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Screening for Island Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse: An interdisciplinary approach. A project by students of the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Nursing and School of Medicine.

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screening for island mental health issues and substance abuse an interdisciplinary approach

Screening for Island Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse:An interdisciplinary approach

A project by students of the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Nursing and School of Medicine

“It is becoming clearer and clearer that mental health agencies cannot directly and alone solve the mental health problems that confront a community, and that the mental health system is simply a part of the network of community agencies which overtly or covertly provide mental health services.”

Milton Mazer, People and Predicaments

  • According to the 2005 Martha’s Vineyard Health Report, rates of substance abuse and mental health issues are higher on the island than the national average.
  • Research has shown that people in rural areas are less likely to seek help for mental health issues than they are for physical conditions.
  • Last year’s research found that there is a need for more screening of mental health and substance abuse issues on the island.
  • In addition, only 12-15% of individuals surveyed in the Martha’s Vineyard Health Report indicated that their provider discussed alcohol use with them.
  • Screening should be done via an interdisciplinary approach, not exclusively by mental health workers and Primary Care providers. By increasing the number of professionals screening for illness, a greater population can be reached. Because of this, any screening tool must be useful in a wide variety of settings.
process of developing the tool
Process of Developing the Tool
  • Research was undertaken to look at existing tools used by the health care fields and the information that was extracted from these tools was chosen for its’ likelihood of applying to issues facing the island community.
  • The questions found within this tool come from frequently used professional modules and therefore have been demonstrated to be effective in a variety of settings.
process of developing the tool8
Process of Developing the Tool
  • Alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety and depression were shown to be more prevalent on the island than the national averages, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Health Report.
  • Based upon this data, these four topics were chosen to be components of the tool.
process of developing the tool9
Process of Developing the Tool
  • The combined background of the students involved in creating this tool included various clinical and educational experiences that facilitated effective teamwork and a diverse knowledge base.
martha s vineyard comprehensive screening tool11
Martha’s Vineyard Comprehensive Screening Tool
  • The tool is divided into two main segments, one screening for alcohol and substance use, and the other for depression and anxiety.
  • Each question is weighted and a combined score of 2 or greater in either of the two main sections should result in further evaluation or referral. An exception is the two noted questions, which should result in immediate referral.
  • The questions asked are based on general signs and symptoms of alcoholism, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and are by no means diagnostic of any one specific illness or disorder.
interviewing island professionals
Interviewing Island Professionals
  • Vineyard Nursing Association
  • Wampanoag Tribal Health Center
  • Rural Health Clinic (PA and Psychiatrist)
  • Elder Services, MVH
  • ER, MVH
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • County Sheriff
  • Island Counseling Center
interviewing island professionals14
Interviewing Island Professionals

Questions for Interviewees

  • Are there methods you use to screen for mental illness/substance abuse? If so, are there questions you adapt or wish were included in these tools? What are the strengths of the tools that you use?
  • Do you feel that this tool would be useful to you in your role in dealing with members of the community?
  • Do you think that we should ask patients if they feel that they have a drinking or substance abuse problem?
  • What should be included in this tool to make it island-specific?
  • Do you feel that substance abuse and alcoholism can be combined in the same questions (as demonstrated by this version of the tool), or do you feel that these should really be kept separate?
  • Do you think that this can be used as an interdisciplinary tool? Do you feel that there should be separate tools used by different providers/law enforcement?
interviewing island professionals15
Interviewing Island Professionals
  • Feedback from interviews included:
    • Keep the tool brief
    • Use simple wording
    • Questions should yield yes/no responses
    • For simplicity, combine alcohol and substance abuse questions, but mention both.
    • Keep it general to be used by different professionals.
    • Separate alcohol and substance abuse as two unique issues.
    • Ask patients directly if they feel that they have an issue.
interviewing island professionals16
Interviewing Island Professionals
  • This feedback resulted in significant changes in the scoring, question type and wording of the screening tool.
  • One question that was added as a result of feedback related to isolation from society and daily activities.
  • Use of the tool should be encouraged for a variety of professionals, including medical professionals, law enforcement officers, counselors, religious officials, and other community service providers.
  • The tool must be adapted for use for non-English speaking clients (i.e. Portuguese, Spanish).
a growing need
A Growing Need
  • We feel that there is a grave lack of critical resources on the island. If this tool is effective, the need for the following resources will only increase:

◊ The island desperately needs more social workers, mental

health counselors and other professionals.

◊ The hospital needs detox programs and a crisis stabilization

unit as well as psychiatric support staff

◊ More support groups must be developed, including a Portuguese AA

◊ Non-English support groups and providers are in short supply,

especially those catering to the Portuguese-speaking


◊ Greater support for and understanding of the unique

needs of mental health and substance abuse populations

throughout the island community.

◊ Continually updated, detailed information on referral processes

opportunities for future study
Opportunities for Future Study
  • A detailed implementation plan for the utilization of the screening tool
  • A study of who is using the tool
  • A study of the tool effectiveness
  • A count of the number of referrals made from those professionals
  • A study of ways to improve the tool to meet the changing needs and diversity of the island community
thank you
Thank You…
  • Cindy Mitchell, Murray Frank, Tom Bennett, Olga Church, Terry Appenzellar, Ron Rappaport
  • Suzanne Cashman
  • Rural Health Clinic, Health Care Access Program, Island Counseling Center, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital
  • Interviewees: Joyce Cleavenger, Carol Ann Lindsey, Betsy Van Landingham, Jacque Cage, Hazel Teagan, Michael McCormack, George Cohn, Tom Bennett.
  • Martha’s Vineyard 2005 Health Report
  • Mazer, Milton. People and Predicaments. Cambridge, MA, Harvard College, 1976.
  • AUDIT screening tool
  • CAGE screening tool
  • Hamilton Anxiety Scale
  • Hamilton Depression Scale
  • Michigan Screening tool
  • “Utilization of mental health services in rural and remote communities”, Journal of Rural Community Psychology. Vol. E7, Spring, 2004.