By Ammie Ruddle
Mental health issues, which are defined as a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being, can be seen regularly on news, media, and social media, as well as signs and billboards.
“The foremost mental health issue plaguing children and family within the county is anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), exposure to drugs and lack of security,” said Jamie Hudson, chief executive officer for Pendleton Community Care.
The question many parents, children and other individuals, including Hudson, have, including is how to address these issues.
Currently, the county’s mental health resources are limited with respect to the schools. Resources are readily available to students while in school and attending school sanctioned activities.
J.D. Wilkins, Pendleton County Board of Education president, said, “The schools have school counselors and nurses at every school, a psychologist who travels from school to school and other coordinators and crisis interventions within the school.”
“A lot of the mental health challenges that schools are dealing with originate outside of the schools. Therefore, additional community counseling services are needed to deal with mental health issues before they become school issues,” Wilkins said.
Hudson said it is difficult to attract mental health professionals to the county.
“Recruitment for behavioral health providers is difficult due to our location,” she said. “Being isolated from some urban lifestyle offerings (proximity to an airport, shopping, higher end dining, entertainment, etc.) has usually been the main barrier to enticing providers to come to our area.”
Hudson added despite highlighting the benefits of living in a rural community to candidates, the search remains difficult.
“We promote what our area has to offer: outdoor recreation, low crime, beautiful scenery, slower paced lifestyles,” Hudson said. “However, finding the person that wants that type of full-time living (not just vacationing), has been difficult. This is not an isolated barrier to just PCC; recruitment in general can be difficult. PCC works with a recruitment company to find behavioral health providers on an ongoing basis.”
According to West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources staff members, there is not a Child and Protective Service agent based in the county. The CPS workers that are tasked with the county’s cases also cover five other counties, including Tucker, Grant, Mineral, Hampshire and Hardy.
Mike Landis, with the Potomac Highland Guild in Petersburg, outsources their agents to Pendleton County.
Currently, when a mental health issue is greater than what PCC or the school officials can provide resources for, they must refer the individual to an out-of-the-county provider. According to Hudson, the where and whom is based on several factors.
“It depends upon several items which could include all or only some of these patient’s preferences: insurance coverage and participation of referring provider, availability of provider for referred service and type of service needed,” Hudson added.
Individuals without transportation will need to rely on others to keep appointments or they may not receive the needed mental health assistance.