Spectrum Health and Human Services

Jamie Torrey and Sabrena Wolford pose for a portrait at the Spectrum Health and Human Services offices in Olean’s Blue Bird Square.

OLEAN — An in-home, intensive mental health program has been making a difference in patients’ lives in Cattaraugus County, providers said.

Spectrum Health and Human Services, a nonprofit community mental health organization, has been operating an Assertive Community Treatment program from an office at 1 Blue Bird Square in Olean since late 2018.

While new to Olean, the agency was founded in Springville in 1973.

“We’ve been providing behavioral health services for 46 years now,” said Bruce Nisbet, president and CEO of Spectrum.

In 2018, the nonprofit treated more than 6,700 people at various operations around Western New York, and operates one of two ACT programs with Erie County, serving up to 96 clients. The program in Olean is capable of treating 46 at a time.

“The Assertive Community Treatment program provides intensive treatment services for individuals who are suffering from extreme mental health issues,” Nisbet said, particularly for those whose needs are not being met by normal outpatient or emergency room services.

A team of seven experts — a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, a therapist, vocational and family specialists, a substance abuse expert and a nurse — meet daily at the office to assess the needs of clients, and then travel to homes or other locations for treatment.

“This is a community-based program,” Nesbit said. “Our teams are going to the individuals … It’s 24/7, on-call. If they have a crisis in the middle of the night, we respond to that crisis.”

Nisbet said there are typically a few openings at a time as individuals are stabilized and can be better served by outpatient options run by other organizations in the community.

Clients are usually enrolled in the program “typically one to two years — we are talking about people who are really struggling,” he said.

The outcomes have been very positive in many cases.

“We’ve had people, younger people in their 20s, who have gone back to college because their mental health has been stabilized,” Nisbet said, adding getting individuals back to work and moving forward with their lives is the priority.

It’s more than just mental health, Nisbet said. Those with mental health concerns often put off physical health concerns, or have medication that leads to weight gain or other side effects.

“On average, people with severe mental illness die 25 years before the rest of us,” he said, adding that is why a regular nurse is on the treatment staff. “We make sure the person is getting access to quality healthcare.”

Funding for the program was included in the governor’s 2017-18 budget request, with the state Legislature including the funds in the final budget. The county awarded the contract to Spectrum in January 2018.

“The Department of Mental Health (now Department of Community Services) was awarded the money to establish for the first time an Assertive Community Treatment program,” Nisbet said.

ACT services are accessed through the Single Point of Access committee operated by the Cattaraugus County Department of Community Services. Nisbet said potential clients are referred by healthcare professionals to the committee, which refers clients if they would fit well with the program.

To learn more about the program, or how to refer prospective patients, contact (716) 970-2762.

(Contact reporter-editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)