Local departments provide resources for those with mental illness | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local departments provide resources for those with mental illness

Nightmares, flashbacks and phobias are a part of life for South Shore resident Brad Keen, who has been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder since 1994.

Keen owned a business before a 1992 event where he said he was held at gunpoint. Now, deeply traumatized, he can’t find work.

“Life has been (bad) since 1994, to be honest with you,” he said. “I am trying to change my life. I’m trying to have a life again. I need to find an employer out there who will give a guy a break. I’m just so thankful for my wife, Lyn. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be alive.”

Keen, 46, was a battalion motor sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, but his disorder is not related to his military experiences. When he and Lyn moved to South Lake Tahoe five months ago, flashbacks and nightmares became more frequent and he did not know where to turn for help.

South Shore does not have an inpatient facility for people diagnosed with mental disorders, but there are treatment options available.

El Dorado County Mental Health Department

The Mental Health Department serves 256 children and adults. Crisis counseling, vocational services, therapy, medication services and referrals are available at the department, which is affiliated with the Psychiatric Health Facility in Placerville, which offers inpatient treatment.

“We provide services to people of all ages,” said Manuel Jimenez, mental health clinician. “We have psychologists and we have psychiatrists who can dispense medication. We actually have two psychiatrists and one of them is bilingual.”

Jimenez said everyone has the right to be evaluated and anyone may fill out an application at the mental health department.

“I think it’s really important to get help,” he said. “A lot of people attach a stigma to mental illness, but there are a lot of people who get down and out and there are mental illnesses that are just temporary and can be treated.”

According to the Surgeon-General David Satcher, one in 10 children in the United States suffers from some sort of mental health problem, but only 20 percent of children suffering are treated.

Keen said he has been to numerous counselors to no avail, but plans to continue therapy until he gets better.

“I’m going to keep trying,” he said. “I think part time employment would help me, of course financially, but mentally too.”

El Dorado County Department of Rehabilitation

The Department of Rehabilitation’s vocational rehabilitation program is aimed at finding jobs for people with mental and physical disabilities.

“I work with persons with disabilities,” said rehabilitation counselor Heather Fite, who is working with Keen. “The emphasis of our program is on vocational rehabilitation. Once a client identifies his or her goal, then we can determine the steps that are going to be necessary to reach those goals.”

The Department of Rehabilitation provides funding for clients to attend college or vocational courses which may increase their chances of getting a job.

“Often people who come to me, whether it is because of a psychiatric disability or a physical disability, they really want to work,” Fite said. “They want to be a productive member of the community.”

Keen said meeting with Fite restored some of his hope.

“Heather was great,” he said. “She treated me with dignity. It seems that’s something that’s hard to come by. I found out about vocational rehab through Job-One. It is definitely the way to go for someone with disabilities.”

El Dorado County Department of Veterans Services

Because Keen is a veteran, he may be eligible to receive assistance from the Veterans Service Office.

“This is a county veterans services office so what we do is assist veterans in securing benefits from Veteran Affairs, monetary benefits as well as medical care,” representative Tod Wallace said. “If a veteran is wanting some kind of counseling or support and is eligible for VA medical care, we can see that he or she is enrolled in the VA medical care system and we can get him or her down to Reno (to the veterans hospital) for some care.”

The Department of Veterans Services provides free round-trip transportation to the veterans hospital in Reno for those interested in seeking counsel there.

After waiting five weeks for an appointment at the Veterans Hospital, Keen is scheduled to meet with a therapist there in February.

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