DEL NORTE- Rio Grande County Social Services welcomed the San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group (SLVBHG) and their new Mobile Health Unit to their parking lot in Del Norte in February and so far, the program is bringing in clients who are seeking help with their addictions.
According to studies and information provided through SLVBHG, a significant percentage of both children and adults struggle with coping with stress in their lives. Through the efforts of SLVBHG, staff members go above and beyond the mental aspect of their programs and also focus on the basic needs of clients, including helping people battle with addiction.
The Mobile Health Unit was proposed in the summer of 2019 and has since sparked a huge effort to help bring hope and opportunity for healing to those who may not have the transportation or mobility needed to seek proper treatment for a wide variety of ailments including alcoholism, opioid addiction and other addictions.
The Unit is staffed with several health care professionals that are there to help anyone of any age, from early childhood to senior citizens with all issues of mental and physical health. Donald Romero, is a licensed counselor through SLVBHG and is on board to help anyone who needs his services. Romero spent several years in the military and has always called the Valley his home. After working for Veteran Hospitals, Romero decided his home needed his help and he returned to offer his services to his community.
Robyn Hinds is an LPN who is on board to help with addiction medication that aids to treat addiction symptoms and withdrawls. According to Hinds, they have helped people with opioid and alcohol addiction and hope to reach more and more clients throughout the entire Valley. “We have all of the equipment and things right here in this mobile unit that we need to begin offering help. We do not have any controlled substances or cash on board, but our services are meant to get people started onto the road to recovery and to ensure their success.”
Hinds also explained that some of the equipment on board makes the mobile unit completely self-sustaining including the incinerating toilets which burn waste the minute it is flushed so that the team does not need to stop by dump stations to get rid of waste. The RV is also equipped with two private rooms for clients to receive treatment.
The mobile health units resemble a large recreational vehicle on the outside and a typical health clinic on the inside. Each unit will have four dedicated staff members: a licensed practical nurse (LPN), a licensed clinician with a strong background in addictions counseling (LPC/LAC), a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), and a peer recovery coach. The state-of-the-art mobile clinic was explicitly designed to administer treatment for opioid-use disorders or Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT is the use of FDA-approved medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. The San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group uses two main medications, Suboxone and Vivitrol. Suboxone is used to help the client through the withdrawal process and break the psychological link between taking a drug and immediately feeling high. Vivitrol is a monthly injection that blocks opioids from reaching the brain and stopping an individual from feeling “high.” Vivitrol also reduces cravings for opioid drugs and alcohol, letting the client focus on their counseling and recovery. Clients must be opioid-free before starting Vivitrol, using opioids while on Vivitrol can increase the risk of overdose.
Support services offered on the mobile health units include peer support, brief intervention, a prescription for medication-assisted treatment if needed, and linkage to wraparound services as well as referrals to ongoing therapy. One-on-one counseling and group therapy use techniques to help reverse the substance’s adverse effects on the brain. However, using these substances for an extended amount of time, the effects may not be reversible. Counseling then focuses on how to cope with these changes by establishing game plans to avoid relapsing and, most importantly, how to feel pleasure again without the use of substances.
Jennifer Brooks is also on board to help with a wide range of services including food assistance, laundry vouchers and therapy as the SLVBHG’s Peer Specialist. “I wear many hats, but I am mostly here to make people feel comfortable and help them in any way I can.”
Rio Grande County Social Service Director Jody Kern is pleased with the service the Mobile Health Unit is offering and had nothing but positive things to say about having it parked in the lot behind the Social Service building in Del Norte. “It has been great having them here and being able to offer their services to the community.”
The Mobile Health Unit visits eight communities each week. On Mondays the unit can be found in Del Norte and South Fork. On Tuesdays the unit is located in Center and Saguache. On Wednesdays the mobile unit is in La Jara and Antonito and on Thursdays the unit is in San Luis.
According to Hines and the other crew members, SLVBHG is seeking a location to park the unit in Ft. Garland on Thursdays and are reaching out to anyone who may be willing to allow them access to a place to park. For more information or to offer a location in the Ft. Garland area, please visit www.slvbhg.org/mobile or by calling 719-283-4923 or 719-589-3671.