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St. Francis Foundation’s Mental Health Nursing Program Partners with PathPoint

Parish nurses provide critical services specifically for people with mental illness

In a focused effort to pre-empt crisis situations that leave those with mental illness in emergency rooms, shelters or even out on the streets, the Parish Nursing Community Outreach Program partners with PathPoint’s Mental Health Division to provide critical mental health services.

The partnership with the St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara began in November 2008, in response to severe state and local budget cuts in mental health services funding.

The St. Francis Foundation is the primary funder of the Parish Nursing Community Outreach Program, operated by Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. PathPoint (formerly Work Training Programs Inc.) manages two parish nurses who provide support for their mentally ill clients in its Paths to Recovery program. The Santa Barbara County Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services also provides funding for the program at PathPoint.

“Having actual nursing staff who know the system and can evaluate the seriousness of physical conditions is just invaluable,” said Jennifer Newbold, vice president and director of mental health services at PathPoint. “They can diagnose a condition and immediately know what steps to take.”

The program continues to be a critical factor in averting the much more costly services, such as ambulance and emergency room trips, to care for people in the community with serious mental health conditions that would otherwise go undiagnosed.

During the past 18 months, the program has served more than 200 people. The Paths to Recovery program has saved the community in emergency room health care costs and extended hospitalizations and has been a critical factor in keeping people from homelessness.

“The St. Francis Foundation commends PathPoint for all the great work they do for individuals affected by mental illness,” said Debbie Cloud, executive director of the St. Francis Foundation of Santa Barbara. “This collaboration exemplifies how Parish Nursing works to bring the human touch to the most critical health-care challenges in our community.” 

Providing nursing is PathPoint’s newest component, the first time ever that the organization has had nurses involved in their programs. Two Parish nurses, Kim Madden and Cori Beveridge, join the mobile community support team each day to deliver mental health services to 130 people living in the community. The nurses assess their clients, handle introductions to resources, deliver medication skills and support, and administer medications for individuals with moderate to severe mental illness.

Madden and Beveridge work closely with the case managers at PathPoint to address physiological effects the psychiatric medications can have, and also to offer support, advice and consultation. The integration of nursing services with case management services helps PathPoint’s mental health division monitor physiological issues that could potentially turn into a crisis.

Another important aspect of their work is administering injectable medications. Many clients choose not to take medication by mouth, either because the injections are required less frequently than multiple daily medications, or because of mental health factors that make it challenging for them to stay on schedule. The Parish Nurses are available to go to the client directly to administer medications, ensuring that their conditions are not left untreated.

“With nurses on our team, we have the ability to be more effective in addressing a person’s psychiatric need,” Newbold said.

She said the parish nurses help avoid crisis situations by delivering necessary services more rapidly and providing coordinated medical care — making the program more efficient and effective and allowing them to handle a broader set of needs while keeping costs down.

“It is a true community collaboration,” Newbold said. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”

— Daniella Elghanayan is a publicist.

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