McAlester facility offers more than mental health services

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Jun. 2—Christopher Graham said he wants to help people at risk of mental health crises to smile again.

The integrated care director at Carl Albert Mental Health Center in McAlester said consumers at the facility often go through trauma and have rough histories that put them at great risk of mental health crises. But employees offer services and resources to help improve their overall wellness.

"We're trying to help you repair your bridge; which is give you the right tools and get you to living normal," Graham said.

"A big part of it for most of us is about seeing someone smile again," he said.

Carl Albert operates under the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and has seven satellite facilities across a 10-county service area.

Executive Director Debbie Moran said each consumer gets team-based care, including a licensed counselor, two case managers, a nurse, an RSS, which is Recovery Support Services, and a wellness coach.

"Our goal is to try to keep people out of the hospital so whatever we can do to prevent that upfront and try to get them engaged and help them — we're going to try to do that," Moran said.

Integrated care brings together inputs, delivery, management and organization of services related to diagnosis, treatment, care, rehabilitation and health promotion, according to the World Health Organization.

Carl Albert is known for its behavioral health services, but its integrated care expands and and coordinates with health care treatment and providers.

The facility offers treatment for diabetes, COPD, asthma, and other health issues, plus offers assistance in connecting consumers with other resources.

Graham said staff recently treated and assisted a consumer with health issues stemming from diabetes, connected the patient with care providers, followed with team checkups, offered behavioral health care and connected the patients with more resources.

He said the department helps clients get connected with resources, churches, programs, housing assistance, coalitions, and more.

Graham said case management and care coordination are methods of helping clients on some factors leading to mental health issues.

The process includes getting input from clients and using staff expertise to recommend treatment options.

Graham said recovery support specialists are employees with lived experience in the field who connect with consumers.

He said integrated care also includes assistance with improving each consumer's physical, financial wellness, emotional, social, and other wellness.

Graham said he "grew up with nothing" and dropped out of high school before going on to earn a master's in social work and counseling. He said his experiences fueled his passion for helping and connecting with those having mental health issues.

He started clinical work in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with intensive outpatient psychotherapy covering four parishes and assisting consumers with severe mental illness before moving to Oklahoma.

"This is where my heart is — community outreach, engagement, connection," Graham said. "Helping people to feel like human beings again — that's the number one goal. And to do it in a way that it fits them."

Graham said he believes every consumer can become more healthy and go on to fulfilling, productive lives.

He said a key component is having someone to offer encouragement and support.

"And that's what we're here to do," Graham said.

Anyone in need of mental health services can call the facility at 918-426-7800 or visit 1101 E. Monroe Ave. in McAlester to start the interview process. An appointment will be made within 3-5 days — or immediately if the person shows acute symptoms like hearing voices, suicidal or harmful thoughts, and more.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

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