Gina Vince, a community relations coordinator for Lane Behavioral Health, an intensive outpatient facility in Zachary, spoke on the topic of mental health at the Zachary Kiwanis Club’s Sept. 9 meeting.

Vince, who has a Master of Science degree, said that before becoming patients at LBH, people first had symptoms such as anxiety; panic attacks; feelings of sadness or depression; grief or loss; feelings of hopelessness or despair; suicide or thoughts of death; thoughts of self-harm or harm to others; paranoia, hallucinations and delusions; and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

“Of the list of symptoms mentioned, nearly everyone has had one or several at some point in their lives. I mean, who hasn’t been depressed or felt anxious or sad?” Vince asked the service organization. “Mental illness is a very real thing and can be very scary, but this facility and this program work.”

During their intake, patients are assessed. If it’s discovered they are bipolar or have schizophrenia, they’re referred to someone who can better help them or to more specialized care, Vince said.

During the program, clients 18 and older attend individual and group therapy sessions about three to four hours each day starting at four days a week. The frequency of visits declines as the patient improves, Vince said. An average stay at LBH is from four to 16 weeks and requires a commitment from clients.

“There is a commitment factor, that’s true, but you must be on board with improving your mental health,” she said. “I believe there’s a real need for care and a shortage of programs out there.”

Eventually, all clients are put under the care of Dr. Pam Parsons, of Zachary.

“She’s a genius with the management of medications,” Vince added, saying she’s seen folks come in suffering from a number of symptoms but within weeks are completely fine, meaning they’ve done a 180-degree turn, symptoms improved, all because they were on the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of medicine.

Sometimes, LBH receives referrals from other facilities, such as from psychiatric hospitals, prisons, churches, neighbors, friends and family.

“Anyone can refer anyone. Our clients are not necessarily referred to us by a doctor, nor must they be referred by a psychiatrist or psychologist,” Vince said. “If you have a sister or friend or relative in trouble, you can call us and we’ll talk to them.”

The facility is a step down from inpatient care but covered by most forms of insurance. Typically, Vince explained, Medicare picks up about 80 percent of the total cost while Medicaid picks up the remaining 20 percent. Some major insurance carriers pick up about 90 percent of the cost, resulting in the patient paying about 10 percent out of pocket, she explained.

For information, visit lanebehavioral health.org or call (225) 658-6640.