By Matt Phillips
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
The best way to change negative behavior is to reward positive behavior.
That’s one of the main tenets of Upward Change Health Services, a mental health treatment facility located at Golden Belt in Durham. They also seek to alleviate negative stigmas associated with pursuing and receiving treatment for mental health afflictions.
Founded in 2009, Upward Change Health Services offers counseling, psychosocial rehabilitation, outpatient therapy, medication management and intensive in-home services to those with mental health disparities or developmental disabilities. Services are also available for victims of substance abuse.
James Todd is the director of quality and training at Upward Change Health Services. He said the facility is focused on family preservation and meeting the mental health needs of the Durham community.
“We provide person-centered, culturally sensitive services to families, to children, adolescents and individuals,” said Todd. “We’re here to meet the needs of this community without being judgmental. We want to combat any type of negative stigma about receiving assistance, so that you can be in control of your life.”
According to a 2011 Center for Disease Control report, fewer than half of adults with a serious mental illness receive treatment in the United States. The same report found that poverty is a significant risk factor for serious mental health afflictions, including depression, amongst adults and children.
The updated CDC report for 2012 shed additional light on US mental health disparities. Adults living below the poverty level are more likely, three times more in some cases, to have severe psychological distress. This means minorities – a population disproportionately below the poverty level – are underserved when it comes to mental health afflictions.
Upward Change Health Services is filling part of that gap. They accept Medicaid, Medicare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Their services are tailored to fit the needs of the economically disadvantaged.
Upward Change offers intensive in home services for children and adolescents. Todd said children behave differently in different settings. Rather than try to encourage behavioral change or mental progress from an office, Todd said a mental health professional or team of professionals can visit children at home or in school.
“We go to the different environments where they are having problems,” said Todd. “Our focus is always home preservation. If we can build strong families, we can build strong communities.”
Donald Aytch is one of the clinical directors at Upward Change Health Services. He oversees the licensed clinicians providing treatment.
Aytch said that families in urban environments can have multiple risk factors for mental health afflictions. He added that child and adolescent depression is different than adult depression. According to him many children are diagnosed with disorders, but they are actually in the throes of depression.
Aytch said the clinical teams at Upward Change Health Services use an evidence-based team approach with their clients. The approach is mostly based on cognitive behavior therapy.
“You help people change the way they think, and their behavior changes,” said Aytch. “The best way to change behavior is to reward behavior you want to increase, as opposed to punishing behavior you want to decrease.”
Aytch said often times the stigma about receiving mental health treatment has to do with privacy, especially when it comes to children and adolescents.
“There is a stigma because the family can get anxious about people knowing their particular situation,” said Aytch.
Aytch said Upward Change Health Services is focused on serving the community in the best ways possible.
“We’re located in the community, we’re part of the community and we’re obligated to the community,” said Aytch.
According to Todd and Aytch, Upward Change Health Service’s executive director and founder is Misty Alston. Aytch said he will work with Alston for as long as he can. He said she has the best interests of the Durham community at heart.
Upward Change Health Services offers therapeutic classroom training sessions for teachers and schools. The sessions provide teachers with knowledge about common disorders, and the tools to redirect disruptive behavior.
Upward Change Health Services is located at 807 E. Main St., Suite 4-100 in Durham. For more information call toll free 855-553-5300 or 919-682-5300 or visit www.upwardchangeservice.com.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics. “Health, United States, 2011: With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health.” Hyattsville, MD. 2012.
US Dept. of Minority Health: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=9
2012 Center for Disease Control report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus11.pdf
2011 Center for Disease Control report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus09.pdf