Behavioral health center refocuses

Sequim Gazette

Over the past few years Peninsula Behavioral Health received a new name, a new mission, a new fundraising approach and more than a thousand new clients.


The name change, from Peninsula Community Mental Health, was effective March 30 to reflect the organization’s mission to provide more inclusive treatment services to any resident in need, not just the mentally ill.


“It was apparent that there was a need in this community to not just see people who have a mental illness but anxiety, depression, marital issues, school and work performance issues,” Executive Director Peter Casey said.


From 2008-2010 the center added more than 1,000 patients, he said.


New focus areas include children and family services, which are the focus of the organization’s upcoming fundraising dinner featuring Dr. Joycelyn Elders, a former U.S. Surgeon General.


Child services

Casey said the organization provides a countywide program for adolescents who have had trouble with the law and are in the criminal justice system. Some have behavioral issues or substance abuse or truancy issues, he said.


There also are parenting programs lasting 18 weeks that serve mostly young parents and single parent families. Counselors working in middle schools help children with issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder, whose parents or teachers are having trouble managing them, or children who have experienced a disruption in the family system and are having anger and school performance problems, he said.


“A lot of people in this community aren’t aware but there are lots of cases of neglect, substance abuse and domestic violence in addition to poverty that increase adverse experiences for children,” he said. “If you catch these things earlier, sometimes you can correct and reverse them in some ways.”

Adult services

Along with treating mental illness, Peninsula Behavioral Health also treats substance abuse, depression, anxiety and other issues facing adults.


As the community mental health provider, it must pick up the tab for voluntary and involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations. Last year, 90 people were hospitalized and only 45 were clients of Peninsula Behavioral Health, Casey said.


The nearest psychiatric hospital beds available are in Kitsap County to the tune of $650 per day. Patients are committed when they or mental health professionals feel patients are a danger to themselves or others due to mental instability.


“They might benefit from an inpatient unit where they could be watched, stabilized and given tools to cope with their lives,” Casey said.


Unfortunately, funding isn’t what it once was and the need is greater than ever.


The May 11 fundraiser, a dinner event with an address by Elder, is the second annual Peninsula Behavioral Health fundraiser.


“We live in a state that has a mental health system that has undergone funding cuts for over three years in a row,” Casey said. “We’re not just experiencing funding cuts from the state but locally, too. There were funders who were able to provide more money to organizations like ours when their portfolios were doing better.”


The fundraiser is from 5-9 p.m., May 11, at the Vern Burton Center in Port Angeles. Tickets are $100 per person or $750 for a table of eight. Casey urges people to RSVP as soon as possible by calling Brenda Gilchrist at 457-0432, ext. 227.



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