Ohio Hills Health Services, a medical and dental provider, has added a behavioral health program which will now enable them to provide overall care for their clients’ whole well-being. 

The behavioral health program which started April 1, was made possible by a $217,000 Substance Use Disorder/Mental Health grant. 

Typically, community health centers offer three components, medical, dental and behavioral health, but for years Ohio Hills just offered the medical and dental until last year when the health center found out the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) was offering grant money to allow community health centers to add behavioral health programs.

“We decided to apply for the grant money, which we received, so that was the springboard for us to begin providing behavioral health services,”Jeff Britton, CEO, for Ohio Hills Health services, said.

The grant is a two-year grant. The center will have to do a report to HRSA after the first and second to make sure the conditions of the grant are met. If all the conditions are met, the grant becomes a permanent funding source.

Upon receipt of the grant money, the health center hired two behavioral health counselors who provided mental health services and counseling for kids, teens and adults, as well as family and substance abuse counseling.

The behavioral health program is open to anyone who needs counseling services. Although the program does take referrals from other medical providers, no referral is needed. Anyone who needs services or has questions about the program can schedule an appointment with a mental health counselor by calling the center at 740-239-6447 or visiting their website at www.ohiohills.org.

Ohio Hills has four locations but is currently only offering the behavioral health services at the Barnevilles and Quaker City locations. There are plans to expand the program to the center’s other two locations by the end of the year. 

Britton, who has a background in acute care hospital, noted that during the time he was still at the hospital was when the opioid epidemic was really starting to hit.

“Twenty-five years ago, when I started at Barnesville Hospital we may get one overdose a year, fast forward 20 years and it was about one a week,” Britton said. “That’s when we really started seeing it in this area and that there was an issue,” Britton said. “I came here and we saw the opioid epidemic here as well. ... Plus looking at our patient profile there was a large percent of our patients that had a mental health diagnosis so we decided that we wanted to offer behavioral health to help combat the opioid epidemic.”

The health center offers a Suboxone program for recovering addicts, but one of the conditions to that program is in order to get the Suboxone (Medication assisted therapy for those addicted to opioids), the person receiving the medication must receive counseling.

Prior to the center offering the behavioral health program, patients receiving the Suboxone, would have to come to the center for their medication but go to St. Clairesville, Cambridge or Wheeling for their counseling. Now they are able to do it all at one location.

“One of the real positive things about adding behavioral health here is it doesn't have the stigma that going to a mental health agency has for some people,” Jan Chambers, director of outreach and development at Ohio Hills Health Services, said. “So they can come here to see their doctor and if they need counseling they can come here for their counseling also and that just makes it a little more acceptable or easy for some people. Your neighbors don’t know that you are not coming in to see the doctor.”

The behavioral health services component is already appearing to be in high demand within the community. 

“The demand is going as expected. We started out with two counselors and they are about at their capacity, so at some point in time here in the near future we are probably going to have to look at adding a third or a fourth counselor and developing a full independent behavioral health program within Ohio Hills throughout all four locations,” Britton said. 

“Ohio Hills Health Services offers counseling to children, individuals, and families. Counselors work in conjunction with physicians and other health care providers to promote strategies for making lifestyle changes with a goal of achieving optimal health,”Melissa Huff, behavioral health counselor with Ohio Hills Health Services, said.