NCBHS in the News

Dec 18 2014

PRINCETON — With winter upon us, cold temperatures, shorter days and a dreary landscape are enough to make anyone feel a little bummed out from time to time. But if you can’t shake those winter blues, you might not be sad, you might have SAD or seasonal affective disorder.

SAD affects up to a half-million Americans each year, but the good news is there are options out there to manage the disorder.

What are the signs and symptoms of SAD?
Sarah Morscheiser, a clinician with North CentralBehavioral Health Systems says people with SAD report feeling depressed and having low energy. They may notice changes in their daily functioning such as irritability or hypersensitivity to stressful situations, along with tiredness, oversleeping or weight gain.

The American Psychiatric Association says these symptoms can be severe, but more usually mild or moderate. Some people affected with SAD may avoid social situations or suffer from a general lack of energy, sometimes with a feeling of heaviness in the arms and legs. 

So how do you tell the difference between depression and having SAD? Those suffering from SAD will see their symptoms subside in the spring and summer.

In short, it is believed SAD is caused by decreased exposure to sunlight. The APA says that the lack of sunlight may cause a disruption in the body’s internal clock. Additionally, more melatonin, a hormone that helps bring on sleep, is produced in the dark and has shown to be linked to SAD. Morscheiser also says less serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, is produced.

Who is most likely to be affected by SAD?
Morscheiser says anyone can be affected by it, but it is more common for those already diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. Due to the relationship between SAD and lack of sunlight, those living in the northern United States are more likely to be affected, though symptoms can come on even with prolonged exposure to cloudy weather, according to the APA. Women and young adults are more likely to be afflicted.

What are the treatments?
Treatment for SAD, as with many disorders, depends on the severity. For those with mild cases, the APA says simply taking long walks outside or spending time in front of a window every day are enough to ease symptoms. People with more severe forms may require light therapy which involves exposure to lights bright enough to affect brain chemistry. A person undergoing light therapy will sit in front of a special fluorescent light box or wear a light-fitted visor 30-90 minutes daily, usually in the morning to avoid additional sleep disruption.

Light therapy has been shown to bring about complete remission in symptoms in about 50 percent to 80 percent of people who use it, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness.

For those with the most severe cases, antidepressants and therapy may be needed to see a difference in symptoms.

What should someone do if they think they have SAD?
Morscheiser suggests starting with your doctor to rule out any other conditions. From this discussion, you can decide on a course of action for treatment. If you do experience symptoms every year, it is important to prepare for this time of year. Spring is too far away to wait to feel better.

Don't yield to SAD

Some additional tips offered by Terry Barnett-Martin, M.S. LMFT, for those affected with seasonal affective disorder or even those who just feel a case of the blahs this winter:

-  Get into the light whenever possible.
-  Exercise, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time. Exercise changes the chemistry of your brain and lifts your mood.
-  Say yes to things you really want to do, and avoid those that drain your energy. 
-  Try pet therapy; cats and dogs can have a calming effect and a therapeutic value in your life.
-  Build good relationship fences that connect you to the people in your life who make you feel good and protect you from those who drain your energy.
-  Eat plenty of fresh and healthy foods. Splurge on fresh fruits and veggies and moderate sugar and alcohol both of which can make you feel sluggish. 
-  Change up your routine, even if it’s just driving a different route to work or changing your bedtime, small changes can refresh you.

Aug 12 2014

Our Chief Clinical Officer, Diane Farrell spoke with AM1220 WLPO Jennifer Nagle about the symptoms of depression, following the tragic death of Robin Williams.

The Newstribune

Sep 27 2013

By Kevin Caufield and Tamara Abbey

NewsTribune Staff

Mendota resident Matthew Wallis has a long list of medical maladies. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and congenital heart failure all mix together to create a cocktail of poor health.

Wallis also is unemployed.

He volunteers at Nightengales Thrift Shop in Mendota to keep himself busy while looking for that elusive steady job that would offer him health insurance.

Meanwhile, he relies on free medication from the Trinity Health Care clinic in Mendota, but worries what might happen if he breaks an arm or worse.

“I’m hoping to find a job and get health insurance just like anyone else,” he said. “But I wonder what will happen to me if something really bad happens.”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes bold promises: Health care for the needy, lower prices through a government-regulated market and improved quality. But as the new law slowly trickles into existence, many are only now discovering its impact.

In the past, Wallis could simply walk into a hospital emergency room “if something bad happened.” The hospital would pick up the cost as “charity care.” And should that hospital spend enough on charity care cases in a given year, it would apply, and likely receive, property tax breaks. That means property taxpayers and hospitals ultimately end up footing the bill for the really poor.

On Oct. 1, people making less than the federal poverty line of about $11,000 annually can sign up for medical benefits on an insurance exchange and be covered by Medicaid as early as Jan. 1.

For Wallis — and millions of other poor Americans — that means he can still walk into a hospital to fix a broken arm, but after Jan. 1 he will be covered by Medicaid. Additionally, he won’t need to be as reliant upon neighborhood health clinics for the medication he uses to maintain his health conditions because the ACA requires all insurance plans to cover prescriptions.

This is just one of many of the ACA’s benefits.


Coverage requirements

The ACA imposes several coverage requirements on all health insurance plans. In the past, procedures such as colonoscopies and mammograms were only partially covered. And in order to limit their financial risk and keep premiums low, insurance companies had the choice to not cover people who had pre-existing conditions.

Now, “essential benefits” as defined by the law such as mandatory prescription drug coverage and a no-denial clause with some limitations are already helping people such as a family member of Bonnie Price. The family member denied to be interviewed, but Price was given permission to speak about his condition.

“My brother just had a (transient ischemic attack) and fortunately he has a very good retirement plan with good insurance,” said Price, co-director of Trinity Health Care clinic. “He was diagnosed on Monday and told to get an older drug called Agrinox. It’s $300 a month with no insurance; it’s $80 a month with insurance. Fortunately, he can afford it, but a lot of people couldn’t.”

Additionally, all insurance plans will cover at least one class of medication in every category. Insurance companies also will no longer be able to drop people when they get really sick or impose lifetime caps on coverage.

“A client of ours, her and her husband, who actually are paying out the nose for over $1,000 a month, they have a $5,000 deductible and they lack coverage for his pre-existing conditions,” said Kim Abel, co-director of Trinity Health Care clinic. “And, they’re our clients because, paying all that money, they’re underinsured.”

Trinity Health Care clinic offers evaluation and treatment to people who have nowhere else to turn. They also serve a large number of people who have insurance but cannot afford the co-pays, or can’t get their insurance companies to help them manage long-term health problems such as diabetes and asthma.

As more uninsured and underinsured people use the ACA to obtain health insurance, Abel said the clinic expects to lose a lot of patients, particularly those who are currently insured but still can’t afford the co-pays on vital medications.

“We don’t really know how we’ll be impacted but we may more and more fit a niche for people who can’t afford their medication,” Abel said.

Price added that even with the new insurance protections, medication costs could continue rising past what people can afford.

“We got this one drug that was going to cost a person $200 at the drug store for a month,” Price said. “One month — we can order 90 days for significantly less. This person could not afford one month. Fortunately we have samples that we can give out.”

Abel and Price said the clinic may change focus, but neither one sees an end to the need for affordable care even after the ACA is fully installed.


Mental health services

A law as massive as the ACA won’t be without a few “wrinkles,” said John Reinert, director of service planning and development for North Central Behavioral Health Systems in La Salle.

But those wrinkles aren’t enough to disguise a program that already is helping the uninsured and the underinsured, he said.

Earlier changes in the law enacted parity in mental health and substance abuse services covered by insurance plans. Reinert said if a plan offers mental health coverage, then it must be at the same rate as coverage for other medical services.

The biggest change will come when Medicaid expands to include those people who cannot currently afford insurance. Reinert said the state cut back on mental health services several years ago, which left many mentally ill people with no treatment except for what could be found in a hospital emergency room.

Expanding Medicaid through the ACA should give people with behavioral or mental health problems proper treatment with a doctor as opposed to the emergency room, Reinert said.

“That’s been the problem across the board, we’ve found when the program disappeared...we saw a spike in (emergency room) visits,” Reinert said. “I think it’s just like primary care, if people have access to (Medicaid) coverage, they’ll be less prone to use the ER across the board.”


Limiting premium costs

Reinert noted Medicaid expansion isn’t the only way to qualify for other medical cost savings.

“I think one thing from the insurance exchanges that was very positive is that for those individuals who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but they do qualify for the health insurance exchanges, they may qualify for premium tax credits,” he said.

For those shopping on the health insurance exchange, premium tax credits for those who qualify will automatically be built into the price of the plan.


Preventative, wellness care

The ACA already required insurers to provide preventative care last year. Wellness visits, cancer screenings, and tests for many other diseases are now covered at 100 percent for men and women, as long as they meet certain requirements. That coverage will expand to plans purchased on the exchanges.

“We cannot get our clients a colonoscopy,” Abel said. “We hope it will save money in the long run. All the research says prevention is better than trying to fix the problem after it’s there.”

In the meantime, Trinity Health Care clinic patients can get pap smears, mammograms and limited eye care through various state and charitable organizations but the availability is limited. Abel is looking forward to the exchanges opening, which will make it easier for individuals, families and older Americans to manage their own wellness.

Abel said Medicaid also is undergoing reform as part of the ACA, and its new provisions for prescription drugs should be beneficial for those who need them.

“I think most people would be very happy…” Abel explained. “Medicaid will help with the four most expensive drugs. It forces (the patient) to look at what is really needed.”


Getting answers

Reinert said he is assembling a list of health care counselors and navigators to assist people on how to sign up on the exchange. They will be available on the North Central Behavioral Health Systems website ( in early October. Other places that are expected to have counselors and navigators include Youth Service Bureau, county health departments, Tri-Counties Opportunities Council and area health clinics.

Wallis said he would be among the first people to sign up.

“Insurance will definitely help me,” Wallis said. “I still would rather have a job with benefits, but I’ll sign up for that exchange as soon as I can.”

Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or Tamara Abbey can be reached at (815) 539-5200 or

LaSalle, IL (July 2013)- In January of this year, President Obama called for the Mental Health First Aid training program, to help teachers and students recognize the signs of mental health disorders in young people and to assist in getting them the appropriate care. 

As one of the first providers of the adult version of Mental Health First Aid in Illinois, North Central Behavioral Health Systems has successfully been providing MHFA trainings since 2008.  Just this past month, NCBHS staff attended a training to become certified to teach the new Mental Health First Aid for Youth.    

The youth version of Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training program to help individuals identify mental health problems among young people ages 12-25, connect them with the care they need and safely deescalate any crisis situations.

Jul 22 2013

The course is designed for adults whom regularly interact with adolescents, but may also be appropriate for older adolescents (16 and older) so as to encourage youth peer to peer interaction. Anyone who regularly works or interacts with youth – teachers, athletic coaches, mentors, juvenile justice professionals – may find the course content useful. The core Mental Health First Aid course has been successfully offered to a variety of audiences including hospital staff, employers and business leaders, faith communities, law enforcement, and the general public.

The President and CEO of North Central Behavioral Health Systems, Don Miskowiec,

feels the youth version of MHFA would greatly benefit our community:

Our organization was one of the first seven community mental health systems in the United States to pilot the Mental Health First Aid in having trained six staff members as instructors.  In completing this added level of training our instructors will be able to further target Mental Health First Aid to those who work with youth in understanding mental health issues and identifying youth who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

NCBHS plans to provide their first Mental Health First Aid Training for Youth sometime this August.

For more information, call 815.223.0160 x5078.

The Ottawa Times

Oct 6 2012

Mental health is a growing social issue, and one service provider is hoping to educate the public about the potential of successful treatment.

Mental Health Awareness Week is Sunday, Oct. 7, through Sunday, Oct 14. North Central Behavioral Health Systems, which is based in La Salle and has offices in Ottawa and Streator, along with its operating division Health Directions, will offer information and free webinars about depression, anxiety and stress on and

Continue Reading...

The Newstribune

Oct 4 2012

Although not as easily treated as a cold or readily diagnosed as a broken bone, mental health illnesses can be as disruptive and painful as many other diseases.

“You can’t just fix it with a pill. So much of it is behavioral,” said John Reinert, director of service planning and development at North Central Behavioral Health Systems

With next week as Mental Health Awareness Week, local mental health professionals are hoping more people take mental health seriously and understand that it is a disease.

Continue Reading...

Jan 18 2012


          Health Directions Launches New Website for Community Education & Outreach Program

LaSalle, IL (January 2012)-North Central Behavioral Health Systems, a nonprofit provider of mental health and substance use services in Central and North Central Illinois, announces the launch of its Health Directions Emotional Health and Wellness website.

The new website, developed as part of North Central’s Community Education and Outreach Program includes a large number of mental health resources for those seeking information about mental health related topics The website’s Resource Library section contains articles, books, videos and other information surrounding anxiety, depression, wellness, stress management, and many more emotional health and wellness topics.  The site also offers educational online webinarsto the public on a monthly basis.  Webinars topics range from stress, anxiety, and substance use issues, to caregiver and parenting information and tips.

Mental Health Weekly

Jan 9 2012

A telehealth initiative that began as an effort to improve access to care for some rural residents served by North Central Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. in Illinois, has evolved into meeting numerous other goals for the community mental health organization and its clients.


May 5 2011

If you need mental health counseling but you can’t visit a therapist in person, there’s an online option now. North Central Behavioral Health Systems is offering it through its Health Directions Division. Director Roger Miskell says you can see the same therapists via web cam and get the same treatment as you would face to face.


Apr 11 2011

An estimated one in four adults could be diagnosed with a mental health issue. Sometimes they’re related to anxiety, stress, marital issues, depression or substance use. Most go untreated, in part due to the stigma of admitting problems.
A new counseling tool now in use at Health Directions in La Salle may change that.

Free Webinars

We have a growing library of free online webinars with many different topics ranging from anxiety and stress management to substance use and parenting tips.

View Webinar Library




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