Hamilton Center, Inc. Designated as Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic

Receives $3.75M to enhance services

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced that Hamilton Center, Inc. (HCI) has received a two-year, $3.75M grant, through the CCBHC Expansion Grant, to expand and enhance services in Vigo County. Hamilton Center is currently working towards designation as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC).

“This grant will assist us in addressing specific components of our larger strategic plan to improve access to evidence-based and integrated healthcare for individuals who live and seek services in Vigo County, Indiana.” said Melvin L Burks, CEO of Hamilton Center, Inc. “Vigo County is the organization’s largest service county with over 5,000 children and adults served each year.”

The populations of focus for this project will include adults and children with severe mental illness, substance use disorder, and co-occurring disorders, as well as individuals with chronic physical health needs.

“Our goals are to expand and enhance existing Hamilton Center services to provide a more comprehensive and integrated service delivery model for our consumers,” said Mark Collins, Chief Clinical Officer, Hamilton Center, Inc. “This includes improving access to crisis services, increasing coordination of intensive community treatment, and increasing access and coordination of psychiatric services,” he added.

Components of the program include establishing a 24-hr mobile crisis team and the implementation of the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model, an intensive team approach to community mental health service delivery that assists people in becoming independent and integrating into the community and provides access to services 24 hours a day. In addition, the grant will enhance Hamilton Center ‘s efforts to integrate primary and behavioral healthcare by providing additional screening for both. 

The CCBHC designation was established by the Excellence in Mental Health Act of 2014. This powerful legislation is the largest investment in mental health and addiction care in generations according to the National Council for Behavioral Health.

The CCBHC Expansion Grant expanded the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program to include an additional 19 states. The goal of this expansion is to expand capacity in the behavioral health system to care for more Americans and alleviate the pressure on our nation’s jails and emergency rooms. The CCBHC Expansion Grant include $200 million in annually appropriated funding and $250 million in emergency COVID-19 funding.

“As a community organization committed to serving the behavioral health needs of our consumers, we are excited to incorporate these enhancements to our service delivery array,” said Melvin L Burks. “These opportunities assist us in our vision to advance excellence in behavioral health services.”

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 questions or inquiries about services call (812)-231-8323 or visit www.hamiltoncenter.org.

Mental Health Month even More Meaningful this year

By: Melvin L Burks, CEO, Hamilton Center, Inc.

It is impossible to not talk about COVID-19 with my annual May message in recognition of National Mental Health Awareness month. Today’s unique environment gives us a very small glimpse of the isolation that people who have mental illnesses often experience.   Even for those of us who have never experienced a serious mental illness first hand, this health crisis can give us just a taste of the feelings of hopelessness, fear, isolation, sadness and anxiety that many people face – one in five people at some time in their lifetime. 

In addition, I’m also reflecting on what life will be like once this health crisis is behind us.   Although the physical health issues may be addressed, many of us will struggle with ways to cope with its mental health consequences. 

Hamilton Center’s theme this year is STIGMA, NOPE not today.  Stigma remains a significant reason why peopleavoid seeking treatment. It will take all of us working collectively to combat this fact.  If you or someone you know is struggling to cope, please reach out for help. It is the hardest, easiest thing to do.  Reach out to family, friends, your religious leader, a teacher or anyone that can provide support. And if the struggle is impacting your life significantly, reach out to a professional.  We are in this together and STIGMA, NOPE not today.

Compassion Fatigue

Those in Helping Professions often feel burnout

By: Sara Chambers, LMHC, Program Manager, Hamilton Center Inc. Hendricks County

While 48% of Americans state that they feel a level of burnout with their jobs, they struggle to identify how it occurs and what to do once identified.   Individuals are leaving what are deemed “helping professions” (teaching, nursing, mental health, pet care, clergy) within 3 to 5 years of entering the profession, due to feelings of compassion fatigue.   

Burnout and Compassion Fatigue, while usually linked, are different. Burnout is a reaction resulting from high levels of stress. Compassion fatigue is an emotional reaction as a result of being exposed to and working with individuals suffering from trauma. Compassion fatigue is acute in nature, while burnout can be a result of work stress, poor self- care, or other institutional pressures.

I challenge you to ask yourself “What are my personal signs of burnout?” If you don’t know, ask a loved one or colleague. The most common identified are lack of support, having a personal trauma history, and isolation. While we may not notice these immediately, we start to display it as irritability, feeling anxious, conflicts with others, loss of direction, decreased motivation, personal and professional blurred boundaries, and becoming distracted or unfocused. It can evolve to feeling constantly ‘stuck,’ and result in declining physical health.

Fortunately, whether you identify as feeling burnt out or dealing with compassion fatigue, you can work your way back to mental wellness. Once you identify what your personal signs of burnout and compassion fatigue are, implementing a mental wellness routine can help promote resiliency, which will decrease the severity, intensity, and duration of future feelings of burnout.

You can build resiliency and feel less fatigued by doing daily upkeep on yourself. Symptoms of burnout include feeling irritable, dealing with sleep issues, restless, and poor focus and concentration. You may also feel overwhelmed, helpless, and indecisive. The key to combating these issues is to find ways to decompress and engage in those activities 2-3 times a week. Exercise and healthy eating habits are essential. Identifying what can help your nervous system to rest is important. For some, it is reading a book; for others it is hosting events.  It is critical to know your limits and to set them as well as assertively communicating your needs to others. Being able to assert yourself, setting healthy boundaries, knowing what your limits are, and doing routine maintenance on yourself can help build longevity of compassion satisfaction and promote mental wellness.

Lastly, for some individuals, seeking professional help can assist those with compassion fatigue or burnout to become productive, feel better and achieve improved mental wellness overall.

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.

Stigma Nope not today

Hamilton Center Promotes May as Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month, and Hamilton Center, Inc. is working to bring mental health awareness to the forefront of the COVID-19 conversation. Beginning Friday May 1st, the organization will start its annual month-long campaign to recognize and promote mental health awareness.

The theme for this year is “Stigma Nope not today”.

“This is a message for those who face the reality of being stigmatized by others based on mental illness or other things,” said Zach Jenkins, Public Relations Specialist. “Stigma? Nope not today…as in one day at a time – I will overcome stigma and be who I am, my best self,” he added.

To help spread this message the organization is offering a limited number of T-shirts to community partners across its 10-county footprint. More information can be found at hamiltoncenter.org or at facebook.com/HamiltonCenterInc.

“All of 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, said Melvin L. Burks, Hamilton Center’s CEO.

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:

Friday May 1 – 1:15 p.m. – CEO Melvin L Burks will be Live on Facebook @HamiltonCenterInc to kick-off the celebration, announce the start of the “Stigma Nope not today” T-shirt campaign, and the inform viewers about the many different events and happenings scheduled for the month.

Friday May 8– Though the 29th Annual Sheriff Shootout has been postponed to an undecided date in the fall, CEO Melvin L Burks will be live on Facebook @HamiltonCenterInc to celebrate the tradition with sponsors and staff. As Hamilton Center’s only fundraiser, the tradition of this annual event will be kept alive by offering community partners the opportunity to support the organization in serving childrens’ behavioral health needs across west central Indiana.

Friday May 22– In recognition of May as Mental Health Month community members are invited to celebrate mental health by wearing green. Whether they have a “Stigma Nope not today” T-shirts or their own green outfit, all are invited to post images of themselves and friends on their personal or business social media. To find out more about the campaign visit facebook.com/HamiltonCenterInc or search for #StigmaNopenottoday.

In conjunction with these events, Hamilton Center clinical staff will submit a series of articles that discuss mental health trends related to the current public health crisis cause by COVID-19 including, men’s issues, Trauma Informed Care (TIC) and compassion fatigue, loss and grief, and substance use disorder. In addition, banners recognizing the celebration of mental health will be placed on county courthouse lawns throughout the organization’s service area and Indianapolis Power and Light, in downtown Indy, will be lit up in green on May 9.

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.

Protector, provider, problem solver and bravery — reflections on being a man and finding balance during the public health emergency

By Paul Schneider, Ph.D.

“There’s spirits above and behind me, faces gone black, eyes burning bright. May their precious blood bind me, Lord as I stand before your fiery light.” – Bruce Springsteen, The Rising, 2002 

After 9/11, “The Boss” captured hope without negating loss. As a native of the New York Metropolitan area, my heart aches again, but this time, the damage has been more universal. 

As men, many of us have not been blessed with a huge vocabulary to describe our emotions; however, I sense that we are sharing emotional experiences during this public health emergency that will be transformative – and by being mindful of this process, perhaps we can gain a bit more control of it.

If I free associate to the word “man” from a personal perspective, here are the first themes that come to mind – protector, provider, problem solver, and bravery – but how are we all doing with those things?


As “protectors,” we are all familiar with the fight-flight reaction. The adrenaline response temporarily transforms us into physically stronger beings. Depending upon the situation, we may choose to fight or flee.  What we often leave out is the “freeze” reaction. Think of the possum and “playing possum.”  Many of us, men and women alike, have been told that our role right now is to “freeze” until given permission to do otherwise. But others have not been given the “freeze” option in their employment, leaving them the other two alternatives. They can take some risk and fight through it, or they can flee.  We want to protect ourselves and our families, but so far it remains difficult for us to accurately calculate risk.

So, how do I protect myself and my family? It is too late for me to become a molecular biologist, so I try my best to follow the guidelines, and I remain alert for any news about what the virus doesn’t like – such as bleach, sunlight and distances over six feet. I clean, but not as much as two weeks ago. Mostly, these activities help with the sense of learned helplessness.  “Learned helplessness” is a model of depression which suggests it is the result of a feeling of loss of control over what is most important to us. The solution to the problem is expressed most succinctly in the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”


Next, we have “provider,” and, honestly, one of the most “provider” type things that I am currently doing is grocery shopping. I have never seen so many men at Kroger! As a provider, I can help review our supplies and provisions, and perhaps I can occasionally make a purchase. While grocery shopping may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about being a “provider,” it does allow you to focus on providing in ways that you can control, and that is critical during this time.

Providers also earn and invest money, but for now, much of that is, unfortunately, in the column of things we can’t control. During this public health emergency, our job and financial security has less to do with our own behavior than ever before. In investing, we want to avoid emotional decisions, so many of us freeze, and that has been painful. 

Problem Solver

Then, we have “problem solver.” In my case, this is inexorably linked to probability and statistics. As I write this, my wife is sharing data on baseline infection rates in the general population. If accurate, it will turn every calculation I have done to date upside down. We don’t have the numbers we need to make informed choices. Most critically, what is the baseline probability that some random individual, including me, is actively spreading the virus? What factors or variables can help identify who is spreading the virus and how?  What percentage of transmissions occur due to surfaces or when we are not within six feet of someone? Are men more likely to contract or die from the virus?  If so why?

At some level, we all play a very low probability game of Russian roulette on a daily basis. We don’t stop driving because someone might cross the median and kill us.  What I feel, as a man, is that the longer my lifestyle is dramatically altered, the more risk I am willing to take to restore some semblance of normalcy. I imagine one of those large wheels at the casino.  On day 4 of physical distancing, my decision model will be much different than on day 44 or day 444.


Finally, there is bravery.  My dad was a medic and an Army lieutenant in World War II. He earned a Bronze Star.  I did not learn of this until after he passed.  I have not donned a uniform since boy scouts or marching band – and in marching band, I was third trombone, so I rarely blew a note. I do not know if I am a hero or coward. I am neither until tested. So far, this crisis has not provided that test for me. We are told that by physical distancing ourselves, we are protecting others. As a man, is it easier for you to tell yourself you are protecting others than to admit you are protecting yourself?  Could “bravery” lead to unwise risk taking?


Early on in this crisis, it was all about saving lives, and rightfully so. Now, there is talk of balancing that with the quality of life. My Mom is 100 years old and in a long-term care facility. My sons are early on in their careers. Just like many of you, I am trying to balance health and safety with quality of life for myself and those who I love. I continue to feel shocked, confused and sometimes a bit surreal, but I am also feeling that the longer this goes on, the more risk I personally am willing to take so I can find a balance that is right for me.

We have lost much control over our lives in the past months. For now, not forever, we need to learn to cope. By being mindful, and searching for the words that can describe this shared experience we can be transformative.

Protector, provider, problem solver, and bravery. While those themes are still prevalent when I think of the word “man,” they look a little bit different these days, and that’s ok.

A Nurse of Many Hats

By: Cindy Dowers, BSN, RN, Executive Director of Nursing Services, Hamilton Center, Inc.

The World Health Organization has designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse – and based on the courageous work of nurses during COVID-19, it couldn’t come at a more appropriate time.

This week, we celebrate National Nurses Week, which begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. Nightingale, who was born on May 12, 1820, 200 years ago, was a British nurse, statistician, and social reformer who is credited as the foundational philosopher of modern nursing.

Today, thanks to Nightingale’s efforts, there are a variety of nursing specialties, and one of those is the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse (PMHN), or psych nurse.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health is becoming increasingly relevant to our social discussions about wellness and quality of life. In America, most of the nation has been restricted to social distancing and self-quarantine. Because of this, many individuals –  if not all – are experiencing newfound struggles related to mental health with little to no understanding of why or how to cope. Psych nurses are a uniquely qualified for these types of situations, and for those who struggle with mental illness, they are truly heroes.

A psych nurse wears many hats. They are trained mental health care professionals that develop strong therapeutic relationships with people experiencing mental illnesses, crisis, and/or substance use disorders. They are integrated health care specialists that work with a variety of other professions, including peer support specialists, counselors and therapists, and psychiatrists and psychologists. They are direct caregivers, who work to care for individuals and families while educating them about the mind-body connection and the strong correlation of mental and physical health. And, perhaps most critically, they are educators and advocates, actively work to end the stigma associated with mental health by encouraging self-care and promoting treatment when necessary.

Another nursing specialty of the mental health field is Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). PMHNPs help fill the gaps in care caused by a critical shortage of trained professionals. As a master’s level clinician, they work closely with patients to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals, and their families, with psychiatric disorders. They play a vital role in the treatment of mental illness through their full scope of therapeutic skills, which includes assisting patients to establish preventative and maintenance behaviors, prescribing medications, and administrating psychotherapy.

Nurses of all types play a vital role in providing health services. They are the backbone of our health care system, so much so, that many are the only point of care in their communities. They devote their lives to caring for individuals from before birth to the end of life. They do this, not on the basis of socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or color, but on basis of need and the love of serving others. In fact, right now, nurses all across the world are serving others in dire and frankly dangerous circumstances, stepping up to the challenge and answering our cries for help. 2020 is indeed the year of the nurse, and we thank every last one of them for all they do.

Hamilton Center, Inc. is a regional behavioral health system in Central and West Central Indiana. Services are provided to children, adolescents and adults, with specialized programs for expectant mothers, infants, and people with drug and alcohol problems. Counseling services are provided for 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 more information about services, call 1-800-742-0787, or visit www.hamiltoncenter.org.