ELKO – What started as a one-person substance abuse treatment facility 46 years ago has branched out into an outpatient behavioral health clinic with a staff of 12 ready to serve the mental health needs of Elko County residents.
Vitality Integrated Programs was licensed in June as a certified community behavioral health clinic (CCBHC), which offers nine services including crisis services; outpatient mental health and substance use services; screening, assessment diagnosis; and treatment planning.
The nonprofit is one of four locations in Nevada that is part of a pilot program that started with 24 states applying and ended with eight states awarded the go-ahead, said Residential Program Director and CCBHC Program Director Esther Quilici.
“We’re a 24-hour behavioral health clinic with crisis outreach services 24/7,” said Quilici.
As a CCBHC, the clinic is able to reach a wide demographic in a 50-mile radius from “cradle to grave,” said Quilici.
This means that children, adolescents, adults and veterans can receive services for mental health issues ranging from mild to complex, and treatment is offered to those with substance or chronic addictions, Quilici explained.
The opening of the clinic is the latest, and largest, progression of the Vitality Center, which opened in Elko in 1971, expanding to Vitality Unlimited with branches in Carson City, Winnemucca, Reno, Sun Valley and Las Vegas.
Quilici, who joined Vitality in 1984, noted that a connection of behavioral health and substance abuse was becoming apparent years ago, as “the field was moving toward an integrated system, co-recurring treatment, fully integrated.”
“Behavioral health is really a combination of alcohol and other drug treatment and mental health,” said Quilici. “We’ve integrated mental health services years ago, but not to this level … not to this scope that the clinic is.”
The facility hopes “to provide top quality, state-of-the-art behavioral services to fill a void that’s existed for years here,” Quilici said, adding that they can serve a wide-range of financial needs.
Accepting insurance, self-pay, Medicaid or sliding-scale, “we can handle so many financial packages,” noted Quilici.
Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) Michelle Gilbert and Brian and Shelly Gomez were recruited by Quilici for their prior experience and willingness to join the flagship program, and they were anxious to move to Elko to join Vitality Integrated Programs.
“If they are agoraphobic, or have a fear of leaving the house, we can help them … (but we are) meeting them whenever they’re ready to change,” explained Gomez, who has also worked with transitioning autistic adults when he and his wife were practicing in Perry, Utah.
While the clinic offers group therapy, medical assisted therapy, and individual therapy, using telemed with Duncan Family Practice out of Reno, the goal of the team at Vitality Unlimited is that no one “falls through the cracks,” said Gomez, listing the agencies Vitality works with in the area.
“We’ve been collaborating with Family Resource Center, Department of Child and Family Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, Elko Mental Health, Veterans Administration and Vocational Rehab.”
The clinic offers bilingual and translation services, with sign language in American and Spanish formats soon to come, said Quilici.
On staff is one psychiatrist, two psychiatric nurse practitioners, a primary health doctor, three nurses, an advanced practical registered nurse, an occupational therapist, dietician and three LCSWs.
In the last month, the LCSWs have gained an insight into the mental health needs to the community.
“A big theme through the people we’ve seen is depression, anxiety, and PTSD,” said Gilbert. “Those are some, but we deal with people with psychosis and dual-diagnosis substance abuse and mental health disorders.”
Gomez noted Elko’s high suicide rate and hopes that in a couple of years those rates will have reduced with the availability of crisis intervention.
“We come from hospitals that specialized in crisis intervention,” said Gomez.
Quilici and the team are looking forward to the changes the local CCBHC will make in the community, as the program will be representative of “what CCBHCs can do for the entire nation,” added Gomez.
“We are hoping … people realize there is help,” said Shelly Gomez. “They don’t have to feel abandoned.”