Connections - Health - Wellness - Advocacy

Connections News


From a clinical pharmacy perspective it is clearly evident that there is paradigm shift from a “dispense, dispense, dispense” mentality to a quality care model.  As payers (i.e., managed care companies, insurance companies) review their pharmacy networks they will continue to contract with those pharmacies offering additional services.  Specifically, clinical services will be in high demand to assist payers with their Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Star Ratings, the CMS rating system.  Pharmacists can have a direct impact on medication safety, medication adherence strategies, and identification of potential medication related problems through Medication Therapy Management Services (MTMS).  The pharmacist will be able to communicate directly with patients to identify medication-related issues and assist in empowering the patient and caregiver to make the changes necessary to improve their health.  At a Connections Pharmacy, our intent is to improve patient access to receiving medications in a timely manner as well as integrate the drug therapy experts into their treatment.
Due to the ever-changing nature of the healthcare industry, along with improving patient care, securing and maintaining consistent sources of revenue with combining great clinical care has become even more important.  For 6 years, Connections has operated an in-house Pharmacy at our Beachwood location.  In an effort to provide improved services, this year Connections has added a new pharmacy at our Westside location.  Having a Pharmacy at this site allows us to create improved patient and physician relationships, while giving us the opportunity to work directly with our patients as we fold the medication therapy experts into the holistic treatment of our patients.
Connections’ pharmacy is committed to delivering the highest quality care to our patients through clinical expertise and immediate access to their medications.  We are excited to introduce our team of Greg Delluomo, RPh, and Sally Armitage, Certified Pharmacy Technician, at the Westside pharmacy, who will assure that great care and service is provided to our patients.
As we enter into a new year, patient engagement is critical to the success of the ongoing treatment of our patients.  We look forward to the pharmacy’s role in assuring a positive patient outcome through our new location on the Westside.

ORCA House Picnic

On Friday, June 27, 2014, ORCA House (a member, along with Connections and Signature Health) of Pinnacle Partners Shared Services Organization held its annual picnic.  In attendance from Connections were Board of Directors’ members Bill Stevens and Gio Dilalla, Esther Pla, President and CEO and Barbara Krasner, Development/Strategy Director, as well as Gary Humble the Executive Director of Pinnacle Partners.  Pictured below are Esther Pla and Gary Humble and Esther Pla with ORCA House Board Chair Richard Wagner and his mother.

A Place for Art Therapy

An important part of Connections’ own Scott Mars, is the art therapy he receives through the Art Therapy Studio with four locations throughout Cuyahoga County (Fairhill Partners, Ursuline College, River’s Edge in St. Joseph’s Center and MetroHealth Senior Health & Wellness Center).  The Studio has offered art classes in a variety of mediums (e.g., painting, ceramics, drawing, collage) to individuals suffering from trauma, chronic ailments, mental illness, social disconnection or specific physical illnesses such as neurological disease, juvenile diabetes and cancer.  Both studies and the experiences of the staff and clients of the Art Therapy Studio agree – creative art therapy helps people in numerous ways.  “Whether subjects are lonely, grieving, stressed, ill or injured, making art reduces their anxiety and allows them to express feelings they hadn’t been able to talk about.  It also provides safe social interaction, improves bonds between patients and their loved ones, and helps patients with limitations improve their capacities, such as dexterity or concentration.

Certainly Scott Mars understands making art makes him feel better.  Mars copes with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder has been taking classes at the Art Therapy Studio since 1995.  “He likes to look at it, yes, and knows about a wide range of artists and styles.  But he especially likes to create it.  When he does, he also creates what he calls his ‘safe space,” a space ‘that nobody can invade.’” 

(All excerpts taken from Creative Minds in Medicine: A Cleveland Creation Intersection a report prepared and funded by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture.)


On Friday, February 21, 2014, Connections held the first leadership retreat under the agency’s new flattened management structure. Here are some pictures from that retreat.





Award To Consider . . .

Mary Bazie CEO of Hitchcock Center for Women presented the Jayne Mozzarella Award to Esther Pla CEO of Connections today at Hitchcock Center's Annual Meeting
     Mary Bazie                     Esther Pla


Primary Care comes to Connections! 

Primary Care comes to Connections!  With the support of a recent $40,000 grant over two years from the Woodruff Foundation, on Wednesday, November 6, 2013, Connections opened a primary care clinic at its Beachwood location.  Staffed by Dr. Sybil Marsh of University Hospitals’ Department of Family Medicine, this clinic will enable Connections to offer on-site high quality primary care services to its patients. 

Esther Pla's interview on Live on Lakeside presented by channel 3 (WKYC)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Persistent Psychosis

The Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health (IOBH) Team at Connections: Health•Wellness•Advocacy and the BeST Center at NEOMED are implementing a spectrum of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Persistent Psychosis (CBT-p) interventions with clients who have schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Each member of the team completed intensive training and participates in ongoing individual and group follow-up and feedback related to their use of CBT-p interventions.
The IOBH team is the first to use an integrated approach to implementing a full spectrum of CBT-p services that range from lower-intensity to higher-intensity. The team worked to develop processes for making referrals, reviewing cases and obtaining outcomes data. Rebecca Roberts-Martin, Ph.D., PCC-S; leads the Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health treatment team; Dorothea Galloway, M.S.W., L.I.S.W.-S, is the administrative lead for the program; and the BeST Center’s Consultant/Trainer for CBT-p, Harry Sivec, Ph.D., provided initial training and has been involved in the ongoing development of the program.

For more information about NEOMED and the programs that the have please click the link below.

Hoarding Is Everybody's Business

Published on Jun 21, 2013, The Hoarding Connection of Cuyahoga County produced this informational video with funding from the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County with support from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.

Find out more about the Hoarding Connection at

Check out this video about hoarding on Youtube

State Consolidates Mental Health, Addiction Services

Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services to launch July 1, 2013 


(COLUMBUS, OH – July 1, 2013) Gov. John R. Kasich’s “Jobs 2.0 Budget” includes a number of common sense reforms that promote smarter, more efficient state government. Among the many transformations is the establishment of the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) -- a consolidated cabinet-level agency born from the marriage of the former departments of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services and Mental Health. 
Download the full report and what leaders in the Mental Health field are saying about these changes.


OhioMHAS Support.pdf

Esther Pla received the Contract Agency Collaboration Award at the 2013 ADAMHSCC Annual Meeting on May 20, 2013.


2013 Schizophrenia Awareness Week

Schizophrenia Awareness Week is May 19-25, 2013!

Schizophrenia Awareness Week is an international observance designed to dispel myths and share important facts about schizophrenia publicly. The Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center is working with a Regional Schizophrenia Awareness Week Planning Committee to plan a week-long series of events again this year.

Myths and Facts About Schizophrenia

Myth: Schizophrenia is hopeless; people who have it never recover.
Fact: While there is no cure for schizophrenia, there are effective treatments. Medications, recovery-oriented psychosocial treatments and rehabilitation practices are increasingly helping people with schizophrenia to lead productive, successful and independent lives.

Myth: Hallucinations (seeing, hearing or experiencing things that others do not) and paranoia are the only symptoms of schizophrenia.
Fact: Schizophrenia is brain-based disease, so in addition to hallucinations, it affects multiple brain functions, such as the ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. People with schizophrenia also have delusions, which are firmly held false beliefs, that may cause them to think people are following them or looking at them.

Myth: People with schizophrenia are dangerous.
Fact: Studies indicate that people receiving treatment for schizophrenia are no more dangerous than the rest of the population. More typically, individuals with schizophrenia are withdrawn and prefer to be left alone. People with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. However, people with schizophrenia and alcohol and other drug abuse, or those who do not participate in treatment, are at increased risk for committing violent acts.

Myth: Everyone who has schizophrenia knows that they have an illness.
Fact: Many people who have schizophrenia wait months, sometimes years, and suffer needlessly before a proper diagnosis is made and treatment begins. Sometimes this is because they are unaware of what is wrong.

Myth: People with schizophrenia have split or multiple personalities.
Fact: Schizophrenia is not a split personality disorder. The myth of people with schizophrenia may have come about because the word schizophrenia comes from Greek words that mean "split mind." The split is referring to a split from reality – not a split or multiple personality.

Myth: People get schizophrenia because they had bad parenting as children or because they have weak character or personalities.
Fact: Schizophrenia is a complex disorder. It is not the result of anyone’s weakness or character flaws.

Myth: People with schizophrenia have to take a lot of medications in order to get better.
Fact: Research supports that when people with schizophrenia are treated with a combination of anti-psychotic medications and psychosocial therapies, they can and do get better. Psychosocial therapies involve work/school, family and relationships and personal goals.

Schizophrenia will not go away of its own accord; early identification and treatment is very important and can affect recovery. Serious problems at work or school, seeing, hearing or experiencing things that others do not, having firmly held false beliefs, withdrawing from social situations, speaking in a disorganized way or feeling paranoid are all signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. If you know of someone who is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, please encourage them to get professional help as soon as possible. Please use Ohio Department of Mental Health's Where to get help to find treatment providers near you.

More Facts About Schizophrenia

  • Schizophrenia affects approximately 1% of Americans
  • The average age of onset: for males, late teens to early 20s; for females, mid-20s to early 30s
  • Three out of every 100 people will experience a psychotic episode at some time in their lives
  • Schizophrenia affects anyone, regardless of culture, race, economic status, sex or ethnicity
  • Both genetics and environment play a role in whether someone develops schizophrenia
  • 50% of those affected by schizophrenia have a co-occurring substance abuse or chemical dependency diagnosis

Northeast Ohio Medical University

Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center



Ryan Marblestone and Jennifer Harden at the 3rd Annual Conference on Social Welfare.

Testimony on Medicaid Expansion
Esther Pla, RN, BC

House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services

March 14, 2013

Chairperson Gonzales and other members of this Committee, My name is Esther Pla and I am the President and CEO of Connections: Health Wellness dvocacy. Our headquarters is located in Beachwood and we have 2 satellite offices; one in Cleveland Heights and one in the near west side. We also manage a 30 bed independent housing facility for homeless, older mentally ill individuals. Connections is also a member of the Mental Health Advocacy Coalition.

I am a proponent of the Governor’s plan for the Expansion of Medicaid to Ohioans.

I have worked in a psychiatric setting for nearly 40 years and in the Community Behavioral health system for the last 17. I have seen many changes in the provision of care for individuals with Behavioral Health needs but I think today we have more of an opportunity to positively change the system of care than ever before.

Let me give you some numbers that reflect the impact itwill have on my agency. We currently serve approximately 5,500 clients; children, adults and older adults. My fiscal department did an analysis of all current clients, based on income, and number of dependents, and approximately 1,200 of our 1,650 non-­‐Medicaid clients would be eligible for Medicaid under the new expansion. This would mean that Medicaid would cover the behavioral health treatment services for these individuals. It would allow my agency to reinvest $700,000 into supportive services such as mental health prevention and education in schools and in the communities, supportive employment, housing, family supports, anti-stigma education, and other recovery and support services that we know are critically important for keeping people healthy and stable in our communities. This would allow us to admit more clients for treatment services, as we will not be limited by the non-­‐Medicaid funding issues facing all agencies. For every additional 50 clients admitted we will be able to hire one CPST worker and one counselor. One full time physician or APN serves between 50-­‐500 clients. The number varies depending on client acuity. Adjunctive to this are the nurses that help in overall management of clients needing additional medical support.

It is a well-­‐documented fact that individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses (SPMI) die 25 years earlier than the general public. The Medicaid Health Home initiative that Director Plouck and her staff are working on is integrating care. Therefore, Medicaid beneficiaries with SPMI will now have coordinated, managed, holistic care that will reduce Emergency Department visits and recidivism. Once Connections becomes a Health Home, the additional 1,200 individuals eligible for Medicaid through the expansion can become a part of our Health Home. Again, reducing the use of the most expensive levels of care and providing comprehensive medical and behavioral health services. What is exciting about all of this? Finally, community behavioral health will have the ability to serve the whole person and his/her family. Finally, we will be able to impact utilization of services in such a way to reduce cost per patient allowing us to serve more people. We will provide same day – next day appointments and open our offices beyond the business week/day. Finally I believe partnerships among hospitals, medical providers and other behavioral health agencies will flourish. It must if we are to continue to do the work so many are dedicated to.

Letter to the Editor of from Esther Pla

The editorial on Monday titled "Funding Cuyahoga County's fight against mental illness" makes some very good points. The behavioral health systems in our country, and specifically our state, are underfunded. Could we use more money? The simple answer is yes.

Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, is aware of this and was able to secure $1.8 million from the governor's office for the Cuyahoga County-based, 72-hour crisis stabilization unit request, which was presented to her and her staff from the Cuyahoga County mental health community.

In light of the mass shootings and street violence in our cities, we know the problems are great and things do need to change. It is time that we stop placing blame, fortify our efforts and collaborate. There are so many people to serve with a limited amount of money. With all of the fiscal issues facing our country, I think it is time to concentrate on creating new, innovative, cost-saving solutions.

On Monday, Plouck hosted a webinar presented by the governor's office, detailing his plan to seek Medicaid expansion. There was a significant grass-roots advocacy campaign that had begun weeks before the Feb. 4 date. The governor heard our requests. As a result, many letters of appreciation have been sent applauding this decision. The effects are far reaching for all Ohioans, particularly our Cuyahoga County residents. In January 2014, we will need less money for fee-for-service as individuals are insured. It was made clear that the money not used on fee-for-service can then be diverted into noncovered needs (e.g., supportive employment, housing and helping individuals leave nursing homes who are capable of living in the community, to name a few). The webinar is available for all to view on the Governor's Office of Health Transformation website.

In my opinion, it is now time for our county to begin planning on how to move into this new world of health care. The beauty of it is that it is not just about mental health care. We are finally beginning to move into the treatment of the whole person. Soon, care will be integrated, coordinated and managed to minimize noncompliance, reduce recidivism, reduce the use of emergency rooms, and save and extend lives.

I, for one, am very hopeful about the future of mental health care. I extend my sincerest gratitude to Gov. John Kasich and the entire OHT team.

Esther Pla, Beachwood

Pla is president and CEO of Connections: Health, Wellness, Advocacy.

Letter to Governor Kasich from our CEO Esther Pla

February 6, 2013

Governor John R. Kasich
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6117

Dear Governor Kasich:

On behalf of the staff, consumers and families we serve, I want to thank you for including Medicaid Expansion in your Biennium Budget.  This decision will have far reaching, positive effects for additional needed services while integrating physical, mental and substance abuse care. 

Your team is to be applauded as well.  The Office of Health Transformation has been able to introduce innovative, careful ways to build healthy Medicaid and Medicare systems.  Your team is always available and responsive. 

Could the system use more money?  Of course, but there does come a time when more is not the answer.  Instead, digging for better, more efficient ways is best.  We must find the ways to reduce our costs, manage our care, and serve more people.  In my opinion, common sense is best and best when done together with innovation.  You are doing this, Governor, and I thank you.  This is good for all Ohioans.

I promise to work closely in assisting in any legislative work to help in getting this through the State House and Senate. 



Esther Pla
President & CEO

c:Tracy Plouck, Greg Moody

Connections Selected as BeST Center Partner to Implement a Spectrum of CBT-p Services

Members of the CBT-p team.
Left to Right: Jeremy Pelton, Kristin Hykes, Latissha Perry, Inez Hunter, Kristine Sovich, Dr. Rebecca Roberts-Martin, Dr. Gretchen Gardner, Dawn Bellis, Kristen Deitrch, Dorothea Galloway, Sandy Simcox, Casey Nygord, Dr. Harry Sivec, Sandy Kimble.

Promoting Innovation. Restoring Lives.

Between 30 to 60 percent of individuals affected by schizophrenia experience persistent psychotic symptoms, to varying degrees, despite taking their antipsychotic medications as prescribed. However, a variety of research studies indicate that when clients with persistent psychotic symptoms are treated with a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that has been adapted for psychosis (CBT-p), their symptoms  - and their quality of life – improve. 

Specifically, the use of CBT-p has been associated with reduced severity of symptoms in individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, improved medication adherence, increased recovery-related activities and decreased duration of hospital stays should re-hospitalization be required. These promising outcomes led the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center at NEOMED to select CBT-p as one of its BeST practices for initial implementation.

However, CBT-p requires specialized training and few clinicians have been trained in the practice. Furthermore, most of the CBT-p interventions and related research have been conducted in the United Kingdom, and, at present, there are few options for receiving training and supervision in CBT-p, particularly in the United States. “The BeST Center is collaborating with international CBT-p experts from the United Kingdom’s Insight CBT Partnership to bring CBT-p to Northeast Ohio,” says Lon C. Herman, M.A., director, BeST Center. 

“The BeST Center and the Insight CBT Partnership are developing a spectrum of services that are based on techniques adapted from CBT-p that can be implemented as part of routine care,” says Harry J. Sivec, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and consultant and trainer for CBT-p with the BeST Center. “The services range from low to high intensity, and they can be offered by all trained providers.  The types of interventions vary depending on the provider’s scope of practice.

“The lower-intensity techniques are called High-Yield Cognitive behavioral techniques for psychosis – or HYCBt-p - and they can be delivered by clinical and non-licensed direct care staff members.  The higher-intensity CBT-p interventions are offered by licensed clinicians who have completed specialized training,” adds Sivec. “The spectrum of services allows for greater dissemination of the practice.”

For the past year, the BeST Center and its partners, Insight CBT Partnership and Community Support Services, have tested the Level One High-Yield Cognitive Behavioral techniques for psychosis component of the services. “We worked with 13 case managers at Community Support Services on a research and demonstration project to test if High-Yield Cognitive Behavioral techniques for psychosis delivered by case managers could improve clients’ symptoms,” says Vicki Montesano, Ph.D., PCC-S, LICDC, BeST Center manager. “One of our conclusions was that clients’ mood and psychotic symptoms improved significantly and meaningfully after the intervention.”

The research and demonstration project results were among the information shared at a March 15 Implementing a Spectrum of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Persistent Psychotic Symptoms Conference organized by the BeST Center. Following the conference, the BeST Center issued a competitive Request for Partners to expand a Spectrum of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Persistent Psychosis Services to an additional site. Proposals were developed by a number of Northeast Ohio mental health services boards and agencies. After careful review, Connections: Health*Wellness*Advocacy was selected by the BeST Center, in collaboration with the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, to implement a spectrum of CBT-p services.

Connections is committed to serving adults and children who suffer from severe and persistent mental illness through a comprehensive service array. Established in 1969, Connections serves more than 6,000 consumers annually, and offers services, including bilingual services, in three Cuyahoga County locations.

“How exciting is this? We are honored and humbled,” says Esther Pla, RN, BC, Connections President and Chief Executive Officer. “Connections serves more than 1,400 individuals affected by schizophrenia. We look forward to making CBT-p services available to help our clients who experience persistent psychotic symptoms.”

“This is truly a partnership,” says Herman. “Connections is providing leadership support and the appropriate clinical staff to learn CBT-p and to eventually manage the CBT-p program. The BeST Center’s CBT-p expert, Dr. Harry Sivec, will devote 50 percent of his time for the next year to assisting with and supporting the implementation of CBT-p services at Connections. He will also coordinate training and technical assistance with Insight CBT Partnership as appropriate.

“Both the BeST Center and the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County are providing financial subsidy to support non-reimbursable expenses associated with implementation, such as training, technical assistance and team meetings,” adds Herman.

Connections staff members will participate in training for a spectrum of CBT-p services during the week of July 9, with Dr. Sivec and Insight CBT Partnership’s Clinical Director Jeremy Pelton leading the training.

Illustration follows – triangle with different types of CBT-p

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Esther Pla Receives an Award!!!

On Thursday, October 4, 2012, Esther Pla, President/CEO of Connections: Health•Wellness•Advocacy was awarded the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers’ 2012 Outstanding Contributor award at the association’s Fall Conference in Columbus, OH.

Congratulations Esther!!!!!!


Did you know!!!!

Experts in mental illness meet in Cleveland

When he was a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in the ’80s, Dr. Herbert Y. Meltzer led a national study of the anti-schizophrenia drug Clozapine, which had only been available in Europe. His studies led to the approval of Clozapine throughout the world.

“It is now considered the gold-standard treatment for schizophrenia,” said Meltzer, a professor of psychiatry and physiology and director of the translational neuropharmacology program at Northwestern University in Chicago. While the medication can have side effects, it is particularly useful to treat people who don’t respond to other anti-psychotic drugs, he said.

Impact of the study showed “just how important Cleveland was to the world of mental health,” Meltzer, the keynote speaker, told an audience of some 200 on Oct. 27 at Connections: Health, Wellness, Advocacy’s annual dinner. He also spoke that day at the first Cuyahoga County Mental Health Summit, where he received an award for his achievements.

Both events, at the Bertram Inn and Conference Center in Aurora, drew experts from around the country. Beachwood-based Connections is a provider of behavioral health care services in Northeast Ohio.

Iris Wolstein, a philanthropist who owns the Bertram, served as honorary chair of the events. Fox 8 News co-anchor Wayne Dawson served as master of ceremonies at the dinner.

Free to health professionals and advocates, the summit brought together leading experts in mental health to share information about cutting-edge treatment methods, therapies and medications that will better the condition and treatment of mental health patients, including those suffering from treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

“The summit met and exceeded our expectations,” said Connections president and CEO Esther Pla. “We’re feeling very good about the outcome and are already beginning plans for next year.”

“I think this is a wonderful event,” said psychiatrist Dr. Miriam Rosenthal, a Connections board member who, with support from the National Council of Jewish Women, established a perinatal clinic for mothers and their babies.

“One in four people are afflicted with mental health issues,” said William Denihan, CEO of the alcohol, drug addiction and mental health services board of Cuyahoga County. “Yet, in terms of awareness and philanthropy, mental health is often ignored and, therefore, inadequately funded. As a result, people go without treatment and don’t recover when, in actuality, they can recover if properly treated.” Denihan led a discussion on the “Expanded Role in the Mental Health Community.”

National news from Cleveland

“What happened here in Cleveland was fulfillment of work I began in Chicago,” Meltzer said in his keynote address. People were suffering from the side effects of “first-generation” anti-psychotic drugs. “I discovered that this drug (Clozapine) was much more effective in treating psychosis in people who didn’t respond (to other drugs).”

About 2.4 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

In 1992, Connie Chung of CBS News interviewed Meltzer and a patient who was successfully treated with Clozapine. Meltzer told her about the “Rip Van Winkle” syndrome, in which people feel that they’ve awakened from a 10-year sleep after taking Clozapine.

“We saw no evidence that the benefits disappear over time,” said Meltzer, who previously served as professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University and has received numerous awards in the field.

The study showed that Clozapine could improve cognitive function, which includes memory, attention and decision-making, he said.

After completing the study on Clozapine, he said, “We had the phone ringing off the hook and movies about what happened.” The 1995 movie “Dare to Love” followed this achievement.

DNA offers predictions

The DNA of patients with mental illness – or any other – can help doctors predict how they will respond to various medications, said Dr. Kevin Rosenblatt, a molecular biologist who conducted a workshop at the summit.

Rosenblatt is known for his work in developing biomarkers for the diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutics of various diseases. He is director of the clinical proteomics center and associate professor of molecular medicine at the University of Texas in Houston.

In his study of nine genes in nearly 2,000 patients, “we see so many variations,” he said. Add to that the complexity caused when people take many different medications.

“Once you get to that high number, drug-drug interactions increase,” he said. “Genetics can make that a problem.” More than 2 million adverse drug reactions have been reported annually, including more than 100,000 deaths. “Research has shown adverse drug reactions are actually under-reported,” he said. “It’s a significant public health issue.

“DNA testing can minimize the number of drugs patients are taking, can improve the safety of the drugs, improve the response and minimize the side effects,” said Rosenblatt, who belongs to congregations Beth Yeshurun and Emanu El in Houston. “The newest DNA markers don’t just rule out problems, but can also predict the positive effects of a drug,” keeping people out of hospitals and managing costs.

Benefits add up

There aren’t many times in medicine, he said, where the benefits line up for patients, doctors and insurance companies. The DNA markers “are good for all three.”

DNA testing can help researchers make drugs safer, Rosenblatt said, and help physicians predict side effects in patients.

With some drugs, especially anti-depressants, patients complain of weight gain. “Some of the newest biomarkers predict who’s going to have weight gain from which drug.

“We can give very specific drug recommendations in some cases, and even dosing recommendations,” Rosenblatt said. “We don’t tell physicians what to do, but they now have a roadmap to help them select medication for their patients, especially in psychiatry.”

DNA testing is not that expensive, he said. Besides drawing blood, the testing can be done by swabbing the inside of a person’s cheek. Insurance covers both procedure and testing, he said.





THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





"Highlights of the Connect With Connections Dinner"

Yvonne Oliver, UHCAN Ohio, N.E. Ohio Field Associate, enjoys the cocktail reception with Dr. Frederick Frese, III.  Both were presenters at the First Annual Cuyahoga County Mental Health Summit earlier in the day.
Dr. Shura Hegde and his wife, Vasanti, visit with Dr. Herbert Meltzer during the cocktail reception.
Edward and Roma Blunt
Charles & Maxine Rosenbaum
Nick Yen, Barbara Krasner & Emily Yen enjoy the cocktail reception.
Roma Blunt, Gina Deramus & Dr. Clarence Mixon
C. Ellen Connally, President of the Cuyahoga County Council visits with William Fikter, Medical Director and Jonathan Lee, President & CEO of Signature Health, Co-Sponsor of the First Annual Cuyahoga County Mental Health Summit, which took place earlier on Saturday.
Bill Denihan, CEO of ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County joins Esther Pla, President & CEO of Connections
Janice Lynch and Ken Stempinski
David Crawford with Joan & John Gill
Dr. Frederick J. Frese,III, Nancy Fitch, Dr. Herbert Y. Meltzer, and Maxine & Charles Rosenbaum.
Dr. Manuel Gordillo, Linda Johnson, Ruth Gordillo, Andrea Porter, Deb Johnson, Jennifer Ludwig
Dr. Mark Cheren, Dr. Kathleen Clegg, Jerome Johnson and Jennifer Johnson peruse the artwork on display during the cocktail reception.
Marilayne Liba and Mike DiMarco
Connections Board Member, Dave Lasecki and Ruth Lasecki with Bonnie & Angelo Ritson
Mark Johnson, Connections’ COO with Liz Johnson, with Mark Colella, Peer Support Specialist , Esther Pla, President & CEO and Jim Nagle, Connections CFO enjoy a moment to view the artwork on exhibit.
Barkus & Pamela Holmes, Connections’ Operations Director
Vonda Kinsley, Heidi & John Romanoski, Tricia & Daniel Calloway, Chris Messmer and Florence Binarci
Connections Board Members with Wayne Dawson.  From Left to Right:  David Lasecki, Dr. Miriam Rosenthal, Giovanni DiLalla, Molly Wright, Ethel Robitson, Wayne Dawson, Esther Pla, Joanne Cooke, David Kribel, Jeanette Brzoska.
Wayne Dawson, co-anchor of Fox 8 News in the Morning, seen weekdays from 5 to 10 a.m. was the Emcee of the Annual Dinner.  Wayne is also the host of "Neighborhood" -- a quarterly public-affairs program. Before teaming up with the morning crew, Wayne served as co-anchor of the weekend editions of Fox 8 News -- rated No. 1 for five consecutive years with Wayne behind the desk.
Ethel Robitson, Chair of the Board of Directors for Connections Health·Wellness·Advocacy recognized the Connections Board Members present and introduced the Keynote Speaker
The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Herbert Y. Meltzer, here with Ethel Robitson and Wayne Dawson received a plaque, which contained a copy of client’s artwork, expressing our thanks for his participation in Connections Annual Event.
C. Ellen Connally, Council President, accepts the Marthea Infield Service Excellence Award on behalf of the Cuyahoga County Council.  This award is presented annually to honor Marthea Infield, the Founder and first Executive Director of CIT, which became Northeast Ohio Health Services,  now known as Connections Health•Wellness•Advocacy. It was presented to the Council to recognize their additional allocation of money to fund Mental Health Services in the County.


Coping with a drug, mental health crisis? Cuyahoga County gets $1.8 million to help

People suffering from a drug abuse, alcohol abuse or a psychiatric episode may be moved to a special 72-hour observation unit coordinated by Cleveland hospitals and community agencies.

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Ohio Department of Mental Health announced Thursday that it will give Cuyahoga County $1.8 million to create an alternative treatment solution for people suffering from a psychiatric episode or substance abuse.

The short-term option, proposed by Cleveland's biggest hospitals and community providers, would move people out of emergency departments to a dedicated, 72-hour unit that is expected to provide better care and reduce costs.

"What we are attempting do here is to demonstrate whether there are positive budget and clinical outcomes that can occur," said Tracey Plouck, Ohio's mental health director. "Intuitively, we think the answer is yes."

Individuals arrive daily at local emergency rooms with psychotic-like symptoms, including being disoriented and confused, according to local health experts.

Emergency rooms are not only a costly way to provide treatment, but they usually release individuals after 23 hours, said Esther Pla, chief executive of Connections, a non-profit mental and behavioral health agency that helped create the proposal for state funding.

Additionally, emergency room doctors and nurses often don't have time to make an assessment, complete a drug screen and contact community agencies that may help the individual stay healthy, said Pla.

Yet, Pla said, the influx of individuals "is a huge problem." She estimated that up to 1,200 people could be helped annually.

Bill Denihan, chief executive of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, called the state funding "significant" and said he believed the unit would reduce the number of people sent to state mental health hospitals.

The 72 hours gives hospitals more time to evaluate a person, give them a more specific level of care and determine more accurately whether they should be admitted, sent to a state mental health hospital or to a community organization, Denihan said.

Connections, along with University Hospitals, The Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth System and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center will meet with state and county officials Friday to discuss how to spend the $1.8 million, and if a single unit could be located at one of the local hospitals.

"It's up to one of the hospitals to jump in and say they want it -- whichever hospital is willing to do it and feels that this is part of their mission," Pla said.

Published: Thursday, September 06, 2012, 9:30 PM Updated: Friday, September 07, 2012, 2:41 AM
Description: Sarah Jane Tribble, The Plain DealerBy Sarah Jane Tribble, The Plain Dealer


Connections: Health•Wellness•Advocacy in the Plain Dealer!

Agency offers immediate mental health help:

   We keep hearing about shortages of medical providers for Medicaid/Medicare patients ("Grant helps four programs link more providers to the poor, July 10"). A somewhat unknown, high quality, public community mental health center, Connections: Health, Wellness.Advocacy, in Be...achwood, is currently accepting Medicaid/Medicare walk-ins for immediate assistance.
   Readers might be supprised there are no waiting lists for services. Residents of Cuyahoga County, both adults and children, can receive psychiatric counseling and case management services quickly and efficiently. Our phone number is 216-831-6466, and there are also offices in Cleveland Heights and on West 25th Street.

Joseph Steiner
Steiner is a clinical psychologist at Connections:Health, Wellness.Advocacy


Connections: Health•Wellness•Advocacy- Kasich Administration allocates additional funds for the treatment of Mental Illnesses!


March 20, 2012

Dear Mental Health Provider, Consumer, Family Member, Advocate:

On March14th, the Kasich Administration added $3 million to funds already set aside for community mental health services in fiscal year 2013. The Governor, along with his team, have also allocated $10 million to be used for housing for individuals with mental illness, an area that is vital to successful treatment and recovery.
The additional $3 Million for the general fund will not fix the problems we face but it is the only “new” money given to a State Agency for community services. This is a clear sign of our Governor’s commitment to mental health service needs.
The additional money is appreciated. The Governor’s efforts extend beyond the allocation of these funds. The savings realized by the Office of Health Transformation from Medicaid reform, modernization of eligibility determination systems, changes with benefits for dual-eligibles, reduced hospitalizations and other expensive forms of care will be reinvested in the system, resulting in easier access of care.
In addition, in the Governor’s Mid-Biennium Review (MBR), there is significant effort placed on the elimination of barriers across Ohio’s health and human service agencies. This will be accomplished by authorizing the sharing of data among designated state agencies in support of cross-agency collaboration, in accordance with any requirements in federal law.
Lastly, ODMH is working to build projects that support innovation and collaboration in local and regional areas of the state; designated by targeted community “hot spots” that will provide the biggest impact in both service needs and fiscal benefit.
The staff at Connections:Health-Wellness-Advocacy is grateful to Governor Kasich for responding to the requests of the Mental Health Advocacy Groups in Ohio.

Esther Pla

c: The Honorable John R. Kasich

July 1, 2011 -> Connections employees wear a red shirt In Honor of Independence Day and our Armed Forces.  "They bleed red- so we wear red!"

Integrating Behavioral - Physical Health

Esther Pla, CEO of Connections Cleveland speaks to how the proposed reforms for Ohio's Medicaid system will help Ohio health providers coordinate the care of individuals with physical and behavioral health issues

Tele-health at Connections: Health·Wellness·Advocacy

Connections is the first community mental health agency in Cuyahoga County to move into the age of technology. To increase our ability to meet your psychiatric needs, Tele-health uses the technology of video conferencing to allow us to expand our staff of psychiatrists and available appointment times.
Tele-health - video conferencing for mental health What is tele-health? Just like using a video phone, the doctor is able to meet with you while still being able to interact 'face to face.' Your appointment is exactly the same as other psychiatric appointments but is conducted using a video link over our secure computer network. Our large, 24 inch screen allows you to easily interact with the doctor.
A favorite with her patients, Dr. Ibrahim has been with our agency since 2007 and though she moved to California last summer, she has returned to us now through telehealth with no wait to schedule immediate appointments.
For more information ask to speak with Sadie, or talk with your provider today.

Connections Awarded Contract for SCALE

The ADAMHSBCC awarded Connections a contract to lead the development and implementation of the Screening, Centralized Assessment, Level of Care Assignments and Engagement/Linkage to Treatment (SCALE) project. The SCALE Program began on January 3, 2011 and is for individuals 18 years of age or older, who are:
1) uninsured;
2) have proof of Cuyahoga County residency;
3) seeking mental health services; and
4) who are new to the community behavioral healthcare system.
The SCALE project was designed to:
1) develop a single point of contact for all uninsured adults entering the Cuyahoga County community mental health system; and
2) improve the use of limited non-Medicaid dollars.Moreover, the SCALE project will change the course of accessing behavioral health
care throughout Cuyahoga County. The SCALE project will also profoundly impact client success by:
1) removing key obstacles/barriers for clients to move from assessment to treatment;
2) reducing recidivism rate;
3) improving outcomes; and
4) ultimately, decreasing overall treatment cost.
SCALE Brochure