By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — The guest speaker at the weekly COVID-19 press conference held Wednesday, June 3, at Warsaw City Hall was Kurt Carlson, CEO of Bowen Center.
Carlson said Bowen Center is continuing to offer services to their patients — telephonically.
When Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an emergency order to shelter in place, Carlson said, Bowen Center immediately sent all their employees to work from home.
Carlson spoke of Bowen Center’s three responsibilities during this time. The first responsibility, he said, are the patients. Carlson said the patients were informed immediately that they would be receiving services telephonically.
The patients were “across the board relieved and appreciative that they’re going to continue to get services,” Carlson said.
“Our second responsibility is to our employees to make sure that they stayed employed, had income and medical insurance,” Carlson said. “Our third responsibility is the business. We are a business and if we’re not here, then the staff isn’t here and the patients don’t get served.”
“It’s a three-legged stool,” Carlson said. “We wanted to make sure the patients got treated and the staff treated them, but to do it safely.”
According to Carlson, they are having great success in getting people in the same day or the following day.
“Interestingly, the governor, the head of FSSA, the federal government and various branches, they all made telephonic services possible. They removed all the barriers,” Carlson said. “I have not seen such a great movement at the federal and state level so rapidly and it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
Carlson said one of the conveniences of telephonic sessions is that if there is a no-show or cancellation, they can reach out to another patient and put them in that spot.
“When the governor issued his staged reopening plan on a Friday, by Monday we put the beginnings of a plan together,” Carlson said. “By Wednesday, we activated the plan and started reopening our offices and having our skills coaches out in the community working with their patients.”
Carlson also addressed what he referred to as “pandemic fatigue.”
“This is very stressful. We’ve never experienced this before. It’s not uncommon for people to have a wide variety of reactions to that,” Carlson said.
According to Carlson, symptoms of pandemic fatigue may include irritability, stress, anxiety, eating more or less than normal, not sleeping well, feeling unmotivated, having racing thoughts and feeling rage or on edge.
Carlson spoke about the fears and frustrations people may be facing during this time. It’s normal to feel frustrated, anxious or angry, he said.
“I find myself tearing up much more often,” Carlson said. “None of us are immune from this.”
He expressed concern for children due to children’s services and schools “not having eyes on children.”
The rate of domestic violence has probably gone up, Carlson said, “although we don’t know that for sure.”
“As society opens up again and the community, then we’ll have eyes on those children and hopefully we’ll be able to detect or prevent any abuse in the home,” Carlson said.
He spoke about how tensions in the parents could result in lashing out at children “because kids experience emotional stress in various ways” which can easily be viewed as acting out when in fact they are just stressed, anxious and fearful.
He asked that parents be patient and understanding and not jump right into punishment.
Carlson recommended sticking to a routine, both for the benefit of adults and children.
Self-care is very important, Carlson said. He suggested scheduling time each day to do something you enjoy, whether that be reading, watching a movie, exercise, meditation or chatting with a friend.
“Fear, depression, anger, sadness, anxiety are all part of what we’re collectively experiencing,” Carlson said. “At the end of each day, I’d suggest that you inventory and think about all the things that you did that had value and meaning for yourself, your family members, your neighbor, society.”
Bowen Center has seen a 5 to 10 percent increase in new patients, according to Carlson. He pointed out that some of those are from elsewhere in the state where they are unable to get services.
Older people are at higher risk for COVID-19 and many are retired and have been isolating. When asked if Bowen Center has seen an increase in seniors requesting counseling services, Carlson said they have not.
“They grew up in a generation where you didn’t ask for help,” Carlson explained. “They got through World War II and you know, you’re self-sufficient, you don’t show weakness.”
When asked how substance abuse support groups are being handled, Carlson said they are continuing to do groups via video communication platforms such as Zoom.
“I was pleasantly surprised that people continue to participate and even at a higher level because there are no inconveniences,” Carlson said. “Sometimes people have real problems like their car breaks down or they can’t get off work or whatever.”
Carlson said by holding the meetings telephonically, this eliminated many of the reasons for no-shows and cancellations.
Carlson said many staff members and all of their psychiatrists are still performing their services telephonically.
“It’s working, no need to reverse that,” Carlson said. “My plea to the federal and state government is please allow us to continue to do that in the future. We did not furlough anybody, we didn’t lay anybody off, we didn’t close any programs — we just provided the services differently and the patients appreciate it.”
Anyone who is in need of services may call 1 (800) 342-5653.