Mental health resources available at C.A.R.E.S. Clinic

Since 2017, the Jackson County Health Department’s Collaborative Advocacy Referral and Educational Services Clinic has offered several resources to residents.

The C.A.R.E.S. Clinic is a part of the department’s harm reduction program, which provides screenings for HIV and hepatitis C and distributes the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to those who need it. It’s a way to become more proactive in the prevention of transmissible diseases in the county associated with the drug epidemic.

Other services initially included referrals for housing and jobs, and department officials said more would be added as needs of the population that visits the clinic were determined.

Thanks to a recent partnership with Mental Health America of Jackson County, clients now have access to mental health resources.

In the clinic’s new location at 112 N. Chestnut St. in downtown Seymour, people can use a Chromebook to log onto Mental Health America of Jackson County’s website to take a free mental health screening.

They also can take brochures related to mental health topics, including addiction, depression, anxiety and suicide, or fliers with contact information for local mental health providers.

“People being able to identify maybe what’s going on in their lives and reaching out for help, they are already going to the C.A.R.E.S. Clinic. The C.A.R.E.S. Clinic is the toolbox for their clients,” said Melanie O’Neal, executive director of Mental Health America of Jackson County. “This is just another tool that we would like to offer to the clients that they can get some additional help in whatever path they are traveling on.”

Mental Health America of Jackson County received a $900 Greater Seymour Trust Fund grant to cover the cost of the Chromebook and a wall rack. O’Neal had other grant money to cover the cost of the brochures and fliers.

In her first year as executive director in 2018, O’Neal received a grant from the fund to help her buy a computer and a printer for her office.

Since that was a success, she reached out to board member Vicki Johnson-Poynter about applying again this year. Johnson-Poynter suggested she seek funding for an electronic device for the C.A.R.E.S. Clinic because the health department announced it was opening the clinic across the street from the building that houses the organization’s office.

Once she knew she had the funding, O’Neal contacted the health department, and officials were happy to receive the Chromebook and wall rack with brochures and fliers.

“Research has shown us that at the bottom of most addictions is some kind of a mental health issue or a mental health event that has occurred in their lives that has caused them to kind of seek the security of addiction,” said Kimberli Myers, administrative office manager for the health department.

That’s why she sees the mental health resources to be a huge benefit in helping people on the path of recovery.

“Our whole purpose at the health department is to stop the spread of communicable diseases within Jackson County,” Myers said, noting the diseases spread with how drug users cook their products and share needles. “The rest of the stop of the spread of diseases issue that we can address, we are actively doing so.”

The C.A.R.E.S. Clinic came to fruition in 2017 from a grant the health department received from the Indiana Local Health Department Trust Account, formerly known as the Tobacco Grant. The department has received funding for each year since then.

The clinic had operated inside the health department until recently moving into its new location. A satellite clinic also has been offered Thursday evenings at The Alley in Seymour, and officials have attended recovery events and trainings throughout the county.

The demographic the clinic serves, however, hasn’t really wanted to come to the office inside the health department, Myers said.

“They’ve been extremely active but just not really within the walls,” she said. “So that instigated its own location where people would maybe be a little bit more comfortable.”

The clinic is open from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursdays and is coordinated by Brandi Foist.

Myers said she wants people who go to The Alley to feel comfortable stopping by the new clinic location.

“We also want to serve the families of this demographic to let them come in and feel free to get Narcan and feel free to get education and see what other services are available to help with the opioid crisis,” she said.

Buddy Fletcher, a new Mental Health board member, also sees the new location as a benefit.

“I agree moving it away from the health department is probably going to be an asset for these people because they don’t want to go to the health department in their condition and things that they are doing,” he said. “It gives them a neutral ground. I think that’s great. I think it will be a huge benefit.”

O’Neal said she’s glad to have an opportunity to work with the health department in different ways.

“We definitely hope to continue serving everyone, and the C.A.R.E.S. Clinic is just another way that we can reach more people right here,” she said. “This is home.”

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The Jackson County Health Department’s C.A.R.E.S. Clinic provides screenings for HIV and hepatitis C, distributes the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to those who need it, offers referrals for housing and jobs and now gives clients access to mental health resources.

The clinic’s new location is at 112 N. Chestnut St. in downtown Seymour. It’s open from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursdays.