Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. However, mental illness affects everyone directly or indirectly through family, friends or coworkers. Despite mental illnesses’ reach and prevalence, stigma and misunderstanding are also, unfortunately, widespread and prevent many from seeking the treatment needed to lead healthy lives. While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health.

At Lakes Region Mental Health Center, we believe that mental health conditions are important to discuss year-round, but highlighting them during Mental Illness Awareness Month provides a dedicated time for mental health advocates across the country to come together as one unified voice to sponsor activities, large or small, and to educate the public about mental illness. Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness has been observed in the United States during the month of May, by reaching millions of people and raising awareness about the importance of maintaining good mental health. This year, the COVID-19 crisis has required us to utilize the media as a means to communicate our message.

There is that saying in life that “timing is everything” and we believe this holds true as it relates to this letter.   Today we want to celebrate the resiliency of our staff and patients.  It is amazing what life altering things occur when we collectively face a pandemic.  COVID-19 has forced us to change so much of our thinking as well as our daily practices and routines.  It is amazing how adaptable people become in the midst of a collective crisis.  At LRMHC, our employees have had to embrace new technologies and redefine their relationships with each other as well as with their patients and their loved ones. One thing that has not changed is their commitment to our patients and our community to continue to provide the best care to those who need our services. 

At a time when anxiety, depression and uncertainty are affecting the day to day life of everyone, the staff at Lakes Region Mental Health Center has proactively created new processes and procedures that allow us to continue to deliver critical services to our patients and increase our service capacity.  We are currently able to offer new patients immediate service with no waiting list for care.

Lakes Region Mental Health Center continues to work alongside hospitals, first-responders and agency partners to create safe and supportive operating practices throughout the region.  The organization has transitioned most of our services to telephone/telehealth to protect the safety of staff, patients and the community. Our staff is in regular contact with patients providing hope and support, and evaluating the effects of this crisis on them to determine what additional services may be helpful during this time.  Our Emergency Services staff continues to meet the needs of individuals in crisis.  As always, it is a high priority to maintain this important service for the community.

Whilemany patients are using telehealth or telephone for their service delivery, there are those who continue to require in-person care relative to such things as medication management, primary care or supportive housing. When patients need assistance with groceries or errands, our staff is completing those tasks.  Our on-site pharmacy, Genoa, has moved 90% of their business to delivery for the convenience and safety of our patients. Our approach to treatment continues to be based on what works best for each patient and what services are most appropriate for their treatment plan.

Our long standing history (more than a decade of delivering telehealth care) positioned us well in our response and expansion of that care during this time.  Again “timing is everything” as they say.  Our staff is skilled in assisting patients with navigating the technology.  We will continue to adjust and expand remote access in an effort to address state and federal mandates and we will keep patients and their families as well as the general public apprised of service delivery changes that may impact them. We are an essential medical service provider and the community and staff are acutely aware of the need for our services in these trying times. 

Our donors and supporters are the life blood of our organization and we are deeply grateful for all your support.  Our hope is that you remain healthy and strong; we will get through this together!

CEO, Lakes Region Mental Health Center with locations in Laconia and Plymouth