Woodlands Behavioral Health Network urging public to seek health services

CASSOPOLIS — One local public health network wants to remind residents it is still open and offering support services 24/7 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Woodlands Behavioral Health Network is a local Cass County entity that provides services and treatment to individuals and families dealing with substance abuse, mental illness and developmental disabilities.

Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a “stay-at-home” executive order.

Woodlands Behavioral Health Network Director Tim Smith said a skeleton crew is still working out of the office answering phones and responding to psychiatric crises, and are available for patients with symptoms who are at higher risks.

“We are maintaining some personnel on-site for people who are in some sort of psychiatric crisis, at risk of psychiatric hospitalization, or are at risk of relapse for individuals with substance abuse disorder,” Smith said. “We still see those folks face to face. It’s the exception rather than the rule.”

For patients that the network serves who are relatively stable and on their way to recovery, telephonic therapeutic series are being offered. Smith said his staff of qualified licensed health professionals has smoothly made the transition to online counseling.

“We are trying the best we can via technology to continue serving all the people we’ve been serving,” Smith said. “It just looks and feels different because it is over the telephone. It’s some electronic version of those face to face communications we usually make.”

The small crew of four that is still working in the office is also staying available for people who are seeking their services for the first time by doing telehealth screenings. From those screenings, staff will determine whether a face to face assessment is warranted, Smith said.

He encouraged members of the public who have fear surrounding the COVID-19 situation or are overly anxious to reach out to the network for support.

“We will be sure to link them with a mental health professional who will talk with them about their fears,” Smith said. “We can’t make the fears disappear, but what we can do is help people frame that fear and deal with the fear appropriately. Hopefully, we can relieve some of the anxiety out of it.”

So far, Smith said the network had received fewer calls since the “stay-at-home” order. He believes it could be a result of people not knowing the network is still open.

“We will be here 24/7 for people who need us,” Smith said. “Especially being a public entity, we certainly have a greater responsibly to remain available to the citizens of Cass County.”

As of publishing, Smith said the network has not had to discontinue any of its services, including the financial programs such as the housing assistance program, which continues to provide short-term, transitional, or one-time-only expenses for an individual’s own home.

“These are unprecedented times, but I don’t see any of our programs being impacted negatively from this,” he added.

Other than the unusually quiet Woodlands Behavioral Health Network office, Smith said, the decrease in people seeking their services or visiting the location is a significant change.

“We are essential, and we have a level of required responsibility to serve no matter the circumstances,” Smith said. “We are here.”