SHS Peer Group Supports Chronic Disease Self-Management


From left, Dr. Patty Rebeck with peer counselors Stephanie Greer and Tyrone Ferguson at a recent counseling meeting.

Sometimes, we all need a little help from a friend.

With that idea in mind, SHS Health Care Home for Primary Care has launched a Peer Advisory Group to provide support for patients learning to manage a chronic disease.

The group meets 1:30 to 3 p.m. every Thursday in the Building C office of Dr. Patricia Rebeck, licensed clinical psychologist and Behavioral Health Consultant. The meetings are open to any adult patients enrolled in Health Care Home for Primary Care.

“We’re inviting patients to come in and talk with people who’ve been in their shoes,” Dr. Rebeck said. “Our peer advisers are willing to share what they’ve been through. Their testimonials have more impact than I could.”

The discussions might cover topics like taking medications regularly, changing to a healthier diet or developing – and sticking with – an exercise plan. The program is designed to support patients dealing with diabetes, obesity, asthma and other chronic conditions or diseases.

“If you see that others can do it, you are more likely to believe that you can, too,” Dr. Rebeck said.

Peer counseling is not a new idea. It is well established that we rely upon recommendations and advice from peers, believing that we see a reflection of ourselves in others like us, Dr. Rebeck said. Brittney Hazley and Joan Uta of Health Care Home-Primary Care also support the peer counseling programs as part of the array of services available.

The program launched last fall, just after a similar program for ex-prison inmates achieved a milestone of success.

In that program, former inmates gather to provide support to others who are re-entering society. The group named itself “Focus and Refocus,” which is a kind of code for how participants can control their thinking and support each other to maintain a positive perspective.

The group developed a website and a brochure, part of a larger mission to share their voices with the community. One member of the group, Tyrone Ferguson, delivered a presentation titled “How We Want You to Help Us,” to 215 attendees at the Missouri Corrections Association/Missouri Probation & Parole Officers Association conference in September at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“This is a testament to self-efficacy,” said Dr. Rebeck. “There’s power in believing in yourself and in seeing others believe in you.”

Dr. Rebeck noted that the peer advisory discussions are informal and down-to-earth. One patient was discouraged by obesity, which made her feel ugly and unwilling to be seen in public. But in one meeting, she learned that others in the group found her interesting, and that gave her “a burst of willingness” to try to live, Dr. Reback said.

“Our members each care about helping others,” she said.  “It helps you take care of yourself when you know you have value. We all need a reason to get up in the morning.”

Learn more about the Focus and ReFocus support group at its website. Or contact SHS at (816) 922-1070).

Focus graphic


A New Location to Serve You: Announcing Swope Health Maple Woods!

Swope Health Services is expanding again!

You’re invited to join us for the ribbon-cutting celebration to open our newest clinic, Swope Health Maple Woods, at the Northland Human Services Building, 3100 N.E. 83rd St., Suite 101, Kansas City, Mo.

The celebration is hosted by the Northland Chamber of Commerce at 4 p.m., Thursday, April 13. Light refreshments will be served and the facility will be open for tours.

Northland Human Services BuildingThe new facility will be open Tuesdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., inside the Tri-County Mental Health Clinic.

With two exam rooms and a lab, SHS Maple Woods will offer Tri-County clients treatment for acute and chronic illnesses, physical examinations for adults, preventive health education, laboratory services, pregnancy testing, prenatal care and family planning.

“We anticipate this primary care clinic will serve as a model for others to help break down the barriers that have prevented mental health consumers from receiving appropriate and timely medical care,” said Mark Miller, Vice President of SHS Behavioral Services.

Integrating primary care directly into a mental health center will ensure patients receive a holistic continuum of care on site. SHS and Tri-County expect the clinic to support improved preventive care and disease management and, ultimately, reduce acute hospitalizations.

In addition to the on-site services, SHS clinicians will be able to refer patients for dental care, medical procedures and specialists, if needed, said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., SHS Chief Medical Officer.

Tri-County Mental Health opened in 1990 providing comprehensive behavioral health services to nearly 400,000 people in Clay, Platte and Ray counties.

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It’s Time to Applaud, Appreciate and Thank Our Social Workers

stand upThe National Association of Social Workers has named March as Social Work Month, giving us all a chance to recognize and applaud the services of social work professionals.

Given how broad the term “social work” is, we thought this would be a good time to learn more about the role some social workers play here at SHS.

“It’s such a broad field,” said Kortney Carr, Director of Children’s Services at SHS. “That’s both a blessing and a curse.”

The “blessing” is the wide range of opportunity areas for social work: healthcare, mental health, government, military, schools, universities, social service agencies, community organizations. The “curse” is in that same broad variety of services, making it hard to quickly define the field of social work.

“We’re helpers,” Kortney said. “We’re focused on decreasing symptoms that are causing impairments for our patients. We work directly with clients to help them access the services they need.”

What are those services? It could be therapy and healthcare, housing and transportation resources, training and education. Social workers help people who are experiencing illnesses or mental health crises; suffering abuse, neglect or trauma; or facing poverty and other roadblocks to daily living. Social workers’ services are covered by insurance, Medicaid and state and county programs.

social workersJosette Mitchell, Director of Adult Community Services, notes that a big part of the job is advocacy. That can mean making sure the policies and procedures meet the needs of the clients, including weighing in on state and federal programs and providing feedback to legislators and policy makers.

Other times, advocacy can mean going to bat for a specific client – perhaps seeking appropriate medication or helping gain access to needed services. It can involve teaching, coaching and consultations, to help clients build their own toolbox of skills and resources, added Kortney.

Social workers obtain extensive education and training, Josette notes. They are licensed by the state and credentialed by the National Association of Social Workers Credentialing Center. Social workers are required to participate in 30 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain credentials in Missouri.

There are about 50 social workers at SHS and more than 650,000 across the U.S. By standing up for the vulnerable, social workers play an important role in creating healthy communities.

“Every day, we’ll drop everything to do whatever needs to be done,” Kortney said. “We’re here to help. We’re helpers.”

In this month for recognition of social work, we invite you to join us in applauding, appreciating and thanking social workers. At SHS, our professional social workers support clients in behavioral health, pediatrics, OB/GYN, outreach, homeless outreach, residential services and Imani House departments.

Resolve to Stop Smoking: We Can Help

stopsmokingIf your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking, Swope Health Services is here to help.

SHS stands ready to help you break your smoking habit with Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists and tobacco cessation groups.

SHS tobacco cessation program is open to all with a referral from your SHS provider.

The groups are led by behavioral health associates certified as Tobacco Treatment Specialists through Mayo Clinic – Rochester and the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program.

The Freedom From Smoking® program offers a structured, systematic approach to quitting, and its positive messaging emphasizes the benefits of better health. The program uses methods designed to help smokers gain control over their behavior.

“We know there is no single way to quit that is effective for all smokers,” said Grace Okonta, Supervisor, Outpatient Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program. “Our program has a variety of techniques – nicotine replacement therapy, medication, counseling and support.”

The curriculum also includes the latest research about nicotine replacement therapy, covering gum, inhalers, patches, lozenges and nasal spray and other smoking cessation medications.

This program was first developed by the American Lung Association more than 35 years ago. Since then, it has helped hundreds of thousands of American end their addiction to nicotine and begin healthier, smoke-free living.


Is it YOUR time to quit smoking? Contact your SHS provider to enroll – call (816) 923-5800 for an appointment.

7 Tips to Avoid Stress This Holiday Season


Andrea Buford, MSW, LCSW

Depression and stress often show up at this time of year, but they don’t have to, says Andrea Buford, MSW, LCSW, Director of Clinical Operations in Behavioral Health at SHS.

The holiday season brings expectations that you should be shopping, decorating, cooking, organizing activities, traveling, seeing family and so on.

“The pressure to do all of it can be a bit much,” Andrea said. “Don’t feel like you have to be perfect. It’s OK to say ‘no.’ You don’t have to get caught up in it all.”

Andrea offers some tips to avoid stress this holiday season:

1. Make a plan – “If you’re going to be traveling, give yourself plenty of time,” Andrea said. “Accept that the even the best-laid plans don’t work the way they should. Just stay calm and relaxed.”

2. Set a budget – “Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses,” she said. “Set a limit and don’t go over it. Remember, what’s important is the time you’re spending, not the money.” She notes that sometimes the best gifts are the simplest – a handwritten letter, a family recipe, a homemade ornament or favorite food.

3. Do for others – “One of the best ways to feel good is to help someone else,” Andrea noted. For example, one of Andrea’s friends has a tradition with his children — every year, they must choose one gift that they can’t open. That’s the one that they take to Children’s Mercy and give to a child there. It’s a lesson in how giving makes you feel good, while making someone else feel better, too.

4. Ask for help – It’s OK to ask others to contribute to the meal or to help out with cleaning or shopping or caring for family. And be willing to help others if they ask or seem overwhelmed.

5. Don’t let tensions escalate – You’re likely to encounter a lot of people in a variety of circumstances like at parties, dinner, shopping, in traffic, at events. “Accept differences,” Andrea said. “Be kind, take a deep breath. Let that person get in line in front of you, hold the door for someone else.” A smile can go a long way toward reaching an understanding.

6. Take time for yourself – “You can give yourself permission not to be joyous. It’s OK to say no and step back,” Andrea said. Remember to take care of yourself – eat right, don’t overindulge, get rest, stick to your exercise routine. Andrea likes to quote Dr. Seuss: Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

7. Be aware of depression – Feelings of persistent sadness, or a sense of being hopeless, helpless and worthless are signals of depression. Other signs are changes in sleeping or eating, and prolonged restlessness or irritability. If you’re experiencing these serious feelings, a behavioral health professional can help with therapy, coping techniques and medication. It’s OK to seek help. That’s why we’re here.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call our Behavioral Health department at (816) 922-1070. Same-day visits are available. 

Bullying and Children: We’re Here to Help

By Colleen Innis, MA, Child Behavioral Health Project Coordinator, CPRC Children

Bullying among school-age kids is real. It can be more than just someone talking mean – a child who is the subject of bullying behavior can be suffering from trauma.

We’re here to help. At SHS Children’s Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program, we want to create awareness and empower parents and students to act against bullying.

What is bullying? Bullying consists of aggressive behavior that involves unwanted and negative actions. It involves a pattern of behavior, repeated over time. And it involves an imbalance of power, leading to forms of abuse.

bullying-hurtsThere are several forms of bullying behaviors:

  • Verbal bullying: Using bad names, spreading lies and rumors, putting down others
  • Physical bullying: Hitting, kicking, pushing, throwing objects and taking things by force
  • Social bullying: Causing embarrassment in group setting, creating exclusion or isolation
  • Sexual bullying: Unwanted touching, inappropriate comments, jokes and photos
  • Cyberbullying: Negative and embarrassing comments or photos spread through social media, texting or Internet and mobile apps
  • Racial Bullying: Derogatory comments, embarrassment and physical aggression toward individuals from a different race

Kids who suffer from these kinds of behaviors might not seek out help, but you can watch for some key signs. You might see responses like nightmares, mood swings, fearfulness, stress and panic attacks.

You can watch for changes to eating and sleep patterns, style of dress and appearance. Some might try substance abuse or self-harm. Others might turn aggressive and hurt others or have angry outbursts or try to take weapons to school. Some might just refuse to go to school.

When you see behaviors that you can’t explain, reach out. Your response can make all the difference in empowering your child:

  • Listen non-judgmentally and be reassuring: “It’s not your fault” or “Thanks for telling me and giving me a chance to help you.”
  • Validate their feelings: “I can see how this is difficult for you. It makes sense for you to feel this way.”
  • Provide support and help identify options to solve the problem: “What do you want to do next?”

The harmful effects of bullying might be a contributing factor to the increase of suicide rates in our nation and in KC Metro Area. About 450 Kansans and 950 Missourians die of suicide each year, and the rates have risen since 2008.

If you notice a child experiencing emotional distress from the effects of bullying, and having difficulty managing at home and school or in the community, please seek professional help. The child could benefit from participating in Swope Health Services Outpatient Services (therapy or psychiatric) and CPRC Services that offer additional support from a caring adult.


Refer a child for a walk-in assessment, Tuesday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., or call Colleen Innis at 816-918-6130.

How Do Your Children Behave at Home and School?


Colleen Innis

By Colleen Innis, MA, Child Behavioral Health Project Coordinator, CPRC Children

School is cool when kids can follow the rules. But we know that sometimes, kids need a little extra help to learn the rules or work through issues that might make it hard for them to follow the rules.

Here’s a checklist: Is your child having difficulty sustaining attention to tasks or activities at home and school? Does your child show any of these behaviors or have any of these actions?

  • Has multiple suspensions
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
  • Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure/play activities quietly
  • Has difficulty waiting his/her turn
  • Loses temper
  • Argues with adults
  • Actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ request or rules
  • Blames others for his/her mistakes or misbehaviors
  • Bullies, threatens, or intimidates others
  • Initiates physical fights
  • Has run away from home overnight
  • Is fearful, anxious or worried
  • Experiencing the effects of trauma

childrenIf any of these symptoms are preventing your child from developing and maintaining healthy relationships at home or school, you should consider having your child participate in a Behavioral Health Assessment at Swope Health Services.

Our walk-in hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. We provide a variety of services and treatment:

  • Individualized treatment plan and services
  • Community coordination and support services
  • Crisis intervention
  • School and community outreach and engagement
  • School coordination and support
  • Group programming
  • Psycho-social assessments

To learn more about our Children’s programs and services, please call Colleen Innis at 816-918-6130. When attending a walk-in appointment please bring Valid Identification for the parent or guardian, proof of address, proof of income, custody documents and child’s proof of insurance.

Our programs provide a safe place for kids to work through challenges and have positive and healthy experiences. For an appointment, call 816-923-5800.

Let’s All Take Action to Stop Suicide

suicidewarningsignsSeptember is Suicide Prevention month but let’s not let this important idea stop at the end of the month.

At Swope Health Services, we work every day to help clients find resources to ease depression, fear, anger, helplessness and all the other stressors that contribute to making existence seem overwhelming, said Deborah Lidzy, SHS Crisis Response Specialist in Adult Behavioral Health.

“There is no one, single cause of suicide,” she said. “We understand that depression, anxiety or substance abuse, can all increase risk for suicide, if not addressed. We want to help people manage their mental health and learn good, solid coping skills.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 42,000 American deaths annually. That’s 117 suicides a day. And these numbers may be low, the foundation notes, as the stigma associated with suicide can lead to under-reporting.

There are many warning signs for suicide, including:

  • Displaying depression or lack of interest in anything
  • Talking about being a burden, having no reason to live
  • Withdrawing from normal activities with family and friends
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

People who are coping with mental health challenges – such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or psychotic disorders – may be at greater risk for suicide, Deborah notes. Additionally, people under severe stress from external factors like a traumatic life event, bullying, harassment, issues at work or in relationships may also be at risk.

BeThe1If you know someone in this kind of situation, encourage them to get help.

Contact the Access-Crisis-Intervention Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 1-888-279-8188.


SHS Behavioral Health is here to help. We provide assessment and treatment, and welcome same-day scheduling for appointments. Call 816-923-5800 for more information.

Growing Confidence with the SHS Community Garden

On any given day, you can find about a dozen urban farmers in the yard behind Swope Health Services Central Facility. It’s home to a community garden planned, planted, tended and harvested by participants in the SHS Adult Day Program.

The six raised beds hold the bulk of the organic crops, and two hay bales hold an experimental planting of acorn squash and zucchini. The garden includes tomatoes, collards, kale, arugula, lettuce, watermelon, cucumbers, okra and sweet potatoes. Pots hold a variety of herbs and strawberries.

But the gardens produce more than crops, said Lenise James, Community Support Specialist in the Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation-Adult Day Program. The SHS Community Garden also helps program participants grow skills and confidence. They learn how to strengthen their seedlings with fertilizer, how to protect them from threats like bugs. They relish the approach of harvest and the cooking and feasts that follow.

“It’s very healing to be out here,” Lenise noted. “It gives people a sense of mastery over what they do. They show self-sufficiency in gardening and in cooking.”


Views of the summer crops, clockwise from top left: The tomato bed holds a mix or tomato varieties – hybrids, heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, Cherokee purple and goliath. An overview of the beds with collards, two kinds of kale and Swiss chard. The well-tended Venus flytrap. A strawberry fountain temporarily located near the building. Cucumbers with cages to promote vertical growth, bedded with dill and okra. A big pot holds parsley, basil and other herbs at the edge of the pepper bed full of sweet peppers, chili peppers, Anaheim peppers and tomatillo.

Recently, the gardeners learned first-hand about the harlequin beetle that attacked the organic garden. Volunteers from the Kansas City Community Gardens found the bugs and explained the lifecycle, from egg to nymph to adult. The gardeners used a dust (made from crushed chrysanthemums) to repel the beetles from their organic crops. They also learned a surprisingly easy way to catch the beetles.

“If you place a linoleum tile in the garden, the beetles like to gather under it,” Lenise explained. “Then you can just lift up the tile and catch them.”

Gardening is an almost year-round program, operated at SHS as a team effort between program participants and SHS associates Mark McIlroy, Ozella (Renae) Stone, Christina Gossage-Camacho, Eliis Walls and Lenise. Supervisor Grace Okonta leads the program. The SHS Community Garden program has been in existence for about six years, launched with assistance from the Kansas City Community Gardens and the University of Missouri Extension office.

There are 15 gardeners in the program. They begin planning in February and meet at least weekly. They vote to determine the coming year’s crops, work out how to rotate the plantings across the beds, and plan for three seasons of harvest – spring, summer, and fall.

In peak growing season, gardeners take on a variety of daily tasks. One man comes early to water, and another spends time weeding and carefully tends the plants. One gardener uses a walker but keeps the commitment to the garden and fellow gardeners. Another, at age 76, has been gardening since childhood and enjoys sharing his knowledge with others.

A close bond develops between the gardeners as well as with the plants they cultivate. Lenise noted that one gardener kept to himself, but when the team learned that he likes bugs, they made arrangements to get him a Venus fly-trap. The carnivorous plant is now flourishing under his care.

“I see how much they enjoy it,” Lenise said. “The teamwork is incredible.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Hosts Mental Health Roundtable at SHS

GovNixon (3)Last Thursday, August 11, more than 75 police officers, sheriff’s deputies, court officials and mental health professionals joined Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon at Swope Health Services.

A roundtable of 10 Jackson County law enforcement and mental health professionals assembled to discuss how the governor’s mental health initiative is working to strengthen public safety.

Swope Health Services, which provides mental health services for individuals of all ages regardless of income, hosted the event.

Gov. Nixon noted how his 2013 strategic mental health initiative provided new Community Mental Health Liaisons to work with police departments and the courts. The goal of the liaisons, he said, is to facilitate access to care and improve the coordination of mental health services.

The governor introduced Cheryl D. Reed, SHS Community Mental Health Liaison, to kick off the discussion of how the program is working.

Cheryl, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Master’s in Social Work, noted that she attends municipal court about three times a week. She is there to screen offenders who’ve been identified by either a judge or an attorney as needing mental health support. Cheryl assesses them for eligibility in Jackson County Mental Health Court, which then provides treatment and resources. If the individual successfully completes the six-month treatment, charges can be dropped.

“I get around 75 to 100 police reports that are specifically around people with mental health issues,” Cheryl said. “I try to follow up on all those reports and help get people engaged in our services.”

GovNixon (2)She continued: “Sometimes we get some really high users of
9-1-1 that are really problematic and we will go to their homes. I go with a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) officer to the home to try and engage them in the services.”

Cheryl noted that another part of her work is to engage police officers on dealing with clients with mental health issues.  “I try to educate them about resources that will help them deal with people with mental health issues,” she said.

In the roundtable discussion, other participants shared stories of how an intervention and treatment kept a client out of trouble. Others addressed the cost savings that accrue from keeping people out of jails.

Gov. Nixon praised the work of the roundtable and the audience. “I appreciate the leadership that we have here on the ground,” he said.

The local collaboration between mental health and police departments creates a durable program that can make a significant difference in the community.

For more information about SHS Behavioral Health Services, contact us at 816-922-1070.