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New Resource Available for the Early Identification and Treatment of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders in Mahoning County

December 7, 2012 12:00 AM — FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ROOTSTOWN, OHIO

Contacts:
Joseph A. Sylvester, M.S.Ed., PCC-S, LICDC, Executive Director, Turning Point Counseling Services 330.744.2991, ext. 102
Toni Notaro, Mahoning County Mental Health Board, 330.746.2959, ext. 7978
Joseph F. Caruso, COMPASS Family & Community Services, 330.782.5664, ext. 118
Carole Harwood, Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center at NEOMED, 330.325.6698

Turning Point Counseling Services, the Mahoning County Mental Health Board, COMPASS Family & Community Services and the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center in the Department of Psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) have partnered to establish FIRST Mahoning County, a comprehensive, team-based, early identification and treatment program for individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders.

Although the course and features of schizophrenia and related disorders vary from person to person, schizophrenia includes periods when the individual experiences psychotic symptoms, meaning that there is some loss of contact with reality. Schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not), delusions (firmly held false beliefs, such as paranoia), disordered thinking, limited emotional expression, problems with attention and certain types of memory and loss or decrease in the abilities that allow people to plan and organize.

“It is very important that people understand that schizophrenia is a treatable mental illness. A combination of medications and psychosocial therapies can relieve or reduce many of its symptoms,” said Mark R. Munetz, M.D., The Margaret Clark Morgan Endowed Chair of Psychiatry at NEOMED. “Unfortunately, it often takes many months or even years before a diagnosis is made and treatment begins. Research suggests that intervening as soon as possible following an initial episode of psychosis can lessen its severity and promote a faster, more complete recovery.”

Anyone between the ages of 16 and 40 who is experiencing the symptoms described above and/or who has been on an antipsychotic medication for less than a total of 18 months may contact Nichole E. Guzzy, M.S.Ed., PCC-S,CDCA, FIRST Mahoning County team leader, at 234.201.2512 to learn more about FIRST Mahoning County. FIRST Mahoning County treatment services are based at Turning Point Counseling Services, 611 Belmont Ave., Youngstown, Ohio  44502. FIRST treatment services became available Dec. 3, 2012.

“This new approach to early identification and treatment of schizophrenia rebukes that old notion that schizophrenia is a lifelong illness that can only be stabilized for intermittent periods in a person’s life,” said Joseph A. Sylvester, M.S.Ed., PCC-S, LICDC, executive director, Turning Point Counseling Services.

“I am very excited to be a part of a collaborative early intervention team and to see how this approach can improve the lives of individuals with schizophrenia and their families,” said Turning Point Counseling Services’ Nichole Guzzy, M.S.Ed., PCC-S, CDCA, FIRST Mahoning County team leader.

“The Mental Health Board is very excited to partner with the BeST Center to offer this important resource to the residents of Mahoning County,” said Ronald Marian, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board. “In the past individuals diagnosed with this condition were pushed aside or relegated to institutional care. Early intervention will allow individuals with schizophrenia to lead a fuller life and realize their potential. Turning Point Counseling Services was the obvious choice to administer this program because they provide exceptional care as our leading provider of outpatient care in Mahoning County.”

FIRST Mahoning County treatment includes medication management, individual counseling, family psychoeducation, supported employment/education and case management, which are delivered by a team of mental health providers from Turning Point Counseling Services and COMPASS Family & Community Services in an integrated way.

Members of the FIRST Mahoning County team from Turning Point Counseling Services are: Nichole E. Guzzy, M.S.Ed., PCC-S, CDCA , team leader and family psychoeducator;  Jane Root, RN, M.S.N., advanced practice nurse;  Amanda Kantaras, PCC, M.Ed., CDCA, individual counselor;  Michael Greco, M.A., PCC, individual counselor; and Michael Richards, B.A., QMHS, case manager. Deborah Heberling, QMHS, from COMPASS Family & Community Services is the FIRST Mahoning County supported employment/education specialist. Hattie M. Tracy, MSW, LISW-S, LCDC III, the BeST Center’s consultant and trainer for early psychosis programs, works with the FIRST Mahoning County team to implement the program.

“COMPASS is pleased to further its partnership with the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center, Turning Point Counseling Services and the Mahoning County Mental Health Board in implementing the FIRST program in Mahoning County. Employment is a vital part in the treatment of schizophrenia and we look forward to the success of those we will be serving,” said Joseph F. Caruso, COMPASS president and CEO.

Tracy also works with BeST Center-supported FIRST early identification and treatment of psychosis programs in Summit, Portage and Trumbull counties. The FIRST program in Summit County was established in 2010; FIRST Portage County and FIRST Trumbull County services became available in April 2012. To learn more, please visit www.neomed.edu/bestcenter.

“The BeST Center believes that the early identification and treatment of schizophrenia is an urgent, essential and achievable task,” said Lon C. Herman, M.A., director, BeST Center. “The hope is that intervening early with this integrated approach will make it possible for more people with schizophrenia to move forward with their lives.”

About Turning Point Counseling Services
As the premier provider of behavioral health services in Mahoning County, Turning Point Counseling Services offers a full array of programming to meet the needs of individuals suffering the effects of mental illness and/or substance abuse or addiction. With offices in Youngstown, Struthers and Sebring, specialized and individualized treatment is designed to empower and improve the lives of individuals and their families. Clients have access to an experienced and professional team of psychiatrists, counselors, case managers and crisis intervention personnel. Within the broad network of care, Turning Point works collaboratively with other providers, the criminal justice and court system, and area hospitals to identify and treat the most at risk individuals. To learn more, please visit www.turningpointcs.com.

About COMPASS Family & Community Services
COMPASS is dedicated to providing services that will empower, enhance and strengthen individuals and families of the Mahoning Valley through an array of services that respond to the changing needs of the community. COMPASS programs care for people from infancy through their senior years in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Jefferson counties. COMPASS’ programs include: Center for Workforce Development, Financial Education Services, Sojourner House Domestic Violence Services, the Rape Crisis & Counseling Center, Daybreak, Guardianship, Ryan White Medical Case Management Services, Counseling Services, Behavioral Health Residential Services, Behavioral Health Case Management Services and an Intensive Community Treatment Team. COMPASS employs more than 300 full and part-time employees in 11 locations, and on average, serves approximately 7,600 unduplicated people per year. To learn more, please visit www.compassfamily.org.

About the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board
The mission of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board (MCMHB) is to establish mental health and recovery from mental illness as a cornerstone of health in Mahoning County, assuring access to quality mental health services at all levels of need and life stages. The MCMHB provides funding and oversight to the mental health agencies that provide services to residents of Mahoning County. In addition, the MCMHB promotes mental health and recovery through community education and awareness activities designed to increase public understanding about mental illness and decrease the surrounding stigma.  To learn more, please visit www.trumbullmhrb.org.

About the BeST Center at NEOMED
The mission of the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center is to promote recovery and improve the lives of as many people with schizophrenia as possible by accelerating the adoption of evidence-based and promising practices. The BeST Center does not provide direct services; rather, it works with consumers, family members, expert consultants, policy makers and mental health partners to offer training, consultation, evaluation, education and outreach activities to build the capacity of local systems to provide state-of-the-art care. The BeST Center was established in the Department of Psychiatry at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) through an initial generous grant from The Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation in 2009. To learn more, please visit www.neomed.edu/bestcenter.

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