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Mental health adapts during the pandemic | News, Sports, Jobs

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YOUNGSTOWN — Amid continuing concerns spurred by the spread of COVID-19, most people are electing to stay at home and self-isolate — and behavioral health care, like many other services, has had to adapt.

In response to the virus, state and federal governments have lifted restrictions that made teletherapy, or therapy by phone, difficult for counselors to perform and bill. Now, people are getting the care they need by phone or video chat.

“The response to teletherapy has been really incredible,” said Joseph Caruso, president and CEO of COMPASS Family and Community Services. “I believe people have been feeling really comfortable.”

Caruso said COMPASS contracts through Google Meets to provide video counseling that is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant. Within the last week, the organization has also been able to provide counseling services over the phone.

“Yes, this is something that is new, but I believe in these critical times, it is even more important to have this tool available,” Caruso said.

He said though behavioral health is an essential service and COMPASS can keep its doors open, walk-in traffic in the waiting room makes recommended social distancing difficult and can lead to more anxiety for clients.

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Neil Kennedy Recovery Center in Youngstown has switched its intensive outpatient sessions to teletherapy, said Executive Director Carolyn Givens.

Givens said a 12-person group usually meets in person with a therapist, but because of COVID-19 concerns, the group has been meeting over video chat.

“That’s been going well,” Givens said. She said some groups have been smaller than normal, but have still had an attendance of about eight people.

The recovery center’s detox program, located on the sixth floor of St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, is still operating in person, as is the inpatient center. The program has not been changed much despite COVID-19, Givens said.

Joe Shorokey, CEO of Alta Care Group, said his staff has adapted to using teletherapy in the last week — as have the families Alta Care services.

“The staff was surprised by how welcoming and appreciative the families are,” Shorokey said.

Alta is an outpatient community behavioral health provider focused on behavioral health services for ages 1 to 24.

Shorokey said providing counseling over the phone or online has allowed counselors during sessions to share links, resources and documents in realtime.

He said the non-profit has been fortunate so far that most families have been willing to make the change, which has proved an adjustment for everyone.

“I think it’s a slight decrease in terms of the amount of people that we’re seeing. The more significant decrease is in the time we’re spending with them. What would have been an hour face-to-face is often turning into a half-hour or 45 minutes,” Shorokey said. “Maybe it may always be that way, or maybe it will be a learning curve for our family and staff.”

STAYING CONNECTED

Jody Klase, director of Valley Counseling, said “loosened” state rules for providing remote therapy have been “very key” to helping the organization maintain clients.

“We actually have experienced an increase in clients,” Klase said. “There are so many barriers that prevent people from coming into the office. This way, it’s easier for them to stay connected.”

She said she’s hoping teletherapy will become a permanent option after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Teletherapy also extends past what behavioral health organizations are offering, according to Duane Piccirilli, executive director for the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board.

“It isn’t just the official telehealth people are receiving. I think a lot of the peers are reaching out, a lot of the smaller agencies are reaching out, and support groups are reaching out by telephone and online,” Piccirilli said. “Everyone is really finding a new way to reach out and provide support.”

Piccirilli said as the community comes together through telehealth, even friends and neighbors can do their part to assure that everyone in the community has the support they need.

“I think what’s really important is that people need to be reaching out to their neighbors. Telehealth can be much more than what we do as mental health agencies,” Piccirilli said. “This is a much bigger issue than any agency can handle.”







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Sun 8:45 p.m.: Youngstown mayor orders curfew | News, Sports, Jobs

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Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown as of 8:30 p.m. Sunday declared a civil emegency and ordered a curfew in the city as a result of “mob action and other civil disobedience.”

Reports had large crowds gathering around dusk surrounding police cruisers at the corner of Market and Boardman streets in downtown Youngstown.

Earlier in the day, two separate rallies in the downtown netted minor incidents including the breaking of windows at Choffin Career Center and the United Way office off Wood Street.

Then reports of a large crowd in the Wick Park area had prompted businesses to close on their own on the Belmont Avenue strip of Liberty Township, according to Sgt. Ray Buhala of the Liberty Police Department.

Brown’s curfew order, which includes the closing of all businesses and all city streets to motor vehicles and pedestrians except for emergency vehicles, shall remain in effect for 12 hours.

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Two new COVID-19 cases in Marshall County | News, Sports, Jobs

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DES MOINES — Marshall County only had two additional case of COVID-19 during the last 24 hours.

As of Sunday, Marshall County has 894 cases of COVID-19, a rise of two cases.

Marshall County dropped to sixth highest Iowa counties with COVID-19 cases. The other counties with higher numbers are Polk with 4,228; Woodbury, 2,750; Black Hawk, 1,746; Linn, 955; and Dallas, 903.

Overall Iowa had an increase of 385 bringing the state’s total number of cases to 19,551.

Of those, 11,111 have recovered.

Also, 534 Iowans have died from COVID-19 and 16 of those deaths were residents of Marshall County.

Marshall County makes up 3 percent of the state’s COVID-19 related deaths and 4.5 percent of Iowa’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Marshall County is one the top ten states with the highest number of COVID-19 related tests. The counties tied or with more deaths are Polk with 126 deaths, Linn with 77 deaths, Black Hawk with 44 deaths, Muscatine 41 deaths, Woodbury with 34 deaths, Tama with 27 deaths, Dallas with 21 deaths, Dubuque with 18 deaths and Jasper with 16 deaths.

Marshall County has two recorded outbreaks in long-term care facilities. The Iowa Veterans Home has had 33 positive cases of COVID-19, with 16 recovered and Accura HealthCare of Marshalltown has had 55 cases, with 21 recovered.

In Iowa 156,713 people have been tested for COVID-19 with about 5 percent of Iowa’s population having been tested.

Across the state, 561,610 Test Iowa assessments have been conducted – 2,010 in Marshall County.

A public hotline has been established for questions about COVID-19 in Iowa. It is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.

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Tensions High Over Protests Upstate, Downstate | News, Sports, Jobs

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The mayor in Rochester declared a state of emergency and a 9 p.m. curfew after demonstrators destroyed police cars, setting one on fire, and officers responded with tear gas canisters.

Albany police used tear gas and rode horses in efforts to quell demonstrators throwing objects. In Buffalo, numerous storefronts had their windows smashed and a person tried to start a fire in City Hall.

Downstate, the scene was even more tense.

Street protests spiraled into New York City’s worst day of unrest in decades Saturday, as fires burned, windows got smashed and dangerous confrontations between demonstrators and officers flared amid crowds of thousands decrying police killings.

A day that began with mostly peaceful marches through Harlem and neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens descended into chaos as night fell.

Demonstrators smashed windows, hurled objects at officers, torched and battered police vehicles and blocked roads with garbage and wreckage. A handful of stores in Manhattan had their windows broken and merchandise stolen.

Officers sprayed crowds with chemicals, and video showed two police cruisers lurching into a crowd of demonstrators on a Brooklyn street, knocking several to the ground, after people attacked it with thrown objects, including something on fire. It was unclear whether anyone was hurt.

It was the third straight day of protests in the city over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota, a remarkable outburst after most New Yorkers spent the past two months stuck inside as the coronavirus devastated the city. A night earlier, several thousand people faced off with a force of officers on the streets around a Brooklyn sports arena.

The NYPD said at least 120 people were arrested and at least 15 police vehicles damaged or destroyed.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, blamed the destruction on a small number of agitators who he said “do not represent this city” and were purposely trying to incite violence against police.

“We appreciate and respect all peaceful protest, but now it is time for people to go home,” de Blasio told reporters outside the city’s emergency management headquarters just after 11:30 p.m.

“What we’re seeing is people coming in from outside, a lot of them are purporting to speak about the issues of communities of color, but a lot of them are not from communities of color,” de Blasio said on the local cable news station NY1.

The protests in each city were all held in defiance of a statewide ban on gatherings imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is bigger than the pandemic,” said Brooklyn protester Meryl Makielski, referring to the outbreak that, until recently, was killing hundreds of New Yorkers each day. “The mistakes that are happening are not mistakes. They’re repeated violent terrorist offenses and people need to stop killing black people. Cops seem as though they’ve been trained to do so.”

Earlier in the day, de Blasio had expressed solidarity with demonstrators upset about police brutality, but promised an independent review of demonstrations Friday night in which a mob set fire to a police van and battered police cruisers with clubs and officers beat people with batons.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had asked the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, to lead an inquiry and make a public report.

The mayor said he was upset by videos of confrontations “where protesters were handled very violently” by police, including one that showed a woman being needlessly thrown to the ground.

But he defended officers in the streets, saying they were being subjected “to horrible, vile things.” Of the video of officers driving into a crowd Saturday, de Blasio said it would be investigated, but that the officers acted because they were being attacked.

Violence early Saturday resulted in federal charges against three people suspected of building and throwing Molotov cocktails at police vehicles in two separate incidents in Brooklyn.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said Samantha Shader, 27, of Catskill, New York, admitted under questioning to throwing her device at a van occupied by four officers. It did not ignite and the officers were unharmed, police said. Shader’s sister, Dorian, was also arrested and will face charges in state court, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said.

Colinford Mattis, 32, and Urooj Rahman, 31, both of Brooklyn, are accused of targeting a police van. They were charged under a federal statute regarding the use of fire and explosives to cause damage to a police vehicle and each face 5 to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Information on their lawyers was not immediately available.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said more than 200 people were arrested and multiple officers were injured in Friday night’s protests, including one who lost a tooth.

Asked to comment on videos that showed officers shoving peaceful protesters to the ground and hitting people with batons, Shea said those acts would be investigated.

But, he said, “It is very hard to practice de-escalation when there is a brick being thrown at your head.”

“It is by the grace of God that we don’t have dead officers today,” he said.

In a peaceful gathering Saturday afternoon, the Rev. Al Sharpton addressed several hundred people in Staten Island at the spot where Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by a police officer in 2014. He was accompanied by Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr.

Sharpton noted that Floyd, who died Monday in Minneapolis after an officer pressed his knee into his neck, had also fallen unconscious gasping for air.

“Right at this spot is where we heard Eric Garner say what six years later was said by George: ‘I can’t breathe.’”

Cuomo noted that Floyd’s death was just the latest in a long list of similar deaths, and he said he shared in the outrage over “this fundamental injustice.”

“But violence is not the answer. It never is the answer,” he said. “The violence obscures the righteousness of the message and the mission.”

___

Associated Press writers Karen Matthews, Jennifer Peltz, Michael R. Sisak, Tom Hays, Maria Sanminiatelli and Robert Bumsted in New York, Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, and John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed to this report.

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