Wabash Valley Community Foundation Awards EHS $5,000 Grant

EHS Adds New Infant Safe Play Area

The Early Head Start (EHS) program at Hamilton Center, Inc. (HCI) was awarded a $5,000 grant by the Terre Haute Day Nursery Fund of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation. Grant funds were used to upgrade the EHS play area located at 500 8th Ave. in Terre Haute, IN. Upgrades included the addition of an infant friendly surface separated from the mulched area as well as an umbrella structure that will provide sun protection during outdoor activities. This project arose from an increase in infants enrolled in the EHS program with the goal of creating an environment that supports the infant’s social, emotional, and sensory development.

“The families participating in our program are not charged a fee for EHS services,” said Mandy Posey, Program Manager of Early Head Start at Hamilton Center. “Only through local partnerships such as this are we able to provide the highest quality of early childhood services to the children and their families,” she added.

EHS began in October of 1995 and is now in its 23rd year of operation serving up to 80 children through its program year, ages 0 to 2 years of age. It works closely with its sister program, Healthy Families of Hamilton Center, to serve another 100 children and their parents through parenting classes and child development services. EHS is a licensed childcare facility and offers group experiences for children and their families creating social environments that promote growth and development. Services to parents and families focus on educational support to help them better meet their child’s developmental and health needs.

Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana with corporate offices located in Terre Haute, Ind. Services are provided to children, youth, and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people who may be struggling with stress, life changes, or relationship issues, as well as more serious problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and serious mental illnesses.

Local families enjoy evening of learning and fun thanks to “Success by Six” Grant

On Monday, May 13, several local families gathered at Hamilton Center, Inc. for an evening of fun activities focused on diversity and inclusion thanks to funds from the United Way of the Wabash Valley’s “Success by Six” program.


“The Family Book” event, which was hosted for families enrolled in Hamilton Center’s Early Head Start (EHS) program, offered artistic and sensory activities, educational information on language development and literacy, as well as a reading of “The Family Book.” The book, written by Todd Parr, depicts a variety of families of different traditions, backgrounds, and ethnicities while encouraging tolerance and acceptance. Funds for this event were provided by the “Success by Six” grant, awarded to EHS by the United Way of the Wabash Valley in late 2018.


“These events allow EHS to directly engage with consumers, creating strong positive relationships that help us to provide the highest quality of care,” said Mandy Posey, Program Director of Early Head Start. “Support from organizations like the United Way of the Wabash Valley gives these kiddos and their families a sense of community and belonging.”


Early Head Start is a grant-funded program at Hamilton Center that serves approximately 80 children, ages 0-2, each year. The program offers service plans that help children, across all demographics, develop socially, mechanically, and cognitively. EHS also offers services to parents seeking to develop parenting skills and knowledge.

Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana with corporate offices located in Terre Haute, Ind. Services are provided to children, youth, and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people who may be struggling with stress, life changes, or relationship issues, as well as more serious problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and serious mental illnesses.

28th Annual Sheriff Shootout Raises Funds for At-risk Youth

Hamilton Center, Inc. (HCI) held it’s 28th Annual Sheriff Shootout on May 10th at Rea Park in Terre Haute, IN. There were nearly 50 teams in attendance from the local and surrounding counties, seven of which were County Sheriffs’ teams, who competed for the coveted Sheriff Shootout Trophy. The top seven finishers of the community tournament were: International Union of Operating Engineers, Cobblestone Crossings, Team Ernie Goble, Team Andy Jones, JR Davis, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, and Old National Bank respectively. Collectively, the event raised over $35,000 that will go towards Hamilton Center’s Mentorship Program, a new addition that serves at-risk youth of the community.

Since the eye-opening release of the Indiana Youth Institute’s, State of the Child, Vigo County has learned much about the struggles that our youth and their families face relative to financial security, access to health care, as well as community support. Vigo County ranks 4th in the state for childhood poverty, 6th in the state for childhood food insecurity, and in 2018 had a high school graduation rate of 86%, well below the 2015 rate of 92%. Some of the young lives that are reflected in these statistics are at high risk of future incarceration, financial insecurity, and even poor health down the road.

The Mentorship Program at Hamilton Center, Inc., which already serves students at three Vigo County schools, is designed to engage, educate, and support young minds through tutoring, mentorship, and after school activities. “These funds will allow this program to grow, create opportunities for events, and increase engagement and positive relationships with at-risk youth of our community” said Tatu Brown, Program Director of the Mentorship Program at Hamilton Center. “Rallying community support is the best and most effective way we can impact these young lives that need it the most” he added.

Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana with corporate offices located in Terre Haute, IN. Services are provided to children, youth and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people who may be struggling with stress, life changes, or relationship issues as well as more serious problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and serious mental illnesses.

For information on Hamilton Center Services call (800) 742-0787.

Technology and Children’s Mental Health

Over the past 15 years researchers have continuously observed alarming trends in children’s mental health. We now have data showing that 1 in 5 children have mental health problems. With sharp increases in reported cases of attention deficit hyper activity disorder (ADHD) and teen depression, along with a suicide rate in children 10 to 14 years old that has increased by 100%, it is time we really start addressing the mental health issues that our young people face.

While there are many factors contributing to these sharp increases, researchers have looked to the role that technology can play in negatively affecting our mental health. Studies indicate that on average children are spending seven hours a day in front of a screen. Young minds with access to unmonitored electronic devices get endless stimulation when what they actually need is social interaction – the kind that forms positive coping and resiliency skills. Now, not only are children struggling to overcome these distractions themselves, but many may have digitally distracted parents. Parents that are emotionally unavailable and unable to teach them how to deal with their feelings.

Children, as well as adults, are also experiencing a lack of sleep due to over stimulation, and their own natural physiology. All parents know that “bedtime” can be a challenging ritual to instill and now we know why. Research has shown that blue light that most screens emit awakens the brain and interrupts our circadian rhythms (sleep wake cycle). This leads to sleep deprivation and can also mimic the symptoms of attention deficit hyper activity disorder: irritability, aggressiveness, and distraction.

Further research has shown the brain has the ability to rewire itself relative to the environment that surrounds it. While it is tempting, and certainly convenient, for parents to allow constant access to technology for entertainment purposes, this practice is absolutely affecting our children’s growth and development in a way that could have detrimental long term effects. This rewiring can contribute to the challenges down the road of everyday life and maybe even success in the future.

Luckily, there is a way to improve children’s mental health, and it is very low tech. Allow them to be bored. Boredom brings to life creativity. Do not use technology as a cure for boredom whether it’s in a restaurant, a long car ride, or at the grocery store. Instead, train their brain to operate under boredom. As the weather is getting better, encourage children to spend at least one hour a day outside. Have a sleep routine by setting a “bedtime” and insisting children turn off all technology at least 1-2 hours before that bedtime.  This will take some will power and planning ahead to deal with the grumbling, but the results will be well worth it. Most importantly, instill positive life skills in children that will prove valuable as they grow. Empower them to engage with adults and address mental health issues early. Children should never be afraid to start a conversation about a specific issue they might be experiencing.

Depression & Work

Sadness is a normal human reaction to traumatic life events that can occur in the regular course of life. When sadness hangs around longer than just a few weeks and begins to cause problems in our social or work life, it can likely be considered depression. Depression is recognized as a disorder that can present itself after the experience of a traumatic event. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in our brain that prevents us from feeling happiness and joy, which is what makes it a clinical disorder and typically one that needs clinical attention. With prevalence rates of mental illness and substance use disorders increasing, researchers have data that strongly connect it to a loss of productivity in the work force. According to a 2017 Willis Towers Watson Survey, on average 57% of employers plan to increase their focus on supporting mental and behavioral health through 2020.

On average 30% to 50% of all adults will experience a mental illness at some time in their life. Anxiety and depression are among the most common forms of mental illness in the United States. Studies show that when an employee struggles with mental illness, they are more likely to struggle with physical health problems, absenteeism, staff cohesion, and underperformance. It is estimated that on average, $1 trillion are lost each year in productivity due to mental health related problems which can be attributed to sick days, issues with concentration, and hostile work environments.

Many of us have experienced a few symptoms of depression throughout our lives due to situational circumstances. For example when a loved one passes away, it is normal to feel sad, struggle with sleep and appetite, and have problems focusing at work. This example would not necessarily meet criteria for clinical depression. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 (DSM 5) identifies clinical depression as at least 5 symptoms of depression that cause problems in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning. Symptoms of depression are identified as depressed mood, lack of interest in activities or hobbies, significant weight loss or weight gain, problems with sleep, restlessness or being slowed down, having little energy, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, inability to concentrate, and/or thoughts of death or suicide. If you can identify with some of these symptoms, but they do not cause issues in social or work life you may not meet criteria for clinical depression. Getting treatment is most important when depressive symptoms start to interfere with an individual’s ability to complete household chores, complete tasks at work, or if symptoms are causing problems in relationships, such as frequent arguments with a significant other or peers.

The important thing to remember is that depression is a treatable disease. Seeking out a psychologist, therapist or school counselor is one way of reaching out for assistance, while connecting with organizations that support those with mental health problems is another. Some employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which most commonly provide time limited therapeutic services to employees. This can be an excellent place to start when looking for services, but if your organization does not offer an EAP, you should look elsewhere for private or public health organizations that accept your insurance plan. If you live in rural Indiana, you likely struggle with limited resources. Telemed and telepsych services are becoming more popular in rural communities to help expand mental health resources. This technology is still up and coming but does allow health professionals to assess consumers from a video monitor, almost entirely removing the obstacle of geographical access in these rural communities. The bottom line is that resources are increasing and early identification of clinical depression is making recovery possible for many more people. As with any disorder increasing quality of life is the number one goal. In the case of depression, treatments will not only dramatically improve one’s experiences of happiness and joy but also increase productivity and job satisfaction even further enhancing quality of life.


Toxic Stress

We live in a stressful world. Advancements in technology and communications allow us to work from home, multitask, and ultimately burnout faster. With all these pressures on productivity, how do we know the difference between healthy stress, the kind that keeps us accountable, and the toxic stress, that burns us out, leaving us feeling fatigued? Research shows childhood experiences play a major role in how we develop our abilities to manage stress. A child that has experienced at least four toxically stressful events is 15 times more likely to attempt suicide, 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, and 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic or intravenous drug user.

Stress comes to us in three levels: positive stress, tolerable stress, and toxic stress. Positive stress is healthy. It is the internal alarm clock that gets us to get up and get tasks done. Tolerable stress is activated during significant life events, such as the loss of a loved one, a catastrophic event, or a frightening injury. If a person has supports in place to help them recover from these events, the physical and emotional effects are temporary. Toxic Stress occurs when there is a strong, frequent, or prolonged exposure to extreme stressors like emotional abuse, neglect, financial hardship, or a lack of support. This kind of stress can disrupt the development of the brain and other organ systems, increasing the risk of stress related diseases like heart disease, diabetes, substance use, and depression.

Well, what do we do about it? Identifying toxic stress at a young age is the best way to prevent stress related diseases, (don’t get the rest of this sentence and don’t end sentence in “to”) as good and bad habits grow in relation to what we are exposed to. Since behaviors are reinforced as we develop, the cells in our brain either survive or fail to thrive based on life experiences and our genetics. A brain that has learned to manage stressors is typically more capable of identifying a situation, interpreting and processing it, evaluating options, and ultimately acting. Someone that does not have healthy conflict resolution skills will likely react to a situation in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze, meaning they either react aggressively, withdrawal from the threat, or stall in fear or panic. These reactions occur as the brain’s alarm system is triggered. While these are natural physiological responses, they can be overcome by learning effective coping skills. Imagine it as a stoplight, where red is stop, yellow is think of options, and green is acting on the best option. Someone who has not learned how to manage stressors will only have their stoplight work on red and green, and we’ve all been in those situations where a moment of thought or reflection like would have changed the outcome of an event.

Fortunately, we can all learn to manage toxic stress. By building resiliency and learning effective coping skills children, and adults, that display toxic stress symptoms can lead productive healthy lives. We, though especially children, can learn new ways of thinking, relating, and responding, which helps to have our internal “stoplights” develop and strengthen. Building positive relationships with other healthy mindful people can show us new and productive ways to view the world, and ourselves. By engaging with young minds, we can help them build trust with others, develop connections that are necessary for a child’s healthy self-esteem, and help decrease isolation and feelings of rejection. Most importantly we can learn, and teach others, to have a positive outlook on life, be advocates for others and mental wellness, and utilize healthy coping skills and problem solving techniques in our daily lives.

Peer Recovery

Lived Experience Informing Support


Peer Support Specialists (PSS) can be the keystone of an effective holistic treatment program for those struggling with a mental illness or addiction. Often acting as a navigator of community support systems and informed by lived experiences, someone struggling with a mental illness or addiction can be guided throughout the entire process of recovery increasing the likelihood of progressive treatment.


So how does the experience of a diagnosed mental illness or addiction help those who treat said illnesses? Working in conjunction with clinical staff, Peer Support Specialists fill a large gap in rapport that many clinical professionals of recovery programs cite as a barrier to progressive treatment. While mental health professionals are trained and certified in various forms of treatment, many lack the lived experiences that inform their empathy and sympathy, two of the most crucial characteristics in the health profession. Patients often cite feeling more confidence and comfort while pursuing treatment if they know recovery is truly possible, and if someone who has been in their shoes is willing to walk them down the all too scary, uncertain path of recovery.


One of the more valuable services a PSS can provide is daily communication and motivation, especially in times of relapse or crisis. PSS are often the first line of contact and support during the toughest of times and offer emotional and motivational backing for clients when they need it the most. They will coordinate transportation to and from treatment, help individuals through the process of reintegrating with friends and family, and help link them to a variety resources with a primary goal of increasing quality of life.


Perhaps the highlight of the Peer Support Specialist’s relationship with someone in recovery is the reciprocity of support and the role that the responsibility of mentorship can play in their own journey of recovery. In the case of mental illness and addiction, recovery is a lifelong process with highs and lows. While PSS can be an example of successful treatment and recovery, they too struggle with these highs and lows and can even find themselves in relapse or crisis, sometimes years after exiting treatment. Even so, many cite a greater sense of intrinsic motivation towards maintenance and recovery that can be directly attributed to the mentor/mentee relationship. One of the most profound forms of leadership a PSS can offer is to “walk the walk” they so zealously advocate to their clients.


Where can you find a Peer Support Specialists to support you through your journey of recovery? PSS can be found in hospitals, community mental health centers, as well as private health organizations. Some of their clinical responsibilities include working with other clinicians to coordinate care, creating and implementing social activities for consumers, and even assisting in securing housing and/or employment.


The fact is we need more Peer Support Specialists. With concerns for mental health becoming a staple in the public conversation on what it means to live a healthy and happy life, more and more demands will be placed on the already overburdened system of mental health services in our communities. For rural areas this will prove to be an even more challenging problem, not to mention the hold that taboo and stigma have on these isolated communities.


Peer Support Specialists can certainly play an important role in treatment and help to turn a good program into a great one. For additional information on Peer Support, go to: https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/workforce/team-members/peer-providers.

May is Mental Health Month

Hamilton Center works to bring awareness to mental health issues

Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness, and statistics show that one in five individuals will be affected by mental illness sometime in their lifetime. Beginning May 1, Hamilton Center, Inc. will start its annual month-long campaign to recognize and promote mental health awareness.

These efforts are meant to encourage individuals and groups to start a conversation about mental health in their communities with the hope that one day, together, we can end the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorder.

Several events, hosted by Hamilton Center, are scheduled throughout the month to provide opportunities for Hamilton Center staff and the community to engage and think about their own mental health. Here’s what to look for:

Thursday May 2 – 12:00 p.m. – Common Grounds CrossFit & Yoga “Gentle Yoga and Relaxation Class”: Open to the public via Facebook Live at facebook.com/HamiltonCenterInc. Kelsey Terry, co-owner of Common Grounds Crossfit & Yoga, will lead Hamilton Center staff and social media followers through Gentle Yoga, Relaxation, and Meditation techniques.

Thursday May 9 – Wear Green Day 2019: Hamilton Center invites community members, community partners, and interested organizations to wear green in recognition of May as Mental Health Month, and post images of the event on their personal or business social media with the hope of starting a conversation about mental health. To share your photos with Hamilton Center, use the hashtags #MayIsMentalHealthMonth and #HCIBreakingTheStigma.

Friday May 10 – Indiana Power & Light will support May as Mental Health Month by lighting its building, located at 1 Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, in green.

Friday May 10 – 28th Annual Sheriff Shootout: As Hamilton Center’s only fundraiser, this annual event will bring more than 200 golfers and 60 community organizations together to raise nearly $30,000 for a new program that will serve at-risk youth. Morning and afternoon shotgun spots are still available!

In conjunction with these events, Hamilton Center clinical staff will submit a series of articles that discuss current trends in mental health across many demographics, including children and adolescents, adults, and those struggling with severe mental illness and/or addiction.

Hamilton Center will also lead a social media campaign that will include an Instagram “31-Day Wellness Challenge,” Facebook and Twitter mental health informational videos, as well as the previously mentioned Facebook Live event. The organization encourages all those individuals who want to help start and further the conversation surrounding mental illness to share, like, and repost! One day, together, we will end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Hamilton Center Partners with WCIHS to Increase Support to At-Risk Families

Hamilton Center, Inc., a founding partner for West Central Indiana Healthy Start (WCIHS), will provide vital behavioral health and referral networks for the new initiative. Healthy Start is a federal initiative representing 100 organizations serving communities with infant mortality rates at least 1.5 times the U.S. national average, and with high rates of other negative maternal and infant outcomes. The WCIHS consortium will receive up to $1 million each year over five years and target Fountain, Parke, and Vigo counties.

“Healthy Start programs provide information, resources, and support to pregnant and parenting women and their families to ensure a healthy pregnancy and to help nurture their newborns,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D.

This project will strive to address factors, such as high rates of poverty, limited access to care, and other socioeconomic factors, to ensure women have healthy pregnancies and raise healthy children.  The project is funded by a HRSA grant to Union Hospital’s Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health.

Hamilton Center will provide crucial behavioral health resources for WCIHS families. In addition to treatment, the organization will be a referral partner through their Healthy Families program.  WCIHS and Healthy Families will ensure area families have comprehensive wraparound resources.

“As a community, it is critical that we provide strong and ongoing support to pregnant woman, infants and new families,” said Melvin L. Burks, CEO of Hamilton Center, Inc.  A healthy start in life is vital to the physical and emotional health of children as they grow and development into adolescents and adults,” he said.

WCIHS is a consortium facilitated by the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health and composed of Hamilton Center, Family Health and Help Center, St. Vincent South Clinic, Valley Professionals Community Health Center (VPCHC), Union Hospital, Union Medical Group, Chances and Services for Youth (CASY), and Wabash Valley Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC).

The Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana with corporate offices located in Terre Haute, IN. It provides services and treatment to children, youth and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people with drug and alcohol problems. Funding will strengthen the health workforce to provide such services, build a more effective and efficient service-delivery system, and promote and improve health equity across participating organizations.

Learn more about WCIHS at LugarCenter.org/wcihs.