Dr. Kathy Dollard is the director of the Behavioral Health service line for MyMichigan Health
, based in Midland. She joined MyMichigan in 2017. Prior to that, she worked from 2005-2017 for Community Mental Health for Central Michigan
. She first served as the supervisor of outpatient services and later, the program director for Midland County. Dollard’s career started in 2000 as a psychologist at Partners in Change in Midland.
Behavioral Health at MyMichigan offers what they call a Continuum of Care. That care includes therapists in doctors’ offices, inpatient care and Telehub for people in crisis, outpatient services, and the Partial Hospitalization program at Alma and now, Midland.
Dr. Dollard earned her PsyD in Clinical Psychology at Central Michigan University, as well as her Master’s degree. She received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish from Alma College. She says she had an aunt who was a psychologist. She thought her job sounded fascinating. Dollard also has family members who have mental illness. Dollard says, “I could see the help they needed but were not getting. I had a desire to help and make things better.
Q-The first day of school is just around the corner for K-12 students in our area. What advice do you have for parents as it relates to their children’s wellbeing?
A-They just need to have an awareness of their kids’ emotional level. Watch them for signs for stress.We see an uptick in the fall, usually in October. Kids who don’t have a lot of resilience, their mental health seems to be exasperated. We see more changes in their moods. It’s good to have expectations for your kids to do well in school but you need to be aware of their mental health and get them support when they need it.
A-Start by going to the pediatrician or primary care physician to make sure it’s not something physical. That doctor might have some ideas on where to refer a child. Sometimes, there’s a therapist right in their office. If they’re on Medicaid, go right to Community Mental Health (for Central Michigan). There are several mental health providers in the community. Call your insurance provider to find out about your coverage and where you can get help.
Try to keep an open line of communication.
Q-What do you suggest for parents of students who are going off to college out of town?
A-It’s a lot harder doing check-ins with your college age child. It’s also the age when they’re trying to go on their own. We’re finding more students are reaching back to their parents. Try to keep an open line of communication. Make it safe for them to talk to you. A lot of colleges are offering help like the University of Michigan offers an online service called SilverCloud. Other colleges have on-line and support and counseling centers, but it’s important to have those open lines of communication.
Q-Let’s talk about another age group, senior citizens.
A-There are a lot of initiatives we’ve been trying to implement with many partners including Senior Services
, MyMichigan, 211
, and the United Way
, working together on tackling loneliness and giving seniors a sense of belonging. When they go to the physician, they might be asked about loneliness, if they say yes, they’re referred to Senior Services. There’s a program called Friendly Connections. There’s a coordinator at 211. They will talk with a senior and match up with a volunteer to talk over the phone. We encourage seniors to go to Senior Services to take part in their programs. That connection is helpful. If they’re homebound, they could take advantage of Friendly Connections. A couple of times per year, MyMichigan offers on-line classes.
Loneliness for some seniors is a chronic issue. Their thinking changes. They see the world as a threatening place, feel they’re not worthy of making a connection. They feel less desirable. They turn down invitations. They may come across as more grumpy. They build up a wall. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. This group wants to change their mindset, thinking, and behaviors.
Q-We sometimes hear complaints that it’s difficult to get help for mental health issues. What’s being done to address that?
A-A few different things. There’s a shortage of mental health professionals. Once a person gets their Master’s Degree, they have to work two years as a limited licensed therapist. Only some insurance companies will cover that which makes it difficult to hire and pay for those positions. We’ve received some grant money to pay therapists for our Telehub. It’s opened up some jobs. Community Mental Health also hires limited licensed therapists. We are trying to hire to meet the needs.
There’s now Integrated Behavioral Health. We’re opening up what we call Collaborative Care. A therapist has a connection with a psychiatrist. Their case is being discussed by the therapists, primary care physician, and the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist can make recommendations about medications. They can make adjustments. It helps the primary care physician. Most behavioral health care happens in primary care offices. Psychiatrists are able to treat more patients. Collaborative care has a lot of studies that show it’s highly effective and has a good return on investment.
We also opened a program that’s now in Midland, Partial Hospitalization. Patients attend every weekday, five days per week, 9am-3pm. They see a psychiatrist and a nurse every day, and do group and individual therapy several sessions per day. They might attend for one to three weeks. It helps them get their lives back on track.
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