In an effort to combat the struggles patients face from mental illness, alcohol dependency and drug addiction, the Cherry Hill Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the Jellison House in Johnston have partnered together to share best practices and provide wide ranging services for those in need.
“We’re getting more and more patients that have mental illnesses. Some are medicated and some are not really compliant with their medications or their diagnosis,” said Marketing Director Loraine DiLorenzo. “We’re also dealing with family members that may come from a background of mental illness or have anxieties. That may cause them to be even more frustrated because it’s not an easy thing for them to accept.”
Cherry Hill Manor is a continuum-of-care campus offering short-term rehabilitation and long-term care, as well as assisted living via The Bridge at Cherry Hill. According to DiLorenzo, the associates at Cherry Hill Manor focus on inpatient rehabilitation and 24-hour skilled nursing care, utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and therapies, massage therapy, Reiki treatments and more.
Community Care Alliance, established in July 2014, operates the Jellison House across the street from Cherry Hill Manor on Greenville Avenue. Their goal is to empower those people challenged by economic insecurity, mental illness and addictions, housing issues and other trauma-related concerns. They provide counseling, treatment and support services, food, shelter and housing, programs to assist with self-sufficiency such as employment, financial literacy and vocational training and support for self-help.
The staff at Jellison House is always looking for opportunities to better serve individuals and families through developing innovative programming and establishing collaborative partnerships with other organizations.
A 45-plus year friendship between Cherry Hill maintenance director Pasquale Simone and Anthony Petrucci, treatment assistant coordinator and Jellison House manager, led to the unique working arrangement between the two entities. Petrucci, too, has suffered through addiction and became clean in 1984. He’s seen cases that have stopped him in his tracks and wants to use his personal experiences to help others.
“It’s hand in hand, there’s always underlying issues when you have alcohol and drug addiction, there’s always a mental health or mental illness component. If you haven’t been trained in the field of substance abuse, the first thing you have to realize is that you’re dealing with sick people,” said Petrucci. “Most people say, who don’t understand alcoholism or drug addiction, that it’s a person’s choice and they just do this. It’s not really their choice, it’s just like diabetes or cancer, it’s a disease.”
The staff at Cherry Hill for decades has worked closely with professionals in the mental health field to help patients overcome physical injuries and more, which now include issues of mental illness, addictions and family wellness. This partnership is just part of Cherry Hill’s commitment to addressing the needs of their growing, changing community.
“We found it useful because our nurses and our CNAs are running into more and more difficulty dealing with patients, and we don’t want to have to tell patients that they have to go for psych help,” said DiLorenzo. “We’re trying to diffuse any possible situation before it becomes a problem and we have to send someone off to psych and cause more anguish in their healing process.”
DiLorenzo said that some people can become desensitized when working in an environment involving dementia, for example, so they may not take the steps to say they understand what a patient is going through when they have a hallucination or other issue, similar to what someone may experience with substance abuse.
“We’re going to offer quite a few of the full length classes to management and auxiliary staff, such as housekeeping, who also have direct contact with patients and their families,” said DiLorenzo.
Initial conversations between the organizations began when Jellison House approached Cherry Hill Manor offering assistance and the education component to further educate Cherry Hill staff.
Training includes a system of identifying patient issues using a green, yellow and red color-coding to monitor a patient’s emotional state and well-being. Training also offers staff suggestions as to how to engage both patients and their family members and diffuse tensions and address concerns, ways to confirm understanding, alternatives to standard care, and what actions steps to take to best serve clients.
Training sessions are ongoing and will continue until all staff are updated. Cherry Hill Manor also plans on adapting the training information to help those who have dementia, or issues associated with living longer.
“Having everyone be aware and learning different components will certainly help. To be trained properly to know what you’re dealing with is very important. Our organization is constantly training to deal with mental health issues such as trauma and physical or sexual abuse,” said Petrucci. “The importance of us working with Cherry Hill Nursing Home is to identify these problems and know how to handle them. One of the most important things to do is look at a patient’s background and see where these issues started. Most of the time, it’s from trauma caused by physical or sexual abuse.”
Richard Crino, a vice president at Community Care Alliance, has been facilitating staff trainings and offering assistance where appropriate. His sessions included how to ask probing questions to identify needs, when to touch a patient, how to build trust, and what to do if a medical situation escalates.
“This group changed everything. We want people to know that it’s not what it was before and this relationship is serving a good purpose,” said Simone.
“I believe strongly that all things happen for a reason,” said Petrucci about the working arrangement. “What we’re trying to do by helping Cherry Hill is being involved in the community. We work in this community, and we want to be accepted in the community and help in any way we can. Every family has been affected by alcoholism, drug addiction or mental health issues in some way or another. We want to help remove the stigma that surrounds those issues.”