Over the past 10 years, people with diagnoses of mental illness (depression, bipolar disorder, etc.) have been admitted to nursing homes at higher rates than people with dementia only. Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued regulations requiring nursing homes to provide “necessary behavioral health services” and for all staff to have the “appropriate competencies and skill sets” to properly care for residents. On December 8, LMP consultants Wanda Johnson (above) and Lois Schram (at left) addressed these issues with over 200 individuals from 56 nursing homes who attended a seminar titled “Working Collaboratively to Improve Behavioral Health in Long-Term Care.”

Attendees were asked to examine commonly held myths about people with mental illness and were reminded that nursing home staff need to work as a team to meet the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of their residents.

Co-sponsored by the Greater New York Healthcare Facilities Association and the 1199SEIU Training & Employment Funds, the conference marked the first time that management, direct care staff and Union leaders joined together to learn about this important topic. In welcoming the attendees, Daine Wiliams, 1199SEIU Assistant Division Director of the Nursing Home Division, emphasized the need for Union and management leaders to continue to work together to address the political, fiscal and regulatory challenges facing nursing homes.

Speakers shared timely information and clinical recommendations to help nursing home staff better care for increasing numbers of residents with behavioral health challenges. Dr. Albert Riddle, psychiatrist, discussed the need to supplement medication with meaningful activities and led the audience in a restorative three-minute meditation experience. Project Director Suzanne de Beaumont of Open Doors provided information about that statewide agency, which is designed to help eligible individuals return to community settings. Johnson and Schram reviewed the most recent CMS regulations and staff competency requirements and encouraged facilities to sponsor Mental Health First Aid training sessions for all staff interacting with residents.

The two are certified Mental Health First Aid trainers, and they plan to conduct full-day training for staff in healthcare facilities in the new year. The training covers the signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis and substance abuse; how to identify risk factors and warning signs of a mental health crisis; and a five-step action plan to use in emergencies.

To learn how your facility can apply for training support, please call Janice Dabney at (212) 894-4315 or email her at [email protected]


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