Behavioral Health Department Supports Local Professional to Attain Licensure and Help Patients

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March 2014

In a town as small as Ukiah, it can be difficult to find highly trained health professionals. This is why Mendocino Community Health Clinic seeks intelligent, dedicated people and supports them as they pursue the education and clinical hours they need to attain their licensure.

One position that can be difficult to fill is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). An LCSW helps patients overcome mental health and/or substance abuse issues by providing counseling and working with community systems to understand and address a patient’s needs. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a graduate-level education, 3200 hours of supervised clinical social work, and a passing grade on the rigorous state licensing examination.

At age 60, Frank McGarvey had worked in mental health and drug and alcohol treatment for 40 years. Early in his career, he served in the Coast Guard and developed an interest in human services. He pursued this field of study by becoming trained to manage support groups for people in recovery; he directed residential treatment and social rehabilitation programs for adults with major psychiatric disorders, and he became a substance abuse counselor—all under the supervision of licensed providers. 

With so much experience in the field, McGarvey had strong opinions about the importance of integrating medical care, behavioral health services, and drug/alcohol treatment because there is so much overlap. The issues that cause damage in one area are often related to issues that cause damage in another. So, at an age when some people begin thinking about retirement, McGarvey decided to pursue his LCSW license and find a place to work where they treat the whole person, supporting patients physically and emotionally.

McGarvey finished his Bachelor’s degree at Sonoma State University and his Master’s degree at Humboldt State University. Then he began working under the supervision of Michael Mabanglo, Ph.D., LCSW, Director of Behavioral Health at MCHC, and another highly trained LCSW at the clinic, Jim Kramer.

“MCHC’s integrated approach makes so much sense,” McGarvey says. “At MCHC, primary care providers and behavioral health providers work together to help patients maintain physical function and engage in meaningful activities. For example, to address pain, sometimes opioid pain medication is necessary, so patients receive prescriptions and are monitored by medical providers while they work with their behavioral health provider to learn additional methods to manage their pain.”

Patients also see behavioral health providers like LCSWs when facing problems associated with alcohol and/or substance abuse, mental health issues, chronic disease management, or stress resulting from lifestyle changes. McGarvey explained that opioid abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in many states and that it is a significant problem in Mendocino County. Opioids are prescription pain relievers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), morphine, and others.

MCHC has a Burprenophine Treatment Program that allows opioid abusers to get the help they need, paid for by MediCal and other health insurance. Some patients enrolled in the program eventually live a life completely free of all opioid use (including the burprenorphine), while others, because of the depth of their addiction, are maintained on buprenorphine as a part of their ongoing treatment. Either way, patients are closely followed by a physician, stabilized, and provided with medical and behavioral health treatment that allows them to lead a full and meaningful life.

MCHC also treats patients with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety, and provides treatment groups for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or trauma exposure related symptoms. “We offer support groups for men and women called, ‘Seeking Safety’ for people in recovery,” McGarvey says. “I run the group for men and Annie Richmond runs the group for women.”

“Many people do not recognize their depression or anxiety as treatable conditions, but they are. Everyone experiences changes in mood, but if you’ve been depressed or highly irritable for several months and routine tasks like getting out of bed in the morning feel overwhelming, there are effective treatments available,” he says.

Other symptoms include sleep disturbance, chronic low energy, inability to concentrate, seeking escape through alcohol or other drugs, thoughts of self-harm, and low self esteem.

If any of these symptoms are interrupting your life, consider calling MCHC at (707) 468-1010.

Next: MCHC Provides Free Dental Education and Flouride Varnish to Two Thousand School Children →