Mental Health Care Goes Mobile



Article by Kelsey Huber

Photography by Supplied by Valeo

In a given year, an estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older (about 1 in 4 adults) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. In particular, depressive illnesses tend to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety disorders. These facts underscore the importance of facilities like Valeo Behavioral Health Care. Valeo (Latin for “to be well”) has been serving the Topeka community since 1967 providing mental health & substance use disorder recovery services for adults. Here is the story of Mindi, a consumer at Valeo:

I was 22 years old and on a full Marshall Scholarship pursuing my D. Phil. (PhD) at Oxford University when I crashed into a chasm of depression. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depression. I struggled through ups and downs the next few years. In 2009 at age 29, I had my deepest crash. Luckily, friends who were clients at Valeo Behavioral Health Care nagged me until I went in for an intake in 2010. That decision led to help, hope, and eventually, happiness.

Psychotropic medication raised me to the surface of the ocean, but, not knowing how to tread water, I inevitably sank again. Valeo taught me how to tread. My 10 years in treatment at Valeo have helped me to develop structure, to feel safe and supported, and to learn vital coping skills. But even with immense support, I spent months without smiling or laughing, fantasized about suicide, and required several stays in the mental hospital. Gradually, with medication changes and Valeo’s neverending treatment and support, I started to feel better. In 2013, I adopted my rescue dogs Peanut and Gidget. Even when I felt I wasn’t worth living for, they certainly were, giving me a purpose. 

Then, on July 14, 2019, my fiancé of 10 years completed suicide, and I gave up…until I entered Valeo’s crisis center and was immediately helped. Within four days, treaters and heads of services at Valeo gathered with me to schedule daily treatment to keep me afloat. Eight months later, coronavirus happened, dramatically limiting my services. I initially panicked, but I practiced the coping skills Valeo had taught me and became stronger! 

I now have four hours weekly of Valeo services: a case manager, a music therapist, peer support, and a music therapy group. I no longer define myself as sick, but I am not naïve enough to think I will never be depressed again. Valeo will be there for me whenever I need them, and knowing that makes taking the risks required for making progress possible. I finally have a life worth living! 

Some in society treat me as my illness rather than a person, so sharing my story with you is a risk. That risk is worth it to express my gratitude for the treaters at Valeo who made my story possible and to educate others and challenge stigma against persons with mental illness.

Aimee Copp-Hasty, Valeo’s Corporate Development Director, sat down with us to give us an inside look at the work they do and the lives they save. Valeo provides a 24-hour crisis center with licensed clinicians available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Walk-ins are always welcome. No appointment is necessary. A 24-hour crisis line is also available 24/7/365. Because substance use issues and complex underlying mental health problems are not quick fixes, many people may require multiple visits before they are able to manage on their own. At Valeo, individuals can stay and get the help they need. “We never turn anyone away,” Copp-Hasty said, “regardless of their ability to pay.”

The dedicated staff at Valeo understand the complicated relationship between mental illness and homelessness and offer multiple services designed to help those who need it. Without treatment, the consequences of mental illness include substance abuse, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, and suicide. “Most of the unsheltered people that you see in Topeka have a combination of unresolved, undiagnosed, and untreated mental illness,” Copp-Hasty said. The Mobile Access Partnership is one outreach program making a difference in the lives of the mentally ill and unsheltered in the community. Instead of waiting for the unsheltered population to come to them, Valeo’s homeless outreach team, the HOPE Team, takes services to the unsheltered.

The Mobile Access Partnership - a partnership between Valeo, the Topeka Rescue Mission, Stormont Vail Health, the Topeka Police Department, and the Shawnee County Health Department - includes a mobile shower and laundry trailer, a mobile clothing trailer, a mobile food truck, and even veterinary care to provide pet care products and vaccinations. There is a primary care trailer planned for the near future through a partnership with Stormont Vail Health. “It’s like a pop-up healthcare village,” Copp-Hasty said. “We don’t think of Valeo as a place. We think of it as a service that we can take to people and meet them where they are,” she explained. The mobile outreach locations rotate between local churches to try to reach the most people.

The HOPE outreach team members visit the unsheltered, check in on them and offer food, tents, tarps, sleeping bags, etc. to build trust and eventually bring them in for services. “We are the people who trudge through the snow and visit people under bridges and let them know there is someone who cares,” she said. “These people are hurting. Many have co-occurring issues like substance use disorders due to underlying mental health problems. They are self-medicating with drugs or alcohol just to make it through the day.”

If you or someone you love is suffering from a mental disorder or substance use disorder, contact Valeo Behavioral Health Care. They provide $2 million in free care each year through 30 programs including:

●      Comprehensive Services

●      Primary Care

●      Pharmacy

●      Individual & Group Therapy

●      Crisis Center

●      Recovery Center

●      Art Therapy

●      Music Therapy

●      Case Management

●      Peer Support Services

●      Homeless Outreach

●     CIT - Crisis Intervention Team

The White Linen Fundraiser, November 2-6

Each year, Valeo serves 7,000 people just like Mindi. To help support Valeo, attend The White Linen Fundraiser, November 2nd through 6th. Enjoy a delicious meal at The White Linen restaurant (112 SW 6th St. in Topeka) and 50% of the profits will be donated to Valeo Behavioral Health Care.

The Valeo Foundation is a private non-profit 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. For more information on how you can make a difference today, contact The Valeo Foundation 785-215-8863.

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