Taking care of yourself during Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health is all around us, but what exactly is mental health? Mental health is a person’s general sense of emotional, psychological, and cognitive wellbeing. Everyone has mental health every day, but it’s often ignored unless something is going seriously wrong. The best way to prevent that is to pay attention to your mental health even when you feel okay or even good.

“Taking care of ourselves is not selfish, in fact, it is just the opposite, caring for our mental health helps us to meet our full potential in all areas of our life,” says Shannon Kronlund, Director of Outpatient Services at Northwestern Mental Health Center. “When we care for our own emotional and social health, we increase our resiliency and capacity to help others and ourselves.”

Notice how your mental health is constantly changing. Yesterday might have been a better day than today, and that’s okay. Part of being human is moving with your emotions and knowing when something isn’t going exactly how you want it to. Check in with yourself and reach out to your friends and family for help when you need to take some time for your mental health or don’t know what to do.

Here are a few tips for taking care of yourself:

  • Accept yourself as you are. 
  • Write down your daily accomplishments rather than, or in addition to, your to-do list. Celebrate those accomplishments.
  • Create a self-care plan to support your mental well-being in your everyday life. Finding joy, connecting with others, helping others, learning something new, and finding daily spiritual connections can help us flourish. 
  • Learn how to cope with stress with practical exercises like taking a few slow deep breaths, focusing on each of your senses, and trying to be fully present in what you’re doing.
  • Make small goals. Taking time for yourself is not something that will happen overnight. 
  • Get out in nature, be present with your surroundings.

Find more tips on taking care of your mental well-being in the Minnesota Department of Health Wellness Guide (PDF).

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call our 24/7 Support & Crisis Helpline at 1-800-282-5005 or text MN to 741741. You are not alone, and someone is always available to talk.

Shannon Kronlund, MSW, LICSW serves as the Director of Outpatient Services for Northwestern Mental Health Center. She sees children, adults, and families and specializes in the treatment of trauma, depression, and anxiety.

Northwestern Mental Health Center Welcomes New Chief Clinical Transformation Officer

Northwestern Mental Health Center welcomes Brenda Pauley-Colter, OTR/L, MS as the agency’s new Chief Clinical Transformation Officer. Brenda brings more than 25 years of experience in healthcare leadership, program development, and change management.

Prior to joining NWMHC, Brenda held several leadership roles at Altru Health System. Most recently she served as the Director of Diagnostic Imaging, Lab, and Supply Chain. In this role, Brenda incorporated lean management principles to transform and operationalize support programs within the organization. As a Lean Facilitator in Altru’s Kaizen Promotion Office, Brenda led cultural transformation through studying of current state, facilitating process improvement activities, and coaching all levels of leadership in change management.

“Even before the pandemic, we knew we needed to focus on bringing our existing programs and services to the next level,” said Shauna Reitmeier, CEO of Northwestern Mental Health Center. “The mental and chemical health industry is changing so rapidly. We’re excited to welcome Brenda to the team to help us continue to innovate and provide the very best services for our clients.”

Brenda has Bachelor of Science degrees in Occupational Therapy and Recreation Administration from the University of North Dakota. She earned her Master of Science degree in Health Care Leadership from the University of Mary. Brenda also completed advanced training in the Lean Management Model at the Virginia Mason Institute in Seattle, Washington.

“I am excited to join this team of professionals that are ready to meet the challenges of delivering care during a time when our services are so important to the clients in our region,” said Brenda.

UMN Crookston, Northwestern Mental Health Center team up to help students

Crookston Times – Psychiatric medication management services, through a University of Minnesota Crookston collaborative agreement with the Northwest Mental Health Center (NWMHC) will begin March 23.

“This agreement will ensure medications are properly prescribed and achieved through a planned, therapeutic outcome,” said Nurse Practitioner Elizabeth Murphy.

Elizabeth says she will begin seeing students on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month and will provide comprehensive psychiatric assessments, medication monitoring, and consultations, along with medication education, and coordination of care with primary care providers.

UMN Crookston students can make appointments by calling UMN Crookston Health Services at 281-8512. New client appointments will be 60 minutes, returning client appointments will be 30 minutes.

Source: Crookston Times

Northwestern Mental Health Center Selects New Chief Strategy Officer

Northwestern Mental Health Center (NWMHC) selected Jason Russell, MBA, as the new Chief Strategy Officer. Jason’s work will focus on long-term strategies for sustainability, improved clinical quality outcomes, and profitability.

Jason brings operations and business development leadership experience in the mental health care industry, most recently serving as the Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at AllHealth Network in Englewood, Colorado. In this role, he led the development of multiple new clinic locations and the organization’s first specialized Depression Intensive Outpatient Program. Before joining AllHealth, Jason served as Director of Operations at Rogers Behavioral Health in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

“Jason’s strengths and skillset will help NWMHC make significant gains towards our agency’s vision and strategic goals,” said Shauna Reitmeier, CEO. “By digging into the data and synthesizing what our communities and clients are telling us they need, we will be able to provide improved access where we have gaps in services.”

Jason received his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. He went on to earn his Master of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“I am excited to be joining the Northwestern Mental Health Center team,” said Jason Russell, CSO. “I look forward to helping the agency grow while continuing to deliver high-quality mental health services to those in need throughout our region.”

5th Annual Ride the Wind for Wendy Donates to the H.O.P.E. Coalition

The 5th Annual Ride the Wind for Wendy event in memory of Wendy (Shereck) Reitmeier took place on August 29, 2020. Wendy was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in September 2015.

“My dad and I and everyone behind the scenes would like to say thank for the support over the last five years. For making this memorial ride far greater than we ever anticipated,” said Dylan Reitmeier, Wendy’s son and co-founder of the event.

This year, proceeds from the event went to the H.O.P.E. Coalition and Ruff Start Rescue. The H.O.P.E. Coalition is a group of individuals and organizations within eight northwest Minnesota counties dedicated to ending death by suicide in northwest Minnesota through help, outreach, prevention, and education. Northwestern Mental Health Center is the fiscal host for the H.O.P.E. Coalition. Past recipients include the Project Lifesaver program, RiverView Health, and Trails to Treatment.

“We really wholeheartedly look to put funds in the local hands and programs that can help our community find the help they need,” said Dylan. “Again, thank you for the overwhelming support the community and the surrounding areas that have brought to us to make this a huge success.” 

VIDEO: 5th Annual Ride the Wind for Wendy

March is Social Work Month

This year’s theme is SOCIAL WORKERS ARE ESSENTIAL

Each day more than 700,000 social workers nationwide make life better for others. They empower people, giving them the skills and encouragement they need to overcome life’s challenges. They also link clients to resources they may need to live more fulfilled lives.

Social workers are everywhere. They work in schools, helping children get the services they need to get the best possible education. They are in mental health centers and private practices, helping people overcome mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and substance use disorders.

They protect children from neglect and abuse and help form new families through adoption. Social workers are in hospitals, helping patients get the best possible care not only while in treatment but when they return to their families and communities. And they help people cope with the loss of loved ones.

Social workers also play a vital role in community organizations and local, state, and federal governments, helping create programs and policies that help make our society a better and more equitable place for all.

This year’s theme for Social Work Month is “Social Workers are Essential.” Social workers are woven into the fabric of our society, although they are often unsung heroes. As our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and racial unrest, social workers are needed more than ever.

These include social workers such as Janelle Artmann, a school-based social worker in Mahnomen who builds connections with kids and families, bridging support between the school and community; Matt Keller, an EMDR-trained social worker who supports first responders and veterans after traumatic events; and Stephanie Philyaw, a community-based social worker in Polk and Red Lake County and school-based therapist in Fosston, who helps children and families reach their individual and family goals.

We urge you to learn more about the essential work of social workers and their positive, life-changing work.

Growing homelessness in Polk County, community partners provide hope

What is a home? For some people, it’s more than the place we live. It’s the place we go for comfort after a long day. It’s more than where we sleep at night, where our head and heart feel safe. For some, it’s where we’re free to let the weight of the world melt away from our bodies and minds. Thankfully, for most Minnesotans, having a home to retreat to is a basic human need that we rarely question.

But what if we had to question the normative “home”? What if we find ourselves without a place to lay our heads at night? Nowhere to take our kids after school, keep our personal belongings, and prepare meals?

Many people associate homelessness with people living and sleeping on the streets. However, unsheltered homelessness only accounts for approximately 25% of persons experiencing homelessness. Homelessness isn’t always so obvious. Other forms of homelessness include sleeping in vehicles, tents, or abandoned buildings; sleeping in shelters or residing in hotels; couch surfing; and doubling up.

Woman in homeless shelter

Even before COVID-19 shook our world, the state of Minnesota reached a record high number of homeless people in 2018, according to a study conducted by Wilder Research. We saw a ten percent increase in homelessness between 2015 and 2018, and that percentage is higher in more rural communities.

Trauma, poverty, domestic violence, lack of affordable housing or transportation, immigrant status, language barriers, unemployment, complex health needs, and racism are all common causes and effects of homelessness. Ironically, some of the recent COVID-related restrictions and executive orders meant to keep us safe from the Coronavirus may actually compound issues for unsheltered or soon-to-be unsheltered individuals and families.

“Because of the pandemic, we’re seeing an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness, as well as the severity of people’s situations,” says Michon Gilbert, Community Housing Specialist at Northwestern Mental Health Center (NWMHC). “The moratorium on evictions limits our housing options for people who are already unsheltered. And people are still at risk of losing their housing once the moratorium ends.”

The good news? We have a wealth of community partners supporting people through these challenges. We’re lucky to have local businesses and landlords willing to help people with a place to stay and food to eat. NWMHC is just one of many agencies focused on helping people find shelter, particularly as we head into the coldest season of the year.

In December, The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) awarded federal emergency solutions funding for a partnership between NWMHC, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council (TVOC), and Inter-County Community Council (ICCC) for homeless prevention and rapid rehousing efforts. The combined approach of these agencies allows for better outcomes and greater community impact. Not only are people getting help to find immediate shelter, but they also benefit from coordinated services and supports with a goal of long-term, stable housing.  This work builds on the more than 50-year relationship our agencies have serving together.

“The point of this partnership is to reach more people who may be in need and provide services and supports that meet them where they are at in the community. By offering supportive services like mental and chemical health services and other valuable life skills, people receive the tools they need to be successful in achieving and maintaining permanent housing,” says Denise Gudvangen, Homeless Intervention Program Supervisor at NWMHC.

This enhances existing programming to more effectively address the COVID-19 situation, the anticipated moratorium expiration on evictions, and serve more individuals facing financial instability – some of whom have never entered the mental health system or faced homelessness. It involves working with landlords, connecting people with resources, stabilizing living arrangements, advocating, and providing mental health and/or substance use clinical services when needed.

“You have to look at the whole person, not just a single issue of homelessness. There are so many variables that can result in homelessness, and we want everyone to know that it’s okay to ask for help,” says Denise.

Maria, who recently celebrated 15 months of sobriety, shares her story every opportunity she gets. With the help of multiple agencies such as NWMHC, TVOC, and the Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA), Maria moved into a home in April, allowing her to gain full custody of her children.

“Lots of people feel lost and ashamed and broken. They’re so used to being judged and rejected,” explained Maria. “But there’s always someone out there willing to listen. You just have to ask for help.”

“Michon and Cass at NWMHC became such an inspiration. They treated me like a regular person, not Maria the alcoholic. Just an everyday person who needed help and guidance” said Maria. “Now, on the 5th of every month, my kids and I celebrate another month of sobriety. I still can’t believe we’re here. I sit here in this house and think about how blessed I am.”

We’d like to send a special thank you to our local hotels and landlords including Crookston Inn, Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, and AmericInn in Crookston, and Fairfield Inn, EGF Inn, and Plaza Motel in East Grand Forks. In these hard times, we are thankful for our communities’ ongoing commitment to support people who are experiencing homelessness.

If you have concerns about yourself, a loved one, or a neighbor, please call Northwestern Mental Health Center at 218-281-3940. If you are experiencing a mental or chemical health crisis, you can call our 24/7 Support & Crisis Helpline at 800-282-5005. Please know that you are not alone. We are in this together.

This article was featured in the Crookston Times on Monday, February 8, 2021. 

Michon Gilbert

Michon Gilbert is a Community Housing Specialist in the Homeless Intervention Program at Northwestern Mental Health Center.

Denise Gudvangen, MA, LP serves as the Quality Assurance Director for Northwestern Mental Health Center and supervises the Homeless Intervention Program.

Updates from Northwestern Mental Health Center

Crookston, Minnesota – Since the pandemic arrived in our world, we’ve all had to make changes to our daily routines and how we live. Northwestern Mental Health Center is no exception. While COVID-19 has caused some hard days with difficult decisions, it has also helped us to reimagine the way we do our work.

“When we’re pushed outside our comfort zone and forced to think outside the box, that’s when we uncover new ideas and strategies to help us improve the way we support our clients,” says Shauna Reitmeier, Chief Executive Officer at Northwestern Mental Health Center.

Here is an update on the current and upcoming changes happening within NWMHC:

  • We analyzed the use of our physical space and opportunities for some positions to work remotely permanently. This reduced the need for physical office space, and the Board of Directors approved the closure of two locations. 

    • On July 31, we officially closed the Resource Center, formally called the Novel Cup located in Crookston. Community-based staff typically used that location as a drop-in space to meet with clients, which will now occur at the main office on Bruce Street.

    • We are in the process of transitioning our senior management and finance teams from the Bremer Bank building to our main office in Crookston or home offices. We anticipate that transition will be complete at the end of August.

  • As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen a decrease in service utilization for many of our programs, causing us to make administrative and clinical reductions in staff.

    “Part of this reduction includes the elimination of our neuropsychology program,” explains Reitmeier.

    Current providers or managers will notify all clients affected by these reductions this week. Providers will discuss a transition plan that best supports each client and ensure continuity of care with no delay of mental health care services and support.

  • Our East Grand Forks location is now open. Water damage that occurred mid-April caused the entire building to close. Polk County made our space a priority and helped us to reopen quickly, among the renovations to the rest of the building.

  • We continue to see a majority of our clients via telemedicine or telephonic.  We can accommodate face-to-face appointments for more critical client needs and psychological testing and evaluations. We offer same-day appointments for new clients, so we encourage people who have considered getting additional support to call 218-281-3940 and talk to a provider today.

If you have any questions regarding these updates, we encourage you to email them to [email protected].

If you are experiencing symptoms of stress, if you are in crisis, or if you feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, please call our 24/7 Support & Crisis Helpline at 800-282-5005 or text MN to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Shauna Reitmeier, CEO

Shauna Reitmeier serves as the Chief Executive Officer at Northwestern Mental Health Center. In addition to her leadership and management responsibilities, she is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker and sees clients at the Crookston clinic location. Shauna holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of North Dakota.

Help and Hope for Substance Use Disorders

Learning how to cope during particularly stressful events in life—and we all experience them—isn’t one of those instinctual mechanisms our brains came equipped to handle. The flood of racing thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, and emotional ups and down are hard for even the most mentally prepared to deal with. For many, this is when substance use can take over. But there is hope and help.

“We’re here for those struggling with substance use and we utilize a whole person approach,” said Shannon Kronlund, Northwestern Mental Health Center outpatient treatment director. “It’s vital to understanding each individual’s protective and risk factors so we can provide the most effective care and treatment which results in higher success rates.”

NWMHC is a behavioral health center that provides a variety of services, including mental health treatment, crisis response, supportive housing and help with early childhood development. It’s substance use disorder treatment helps individuals ages 10 and older. The team also works with community and statewide partners when more intensive outpatient or inpatient treatments are needed.

The center’s whole person approach, or biopsychosocial approach, to helping those suffering from a substance use disorder involves treating the biological, psychological, and social factors of a person’s life and their complex interactions. This includes considering a person’s brain characteristics, environmental stressors and emotional or physical trauma they’ve endured.

These factors can all play a role in creating mental health issues and hindering how they’re dealt with by the individual. It’s not uncommon for people diagnosed with a mental health disorder to also have a substance use problem. In 2018, The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimated that there were 9.2 million adults in the U.S. suffering from these co-occurring disorders, which professionals all term as dual diagnosis.

“This is one of the reasons recovery does not and should not happen alone,” Denison said. “Our entire team at Northwestern Mental Health Center understands this and is dedicated to treating not just the substance use disorder, but the whole person. For many professionals here, that also means they’re treating substance abuse alongside a mental health issue.”

With the whole person approach, professionals like those at NWMHC provide low intensity individual and group treatment for substance use disorders as well as outpatient care for mental health issues. Several of the providers are trained in dual diagnosis treatment. The facility also is equipped with several nurse practitioners who can administer medication assisted therapy, which may help recovery for some.

“People may find that the use of drugs or alcohol provides them a brief relief from the overwhelming feelings they carry around,” Kronlund said. “They may not have another coping skill they find works as ‘effectively’ in the moment and as a result, a pattern of use can be established.”

Those who are struggling may also find that substance use provides a faster result than coping skills that are new or unfamiliar to them, and to get relief quickly, they continue to use substances.

“It’s common for people to turn to substance use as a coping mechanism, whether it’s alcohol, methamphetamines or marijuana,” said Janet Denison, Northwestern Mental Health Center chief clinical officer. “Often during challenging times we may have increased stress and this can test the person’s use of healthier coping skills and their use of supports and connections.”

Treatment not only helps individuals deal with the short-term issues, but it also equips them with the skills for long-term success. Those in recovery also avoid the future health effects of long-term substance use, such as liver damage, vitamin deficiencies, paranoia, stroke and increased cancer risks.

“We focus on helping individuals as well as their families find hope and a path to wellness,” Denison said. “Our staff approaches care from a non-judgmental standpoint, putting the client first.”

In addition to professional help, there are many things people can do to improve their wellbeing and overall outlook on life. These include:

  • Being aware of and communicating feelings
  • Connect with family and friends
  • Knowing what is and is not in a person’s control
  • Eating healthy, well balanced meals
  • Exercise 
  • Getting adequate and quality sleep
  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Making time for hobbies and various interests
  • Relaxation such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga
  • Setting limits to decrease stress and knowing it’s okay to say “No”

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, whether it’s  isolating from others, or neglecting work or family obligations, the caring team at Northwestern Mental Health Center is here to help. Call us today at 218-281-3940.

There is help and there is hope.

Shannon Kronlund, MSW, LICSW serves as the Outpatient Treatment Director for Northwestern Mental Health Center. She sees children, adults, and families and specializes in the treatment of trauma, depression, and anxiety.

Janet Denison, MSW, LICSW, LADC serves as the Chief Clinical Officer for Northwestern Mental Health Center. In addition to her administrative role, she sees adult clients with a specialized focus on co-occurring disorders.

National Council for Behavioral Health Announces New Board Members

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1, 2020) – The National Council for Behavioral Health is pleased to announce the results of its recent Board elections.

The National Council welcomes our newly elected Directors:

  • Region 1 (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)
    Tomasz Jankowski, Ph.D., President and CEO, Northeast Kingdom Human Services [VT]
  • Region 2 (NJ, NY, PR, VI)
    Yaberci Perez-Cubillan, LCSW-R, SIFI, Senior Vice President-Behavioral Health & Service Integration, Acacia Network [NY]
  • Region 3 (DC, DE, MD, PA, VA, WV)
    Richard Edley, Ph.D., President and CEO, Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association [PA]
  • Region 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI)
    Shauna Reitmeier, MSW, LGSW, CEO, Northwestern Mental Health Center [MN]
  • Region 6 (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX)
    Lee Johnson, MPA, Deputy Director, Texas Council of Community Centers [TX]
  • Region 8 (AZ, CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY)
    Joseph (JC) Carrica III, Ed.D., MA, CAC, CEO, Southeast Health Group [CO]
  • Region 9 (CA, Guam, HI, NV)
    Camille Schraeder, MA, Director of Public Policy, Redwood Community Services [CA]
  • Region 10 (AK, ID, OR, WA)
    Jodi Daly, Ph.D., President/CEO, Comprehensive Healthcare [WA]

The Board elected the following Officers:

  • Second Vice Chair
    Susie Huhn, MA, CEO, Casa de los Niños [AZ]
  • Secretary-Treasurer
    Ed Woods, Board member, LifeWays Community Mental Health [MI]

The Board is composed of elected volunteers from the staff and community boards of National Council member organizations. They are elected by National Council member organizations representing 10 regions covering the entire U.S. The Board of Directors represents the membership and is committed to diversity, leadership and promoting excellence in mental health and addictions treatment.

“I look forward to working with our new Board members in the months ahead,” Board Chair Jeff Richardson, vice president and chief operating officer of Sheppard Pratt Health System said. “Community behavioral health clinics face incredible challenges. Their experience and enthusiasm will be a wonderful asset to all National Council members as we navigate the road ahead.”

We are grateful to the following individuals for their service as they depart the Board on June 30, 2020: 

  • Vic Armstrong, MSW, Director of the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services [NC]
  • Kevin Campbell, former CEO, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health [OR]
  • Danette Castle, MPA, Chief Executive Officer, Texas Council of Community Centers [TX]
  • Daniel Darting, Chief Executive Officer, Signal Behavioral Health Network [CO]
  • Alan Hartl, Executive Consultant, Lenape Valley Foundation [PA]
  • John Kastan, Ph.D., Interim CEO, Chief Program Officer, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services [NY]
  • Rich Leclerc, MS, MSW, Consultant, Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council of Rhode Island [RI]
  • Chris Stoner-Mertz, MSW, CEO, California Alliance of Child & Family Services [CA]

“I want to thank each of our outgoing Board members for the many hours they devoted to the National Council since their election,” Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council said. “I will miss their expertise, determination and professionalism. But I also know I can rely on their guidance even after their departure as our organization continues its important work on behalf of members.”

The newly elected Board members assume their duties on July 1, 2020.

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About the National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 3,326 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 2 million Americans have been trained.