firelands regional medical center blog

Published on July 05, 2017

Seeking Treatment for Schizophrenia: George Spehn’s Patient Story

George Spehn has benefited from Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services for many years. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as a young man, the 50 year-old Sandusky resident is able to live independently and interact in the community with the support of his family and healthcare providers.

In January of 2013, Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services received a grant to implement a new program to provide behavioral health and primary care services in one location for adults with long-term, serious mental health illness and chronic healthcare conditions. George was one of the first patients enrolled.

The program, Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services Plus, provides patients like George with medical, mental health, drug and/or alcohol addiction treatment and social services. “By integrating mental health and primary medical care services in the same location, we can better meet the needs of our patients,” explained Julie Herrig, former PCC director of the program. “It definitely improves the continuity of care.” In addition to Sandusky, the program is available at Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services sites in Fremont and Norwalk, and serves almost 700 patients.

As a member of Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services Plus, George has a team of healthcare professionals that provide him support in a variety of areas. His Qualified Health Home Specialist, Meghan, meets with him three times a week to help him manage routine tasks of daily living such as self-care, budgeting, finances, and management of his medications. She accompanies George grocery shopping, showing him how to make nutritious food choices and budget his money. She ensures that George attends medical, mental health and social service appointments as well as assists him with applying for and maintaining services such as Social Security Disability, Medicaid, and Medicare. She regularly communicates with George’s siblings and father, all of who are supportive in his desire to lead a more independent life.

His nurse practitioner provides him with primary medical care services and refers him to other specialists when necessary. His Care Manager coordinates his medical care needs and provides him with education to help manage his physical and mental health conditions to improve his overall health. Tom Williamson, MD, internal medicine, is the collaborating physician of Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services Plus.

schizophrenia stories

George is very committed to the program and participates in many of its offerings. He attends cooking classes two times a month, where he learns how to prepare nutritious meals within a limited budget. He especially enjoys working out at the Sandusky YMCA three times a week, where he swims, rides the stationary bike and walks on the treadmill. The program also offers a smoking cessation course and a yoga class. “I’m learning how to make better food choices, and how important it is to exercise regularly. I haven’t tried the yoga class yet. I’m not sure I can get into the positions!”

George’s dedication has produced amazing results. In the past year he has lost 32 pounds and lowered his cholesterol 25 points through diet and exercise. He has become more active in the community and less isolated. “I see more people now and can do more things by myself. I really enjoy everyone in the program, including the doctors, nurses, counselors and office workers. I like living on my own and this program helps me do that. ”

“We all enjoy working with George because he really tries,” says Meghan. “He incorporates what we teach him into his daily life and it has really paid off. He has a good sense of humor too!”

Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services Plus

Anyone can be referred to the program for an assessment. In general, adults who have a long-term, serious mental illness and are either uninsured, underinsured or below the federal poverty level are likely to be eligible for the program. A member of the team will conduct a formal assessment to determine eligibility for the program.

Services begin with a general healthcare screening to determine the patient’s overall physical health. A nurse checks the patient’s blood pressure, height, weight, breath carbon monoxide level (to measure tobacco use) and performs some initial blood work to check their cholesterol level, fasting glucose and hgbA1c as well as asks a series of health questions. The results of the screening help the staff ascertain the patient’s current physical healthcare needs. Patients may stay with their current primary care physician and the Firelands Counseling & Recovery Service Plus team will work closely with the physician to coordinate services.

For more information about Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, call 419-557-5177.

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