Thursday, February 03, 2011
It's time to change the way we handle mental illness in the U.S.

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Recently a psychotic individual took his delusions to a Tucson, Ariz. strip mall. The result was an assault on innocent people that should not have occurred. Many questions were raised after the incident. Some of them included how someone like this could be allowed to act out his psychotic fantasies. Over the years our approach to mental illness has changed drastically. Many years ago, individuals who developed psychosis were put in inpatient facilities. Some of them remained there for years. Facilities were often not the right place for them. My grandmother spent some time in one of those facilities and my parents took her out to live with us. She stayed with us for years with no problems. She had a single delusion; she thought she was the Queen of Italy. This delusion did not impact her daily behavior. Over time several things happened in regards to the treatment of mental illness. The first was the realization that not all individuals with some kind of mental illness need to be in a supervised situation permanently. Thus, the need for long time confinement decreased. The second was that we developed a philosophy that the only individuals who needed to be hospitalized were those who were suicidal or homicidal. As a result, hospitals were no longer a convenient place for individuals to send family members that they did not want to care for. The third was that we developed a group of drugs to treat mental illness. Some drugs treated depression which allowed us to help potentially suicidal individuals. Other drugs treated psychosis which allowed us to help potentially homicidal individuals. The fourth was that insurance companies decided that they would not pay for hospitalizations longer than 28 days. Thus individuals with mental illness needed to be cured in a month. All of these factors led to a marked decrease in the number of individuals in psychiatric facilities. Many of these facilities closed down. As a result of these factors, care has changed drastically over the years. However, we need to ask if the pendulum has gone too far to the other side. We are now reluctant to hospitalize someone unless they are actually homicidal or suicidal. If we wait until they get to that point, it might be too late. We as a society are also reluctant to make sure someone gets help when he/she needs it. The community college that the Arizona individual attended realized that he had major problems. They reacted by telling him he needed a doctor's note to reenter school. The question needs to be asked if they should have forced the issue. In our current society you do not do that so they only did what society expects. Another issue is related to medication. Medications only work if you take them. We already know that there are a lot of issues with patients taking medication. Some cannot afford them. Some miss doses. Some refuse to take them. So, even if we have identified an individual with a problem, there is not a guarantee that they will take the treatment they need. Insurers are still reluctant to pay for mental health care. For that reason, it often is very difficult to get approval for the kind of care that a patient really needs. The typical emergency room stay for someone who needs psychiatric hospitalization is often hours while waiting for approval. All of these factors combine to set the stage for events to take place like those in Arizona. Many people are asking the question as to how someone so mentally unbalanced could have obtained a gun. Perhaps a better question is how someone like that could not have been appropriately identified and treated before he went to buy the gun in the first place. We have a lot of work to do as a society to address these issues.

Fund gives gifts to sick children Roland Asselin, long-time volunteer at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, had a heart as big as the belly on his Santa Claus suit. Children were especially close to Roland's heart and every Christmas Roland would turn into Santa and visit the children on Pediatrics delivering gifts.After Christmas, Roland continued to give many hours as he volunteered on the floors, collected patient menus, and helped in the emergency room giving comfort to families waiting for their sick and injured friends and relatives. Roland would bring food to the staff, knowing that many times they could not get off the floors. Even when Roland became ill, he still came to the hospital to volunteer - helping in whatever way he could even if he was only able to sit at a desk and work. When Roland passed away, Frank & Linda Johnston wanted to carry on the memory of his devotion and established the Roland Asselin Pediatric Gift Fund.With money donated to the fund, gifts are purchased at Christmas and distributed to pediatric patients at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. This year, along with store bought items purchased through the Roland Asselin Pediatric Gift Fund, Santa and his elves made a stop to the Pediatric Unit at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital to deliver a sleigh full of wooden gifts handmade by the Mason Dixon Woodworking Club. Mason Dixon Woodworker volunteers produce handmade wooden educational toys for underprivileged children for hundreds of Delmarva children every Christmas season and year round. These toys are created to teach children colors, numbers, alphabet, manual dexterity, and eye-hand coordination, thereby fostering growth and development as they play with the toys. Members of the group volunteer their time and talents to craft over one thousand such wooden toys every year. The toys are then given to community organizations that hand them out to children in need, from churches to hospitals. The gifts provided by the Roland Asselin Pediatric Gift Fund and the Mason Dixon Woodworking Club were presented to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital through the Nanticoke Health Services Foundation. For more information call 629-6611, ext. 8945 or visit

Annual Brain Injury Conference The Brain Injury Association of Delaware (BIAD) will host its milestone 20th Annual Brain Injury Conference "Journey of Purpose" on Wednesday, March 23, and Thursday, March 24. The conference will be held at Clayton Hall Conference Center at the University of Delaware's North Campus. BIAD welcomes Keynote Speaker Dr. Al Condeluci who works with UCP/CLASS as a speaker, author, teacher and nationally renowned consultant on human and community services. Lunch speaker is Rita Landgraf, Secretary of Delaware Health and Social Services. Closing speaker will be Dr. Lani Nelson-Zlupko, the force behind LNZ Consulting, Inc., where she is a life coach and motivational speaker. The two-day BIAD conference will also include a reception, annual meeting and other speakers and exhibitors. Registration is open for sponsors, exhibitors and conference registrants. Visit for more details, or call 1-800-411-0505. A reduced rate is available for students, brain injury survivors and family members. Pre-registration is required. CEU's will be offered.

CPR classes offered at Nanticoke Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child, or infant who is choking. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends,and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants 12 years old and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $30. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations (if seating is available) will be an additional $5.00 fee. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Training Center office at 629-6611, extension 8919. Pre-registration is required.

Call to artists The Wellness Community seeks local artists who are undergoing cancer treatment or are cancer survivors to display their art at Renew Your Palette√ČArt for the Mind, Food for the Soul, scheduled for March 12. Deadline for submissions is Feb. 4. To submit art or obtain more information, contact Marcia Esposito, special events coordinator at The Wellness Community, 645-9150 or This unique event to be held at The Wellness Community in Rehoboth Beach will feature artists and their work alongside local chefs who will present culinary demonstrations as well as provide samples.

More information about The Wellness Community and this event is available online at

Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is being held on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 1:30 p.m. at the Seaford Library. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. Modeled from the American Stroke Association, the hospital is engaging with speakers to provide education, community resources and emotional support to those who have been affected by this life-altering event. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For additional information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, extension 8626.

Family Caregiver Training The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter sponsors The Family Caregiver Education Series several times a year in each of Delaware's three counties. LifeCare at Lofland Park at 715 King St. in Seaford, is hosting the program on Tuesday, Feb. 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This series includes a medical overview, legal and financial issues, challenging symptoms, daily care issues and information on getting the help you need. This training for family caregivers is free and lunch will be provided by LifeCare, therefore pre-registration is required by Feb. 16. For more information or to register, call Jamie Magee, branch office coordinator, at 854-9788 or 1-800-272-3900.

Nanticoke offers childbirth classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer a childbirth class on Wednesday, Feb. 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the hospital.The class will meet each Wednesday for four weeks. The maternity education classes are designed to offer information, counseling, support and hands-on experience to help prepare for a new family member. They will cover pregnancy in general, information to prepare the expectant mother for labor and delivery, and will include a tour of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Mother Baby Care Unit. A refresher course is also available for those who have previously taken childbirth classes. The refresher class covers breathing techniques, signs, symptoms and stages of labor, birthing options, and a tour of Nanticoke's Mother Baby Care Unit. The cost of the childbirth course is $50, and the cost for the refresher course is $25. Mothers are encouraged to bring their partner or support person for all courses. Registration in advance is required for either class. To register, or for more information, contact the Health Education Registration line of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 2540.

Annual cholesterol screenings Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer cholesterol screenings in Seaford, Laurel and Georgetown in February which is American Heart Month. The Lipid Profile test requires a 12-hour fasting and reads the HDL, LDL, and triglyceride blood levels. Cost for the Lipid Profile is $15. There is no need to pre-register. Results will be mailed within 3 weeks along with information to evaluate the results and follow-up if needed. The following screenings will be held: Seaford - Feb. 4-5, Miller Building, 121 S. Front St., Seaford, 7 to 10 a.m. Laurel - Feb. 17, Laurel Senior Center, 113 N. Central Ave., Laurel, 7 to 10 a.m. Georgetown - Feb. 24, Georgetown CHEER, 20520 Sand Hill Rd., Georgetown, 7 to 10 a.m. In addition to cholesterol screenings, free blood pressure checks and free glucose screenings will be offered. There will also be health information and interactive displays. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 8948.

Shoppe holds roses sale The Look-In Glass Shoppe at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will be selling Valentine's roses. Place your order for roses to be picked up on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, at the gift shop. Orders will be taken at The Look-In Glass Shoppe (located within Nanticoke Memorial Hospital) through Feb. 10, for a dozen red roses, gift boxed with greenery and baby's breath, tied with a ribbon and a gift card. Order now for$49.99. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 4955. Payroll deductions are available for eligible NHS employees.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a General Cancer support group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. The monthly support group meets in the first floor resource library of the Cancer Care Center on the third Monday of each month. For the winter months the group will meet from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The Wellness Community, an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators are trained mental health professionals with a master's degree or more. Call 645-9150 for information or to register for this program. All support groups offered at The Wellness Community are free of charge. This program is made possible by the support of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. For more information about The Wellness Community, visit

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. Of particular value to newly-diagnosed women is DBCC's Peer Mentor Program through which they are paired with a long-term survivor for one-on-one support. To learn more about Beginning Your Pick Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Heart and Stroke Gala The 2011 Southern Delaware Heart and Stroke Gala, "An Evening in Oz," will be held on Saturday, March 19, at the Sheraton Dover Hotel. The annual event benefits the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Volunteers are actively planning the gala. Volunteers work on committees, including sponsorship, publicity, auction, hospitality, multimedia, website, entertainment, casino, photography and decorating. To find out more about sponsorship or to volunteer, contact Karen Gritton, special events director at or 286-5705. You may also contact the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association's Delaware office toll free at 877-750-4276.

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program.The location rotates each week of the month according to the following schedule:
  • 1st Thursday: Grottos Pizza, Rt. 26, Bethany Beach;
  • 2nd Thursday: Georgia House, 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel;
  • 3rd Thursday: Millsboro Pizza Palace, Rt. 113-southbound lane, Millsboro;
  • 4th Thursday: Blue Ocean Grill (formerly Milton House), 200 Broadkill Rd., Milton;
  • 5th Thursday (when applicable): Texas Grill (formerly Ocean Point Grill), 26089 Long Neck Rd., Millsboro.
"New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required.There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Carol Dobson or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.

Alzheimer's Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Alzheimer's Support Group meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 8, 1:30 p.m., at LifeCare at Lofland Park's first floor Resident Lounge, 715 E. King St., Seaford. This group provides support and information about Alzheimer's and dementia to families, caregivers and anyone who is affected by this disease. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group.For more information, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8302.