WAHOO – At the beginning of May, Saunders Medical Center launched a new device on its website providing mental health resources for community members called Wellbeing Resources.
SMC Clinic Director Stacie Sabatka helped to establish the program and said it was motivated by what they were seeing in patients and those coming into the emergency room since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We were seeing an increase in depression and anxiety and all the things that kind of went along with the pandemic,” Sabatka said. “Isolation and just the change that we’ve all had to make and deal with.”
As this trend continued into the fall, Sabatka said they felt something needed to be done. The beginning stages of the initiative were originally presented back in November when SMC Chief Executive Officer Julie Rezac spoke at a Saunders County Board of Supervisors meeting about working on a protocol related to behavioral and mental health.
“We knew there’d be ripple effects in COVID,” Rezac said back in November.
Sabatka said as a group they had discussed how to identify patients and even SMC employees who were experiencing these symptoms of the pandemic and how to provide aid to them.
SMC began working with other agencies such Three Rivers Public Health Department, local Educational Services Units, Boys Town and Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska to have conversations about what resources would be most helpful for the community.
“We gathered a group that had people bring things to the table that they felt were resources that we could easily push out to our employees, to their families and to the community at large,” Sabatka said.
The final product is a tool that includes community resources and eight different subgroups within the community including kids and tweens, teens and young adults, adults, seniors, parents, healthcare and first responders, educators and farmers and members of the agriculture industry.
Someone browsing the site could click on each of these groups and find different resources pertaining to whatever questions or concerns someone may have. Sabatka describes the device as something that is easily accessible and can be done in the privacy of one’s own home.
“To do that in the privacy of their own home, I think will benefit a lot of that,” Sabatka said.
Collaboration was a huge part of getting this project off the ground which resulted in SMC learning a lot about this realm of medicine. Sabatka said the conversations SMC held with other agencies resulted in shared knowledge, awareness and the commonalities of wanting to create something that would be helpful throughout the entire state.
SMC Director of Nursing Destiny Bader said the emergency room continued to see more and more patients with suicidal attempts or suicidal ideation. Now that SMC has Wellbeing Resources, Bader said the facility needs to continue this work by providing more resources and education staff.
“I definitely think we are seeing the effects of COVID on people and all the stresses that’s put on our patients so it’s definitely a need,” Bader said.
Sabatka said the goal was to create a starting point for others.
“It’s not all inclusive, it doesn’t have everything, but it’s a good start and a good place for them to just click and search and see what’s out there,” Sabatka said. “That’s what we wanted, we wanted something that was easy to access.”