacuation information:

  • Los Angeles County closures, evacuation map and alerts: (Link)
  • Ventura County evacuation and fire alerts: (Link)
  • Santa Barbara County evacuation and fire alerts: (Link)
  • San Diego County evacuation and fire alerts: (Link)

 How You Can Help:

Donate Money: 
(Ventura County) Thomas Fire Fund: The United Way of Ventura County, American Red Cross of Ventura County and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services have teamed up to create the Thomas Fire Fund.

(Los Angeles): Red Cross LA

  • Cash donations to the Los Angeles Area Red Cross can be made here: (Link)

YouCaring

  • YouCaring, an online crowd-funding platform, has created a landing page with all of its campaigns for Southern California wildfire relief.

Humane Society of Ventura County

LA County Animal Care Foundation

Donate Time: American Red Cross/Other Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteers of all kinds are encouraged to register with the Red Cross.  Licensed clinical mental health workers are especially needed to provide support in the communities affected. 
To find out how to help, call: 707- 577-7600 or go to the Red Cross Volunteer page to sign up to volunteer.

Coping With Trauma After a Natural Disaster

 Aftermath of sonoma county's tubbs fire in the coffey park neighborhood of santa rosa, California. Image by  the national guard .

Aftermath of sonoma county's tubbs fire in the coffey park neighborhood of santa rosa, California. Image by the national guard.

The fires in Northern California destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, devastated communities, and impacted thousands more beyond its reach. The Tubbs Fire missed Telecare’s Sonoma ACT program in Santa Rosa, California, but destroyed 36,000 acres of their surrounding community, and killed 22 people over the course of eight days.

Staff and members of Sonoma ACT are all accounted for and safe, however many had to evacuate and one staff person lost the home where she was moving into. "It was an unbelievable event to live through," said AJ Rylaarsdam, administrator of Sonoma ACT. "Having a fear for life, a fear for property, a fear for community — it was heartbreaking. Apocalyptic has been the way to describe it.”

 Sonoma ACT Administrator AJ Rylaarsdam

Sonoma ACT Administrator AJ Rylaarsdam

While the members we served are all safe, the invisible wounds of trauma from a natural disaster can still affect people in many different ways. We chatted with AJ about her experience managing a natural disaster in real time and got a few tips on how to address the trauma that unfolds afterward.

What was your initial reaction when you got the call about the fires?

I was called at 6 a.m. to evacuate my house, so I did that first. While I was evacuating, my clinical director, Diana Freedman, who lives in Petaluma and was slightly removed from the fires, made calls to each staff member to account for everyone and ensure their safety. I went to the office that morning, but the area was not safe to be in, so that day we notified everyone to take care of their personal safety first until we had more information. Most of our work involves driving throughout the community to see members, but due to the high winds and rapid movement of the fire, it was unclear where it was safe to drive or where the fires even were.

How did you get in contact with Sonoma ACT members?

As the fires continued uncontained throughout the week, evacuations continued in different areas, so the entire time was a process of accounting for all of our members. We went to visit them in their homes, provided directions and education on evacuation centers, encouraged them to stay in their home as much as possible because the air quality was so bad, but then also to follow any directions by police or firefighters if there were evacuations. Diana had all calls coming into the office directed to her, and our communications stayed open 24/7.

Are there any practices from Trauma Informed Care you called on to move through this event with staff and members?

An important part of Trauma Informed Care is taking universal precautions. In first aid training, taking universal precautions means we don’t know who might have a communicable disease, so we’re going to put on gloves. After a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, when you have an encounter with someone you’re going to treat them in a way that’s sensitive to someone who may have had trauma. One aspect of what that looks like is a lot of asking permission: “Is this conversation okay?” “My plan is we were going to talk about this, is that okay?”

How did you use Telecare's Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

This has been a fantastic resource. Shortly after we returned to the office, a counselor from MHN (Telecare's EAP provider) came in to educate the team about mental health after a natural disaster. Certain symptoms of trauma and PTSD, like difficulty focusing, might become apparent outright, but many symptoms may not be as visible. As mental health care workers, we have powerful reserves. It's essential to take care of each other in a way that recognizes a lot of the symptoms are invisible. You may think someone's okay, and they may think they are okay, but it will serve us all to continue to check-in in a concrete, ongoing way.

I also encouraged staff to take advantage of the EAP program individually. We're going to meet with a counselor again as a team after the holidays, and maybe three months after that, just to ensure that not only the people exhibiting overt symptoms of distress are getting help.

How You Can Help:

Donate Money: 
American Red Cross
Sonoma County Resilience Fund
Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund
Redwood Credit Union

Donate Time: American Red Cross/Other Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteers of all kinds are encouraged to register with the Red Cross.  Licensed clinical mental health workers are needed to provide support in the communities affected. 
To find out how to help, call: 707- 577-7600 or click here to sign up to volunteer.  

You can also contact Ricardo Martinez, DGS Chief Procurement Officer, at 916-317-6451 or ricardo.martinez@dgs.ca.gov 

Alameda County licensed clinicians are encouraged to volunteer as well: for more information on how to volunteer with the County efforts, please contact Todd.stephenson@acgov.org.

More Resources:
Sonoma County Community Information Page
County Mental Health Services (for all of California)

For a roundup of crisis and emergency support resources, click here.

Practicing Gratitude Throughout the Year

Gratitude Art.jpg

Thanksgiving is a holiday that readily embraces gratitude, but studies show we should be embracing it more than just one day a year. Harvard Health Publishing cites gratitude as helping "people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."

 Nina Kalley-Wilson, Recovery Specialist, and Angela Duncan, Peer Recovery Coach, created a gratitude tree for staff and clients to post "leaves of gratitude" for all to see at thurston mason evaluation and treatment center in olympia, washington.

Nina Kalley-Wilson, Recovery Specialist, and Angela Duncan, Peer Recovery Coach, created a gratitude tree for staff and clients to post "leaves of gratitude" for all to see at thurston mason evaluation and treatment center in olympia, washington.

The practice of gratitude can bring many health benefits, but sometimes it seems difficult to get past the outrage of the day's events. At Telecare, gratitude is used as a component of our Recovery-Centered Clinical System (RCCS). Our programs also like to work it into their culture, such as when our Thurston Mason Evaluation and Treatment (E&T) program created a "gratitude tree" filled with leaves detailing what staff and clients are grateful for and what brings them hope. They placed the tree on a central wall where it can be enjoyed by all and added to as the days go by.

"Having experienced recovery, gratitude keeps me humble and helps me remember where I am right now and keep the momentum to move forward," said Angela Duncan, a Peer Recovery Coach at Thurston Mason E&T. "Last year I was grateful to get a grant to pay for electricity; this year I have a job to pay it!"

"Gratitude allows us to center on the here and now and really feel the hope and support in our lives," said Nina Kalley-Wilson, Recovery Specialist at Thurston Mason E&T. "We asked about the here and now, as well as what individuals will be grateful for when they return home."

Below, we compiled a few ways you can incorporate gratitude into your life on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Take a few minutes. Set aside a few minutes each day to sit in your favorite place—a garden, your room, your backyard. Reflect on the day and make a list of three things in your life for which you are grateful. Share it with a friend and pass the gratitude forward!
  2. Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down a few things for which you are grateful. Focus on people, pets, or your health, rather than material objects, and try to mix it up from time to time to expand your awareness of the offerings around you.
  3. Write a thank you note. Letters of appreciation go for miles, and in the age of social media the chance of getting a written one has significantly dropped. Write a note to someone expressing your appreciation for their impact on your life and drop it in the mail.
  4. Give a compliment on a daily basis. Whether it be directed at someone or sharing your appreciation of something close by, a few words of recognition can open a world of possibilities. In 1906 Mark Twain said, "I can live on a good compliment two weeks with nothing else to eat." Imagine how far this simple gesture goes in 2017.
  5. Join a cause you find important. Whether it's donating time, money, or skills, standing behind something you believe in can offer newfound appreciation for communities, as well as newfound appreciation for yourself.