Editor’s note: This article is the third in a series that will speak to news events surrounding Mosaic Medical Center – Maryville.

This weekend’s St. Francis Hospital Foundation annual gala will garner funds for the fresh approach of treating the area’s residents who suffer with mental health issues.

Mosaic Medical Center – Maryville leaders realized there was a need to update the mental health facility shortly after the Mosiac Life Care system purchased the hospital in the spring of 2018. The unit hadn’t been updated for decades and reeked of institutional quarters. There was also a need to bring the space up to life safety issues, meeting today’s regulations. The freshly painted facility now has artwork in the halls, new flooring, a community meeting space and safety aspects including new solid ceilings, a fire-suppression sprinkler system and barricade-free doors.

Director of Mental Health Services Joy Heastan leads the unit with a growing average number of patients with a better gender balance for easier occupancy. There are education and activity rooms which expanded the unit 400-500 square feet.

Failing mental health is also addressed through out-patient counseling with the services being from a psychiatrist to telehealth possibilities that offer an ultimately specific skill set for the patient.

“Telehealth allows the patient to be more at ease rather than a face-to-face session,” said Mosiac Medical Center – Maryville President Nate Blackford. “We have seen the patient’s anxiety is reduced when using an expert through telehealth.”

Blackford continued by explaining the need of mental health professionals for all age groups, with the pandemic heightening the shortage of counselors and psychiatrists for children.

“Once we get the COVID-19 pandemic under-control, we are readying our mental health services for the next pandemic we see on the horizon,” said Blackford. “We have foreseen the significant problem will require a significant investment.”

He further explained, the pandemic either through the actual virus sickness or with the quarantining, has created more isolation without the interaction children need during the school day and many of the symptoms of a mental health illness, such as depression and anxiety, have been hidden from day-to-day activities. However, Blackford also noted those issues are brewing deep in the child’s psyche and could, probably will eventually, be played-out to a more extreme than if not treated.

“We also realize the impacts of this past year will be felt for months, if not years, to come,” said Blackford.

School counselors are handling some of these issues, once in-person classes have begun. But their skill set may not be elevated to handle some of the child’s issues. Mosaic Medical Center – Maryville leaders hope to be able to aid the area school districts with these challenges as possible funding from this year’s gala.

Another sect of society that have had a spike in the challenges of standard mental health are the seniors who have endured extreme isolation due to the protection protocols set during the pandemic. Interpersonal interactions within a long-term care facility has always been realized as an important quality of a nursing home. The COVID-19 arrangements would not allow for many of these contacts with the lack of family being the most damaging to the resident’s attitude and overall health.

This is one of many items Blackford has on the hospital’s wishlist for more skilled resources in the area to meet the demand better. He has hopes for more relationships that will create better synergies allowing a more involved whole community.

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