Outpatient services are up and running at Ballad Health’s Strong Futures program in Greeneville.
The Strong Futures program, based on the former Takoma Regional Hospital campus, offers a “life-changing, healing approach to addiction and mental healthcare for mothers,” according to the Ballad Health website.
Outpatient services have been offered since May 24. The Strong Futures outpatient clinic is located in the medical office building at 438 E. Vann Road.
Strong Futures is part of Ballad Health’s Niswonger Children’s Network, a regional system of health care and community services across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
The Strong Futures program serves mothers in Greene, Carter, Cocke, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties.
The unique regional program was created to assist pregnant women or mothers 18 years of age and older who suffer from drug addiction or need other mental health services.
“Ballad Health is proud to bring these much-needed services to women in the Appalachian Highlands,” Tammy Albright, vice president and chief executive officer of Ballad Health Behavioral Health Services, said at the program announcement earlier in 2021.
“By offering addiction and other behavioral health services to mothers, Strong Futures takes important steps toward addressing our community’s health as a whole,” Albright said. “The program will provide a range of both residential and outpatient services to women who are pregnant or are providing for their underage children.”
Albright said that by confronting substance abuse at “a community level, we are also taking steps to toward breaking the cycle of generational poverty in the Appalachian Highlands.”
“We know the answer to improving health and the quality of life in our region lies outside of just addressing medical care. Addiction, poverty and education — these are all pieces that must be addressed to meeting these critical needs for our region,” Albright said.
Part of the former Takoma hospital facility is being repurposed to address the needs of pregnant women and mothers suffering from drug addiction or other mental health conditions.
Facilities should be ready later this year.
Dr. Michael Bermes, senior director of addiction services for Ballad Health, said in an interview earlier this year that Strong Futures differs from other programs because it creates a holistic approach to addressing issues that may have led to substance abuse.
Strong Futures emphasizes a team approach that Bermes termed one of the program’s strengths.
Strong Futures participants will work with the same team during the treatment period. The team will be available for support beyond the completion of the program.
The team consists of an outpatient therapist, a care case manager, a certified peer recovery specialist and a child therapist.
The certified peer recovery specialist will be a special part of the team, Bermes said, explaining that these are individuals who are in recovery from addiction and have completed intense training to be able to help a family.
“They have been there,” Bermes said. “They have all those life experiences, those touch points. They can say, ‘It is okay. I have been there. We can do this together.’ It is a very important skill set we have embedded in the team.”
Patients in the program can receive services for up to 24 months, and Strong Futures focuses on a wide array of addictive behaviors and conditions, Bermes said.
Care could include services like educational opportunities, workplace development skills and financial literacy to help a mother learn self-sufficiency.
“When a person is finished, we want to them to thrive,” Bermes said. “We don’t them to be just sober or mentally well, but to thrive in all phases of life.”
Two team members recently detailed Strong Futures to members of the Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition.
Valerie Lester and Brittny Horton said Strong Futures takes a comprehensive approach to care and treatment for mothers with a diagnosed substance use disorder and their families.
Lester said the staff uses a “two-generation approach” to address the needs of the whole family, including both children and parents.
The program model emphasizes educational success, workforce development, health and well-being and “social capital” that allows a group of people to work together effectively to achieve a common purpose or goal.
One Strong Futures goal is to reduce the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition in which an infant undergoes withdrawal from a substance to which he or she was exposed in the womb. Statistics show about 36 babies born per 1,000 live births in the region suffer from NAS.
For more information about Strong Futures outpatient services, visit https://www.balladhealth.org/behavioral-health/strong-futures-outpatient-clinic