Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Letters to the Editor

Healthcare Decisions Day
What would happen if you were in a serious automobile accident or suffered a stroke or other sudden health emergency and could not speak for yourself? Would your family and doctors know what kind of medical treatment you’d want to receive? Would they be making the difficult decisions for you? If it is up to your family, would everyone agree on what’s best?
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. As the hospice provider for the four Lower Shore counties, we are intimately aware of how important it is for everyone to express their healthcare wishes before a crisis occurs.
Everyone has a different idea about how they want to be treated during a medical emergency. Advance directives document your individual wishes and values, and are the key to supporting you and your family in receiving humane, personalized healthcare.
It isn’t an easy conversation to have, and too many of us think we don’t need to talk about these questions yet. But, advance directives are not just for the elderly. They are important for people of all ages, because a healthcare crisis can occur at any time.
At the same moment when critical decisions must be made, you may be unable to communicate just how far you want the medical care to go. These decisions determine your quality of life. Without an advance directive, that pressure falls on your family to agree on what course of action to take.
By completing an advance directive, you can prevent a stressful and often painful situation for your family. You are giving them a gift by removing that burden. An advance directive is a simple way to let everyone — family, doctors, hospitals, emergency responders — know how you want to be treated when you are ill or injured.
The forms are free, legal and straightforward. You can download one from the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland ( You’ll need someone to witness your signature, so we recommend taking that opportunity to review the form closely with that person. Take a minute to talk over the choices you’re making. Then, let your family know how to find your advance directive, give a copy to your doctor, and take one with you if you go to the hospital.
Coastal Hospice is also offering free seminars on advance care planning in April, through Ocean Pines Recreation and Parks. The seminars will take place on Tuesday, April 12 from 7-8 p.m., and on Thursday, April 21 from 10-11 a.m. in the Ocean Pines Community Center. Reservations are suggested by calling Ocean Pines at 410-641-7052. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Alane Capen
Coastal Hospice & Palliative Care
Mental health care progress
National attitudes toward mental health are shifting, a report co-sponsored by three mental health and suicide prevention organizations concludes. The stigma surrounding seeking care for behavioral disorders is lessening, most Americans value mental and physical health equally, and the vast majority of survey respondents thought that suicide was nearly always preventable.
This is good news on many fronts, and has implications for those of us who call the lower Eastern Shore home. As more people feel comfortable asking for professional help for mental health challenges, demand for therapists, clinicians and doctors will grow. Local medical and therapeutic communities, and outreach and education organizations, have already begun to address this welcome change of attitude.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention joined forces to survey Americans, ages 18 and older, in a study launched last August. While the suicide rate in America has climbed 20 percent since 1999, 94 percent of those who responded thought that early diagnosis and treatment for mental illness could prevent suicides.
Young Americans, in particular, believed that turning to a mental health professional in times of stress was a sign of personal strength.
A partnership of local health departments, nonprofit suicide prevention and crisis response groups, counseling services, schools and hospitals launched the “Mental Health: Know the Facts, No Stigma” campaign in 2015. That partnership continues to spread the mission that there is nothing shameful about seeking help for mental illness. The campaign follows years of efforts to improve access to mental health services on the lower shore.
Gaps in service remain, of course, and barriers to access mental health care – some the result simply of geography, others erected by insurers that fail to honor the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 – persist. The study pointed out that there is a need for more “trained mental health professionals, proper facilities and first-response support.” In Worcester County, a tele-psychiatry arrangement with Sheppard-Pratt Hospital, created by the health department, has increased care available to residents.
In 2005, the Worcester County Health Department was instrumental in partnering with Atlantic General Hospital to add a psychiatrist to the staffs of both agencies. The same health department, through its Crisis Intervention Team, has enabled countless first responders to deal with mental health crises sensitively, defusing potentially dangerous situations and enhancing the safety of patients, their families, and the responders.
At the Peninsula Regional Medical Center, the Behavioral Health Campaign is working to expand the number of adult inpatient beds. PRMC has also entered into an agreement with Adventist Health Care Behavioral Health & Wellness Service, which will provide three child psychiatrists onsite.
Somerset County recently received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that places a full-time, behavioral health therapist in the county’s public schools. This comes in recognition of the fact that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for adolescents nationwide.
Nonprofit agencies like the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund and Salisbury’s Life Crisis Center have expanded classes in suicide prevention and mental health first aid.
Ronald Pilling,
The Jesse Klump Memorial Fund