Scott Constantini works to ensure that patients receive treatment for mental health and addiction issues as well as physical needs. Many patients he sees are struggling with multiple biopsychosocial issues, and a majority of the issues can now be identified and addressed under one roof. This is particularly important for individuals who struggle with barriers to care such as transportation, housing and finances.
Describe your role as the Director of Behavioral Health at The Wright Center for Community Health: I evaluate which services our patients need from a behavioral health standpoint and I work closely with our executive team to develop internal systems to address patients’ needs. As we develop an internal behavioral health service line I will be responsible for continuing to build and expand it and also ensure our patients are receiving quality care. I will ensure that our team follows patients who are also referred for services outside of the practice. This will provide patients with a supportive continuum of care rather than being referred and forgotten.
What strategies are you developing to work with patients struggling with mental health issues and addiction? Currently, we have a social work department that addresses concerns that are identified within the practice. For instance, if a patient is seen by primary care for a well check or physical illness, they are screened for underlying mental health and substance abuse issues regardless of what issue they present with. This opens discussion with their provider who can then make a referral or immediately have our licensed social workers meet with the patient and address these issues. Social workers also provide therapy for individuals who are not receiving primary care services within our agency who may be self-referred, referred by another provider in the community or their insurance provider.
Do struggles with depression/addiction become more profound during the holiday season? The holidays, although exciting and comforting to many, can be a time of loneliness and emotional torment for others. This time of year triggers individuals to reflect on loss, financial stressors and the expectations to “do it all.” This can be even more challenging for individuals who suffer with Seasonal Depression and substance abuse issues.
How can family members offer support to those struggling with mental health or addiction, particularly around the holiday season? Encourage family and friends to remind the individual that they are available for support. Be aware of excessive drinking and isolation. Individuals who are suffering with emotional issues around the holidays could benefit from being reminded that they have a support system, do not have to sacrifice their health and wellbeing in an effort to create a “perfect” atmosphere for others. Self-care is something that should be encouraged and this can be done by taking time to be present in the moment and allowing yourself to fully experience what is happening around you. An example of this could be taking a break from busy stores and walking through your neighborhood to see decorations, sipping hot chocolate or watching falling leaves or snow.
What are common misconceptions surrounding addiction and problems with mental health? There are many misconceptions around both mental illness and addiction. Some that I have encountered during my career include, “Individuals with mental illness are ‘just making excuses’ or ‘seeking attention’ and can just stop whenever they choose.” We don’t ask someone who has dementia to simply choose not to have it or assume they are making excuses! Other misconceptions are that individuals with mental health and/or addiction are unable to live happy and successful lives. Unfortunately, it is not the illness that creates a barrier for an individual with mental health/addiction to live a happy and successful life. Rather it is the stigma of mental health and addiction that results in individuals not seeking out care or minimizing the issues long enough to make it much more difficult to recover.
What do you believe is your greatest contribution in your field? Honestly, to be given the opportunity to help those who are in need and see a patient climb out of the darkness they were once in. Knowing that I can be part of helping individuals believe that there is hope in recovery is what keeps me invested in this work.
Goals for the future? My goal is to continue to work on a healthy/work life balance. This is the main ingredient in what I believe will result in a healthy, positive and patient-centered behavioral health team. If I can keep myself healthy I can be more present and available to others. My goal is to create a working environment that is free of burn out, frequent turn over and clinicians who eventually become resentful of the work they do.
How has behavioral health treatment improved? I think it has improved in many ways, but with the current opiate crisis we face on a national level we have to be more proactive instead of reactive. We really have a major challenge ahead of us and it is going to take a community made up of families, the education system, criminal justice system, politicians, mental health/addiction providers and physical health providers to come together to fight this battle. The old-school belief that this is “someone else’s problem or not my job” is beginning to change. There is more buy-in to the belief that it takes a village working together to implement and sustain change.
Advice for students hoping to go into behavior health? Allow yourself to gain experience practicing and learning in various environments with different populations. This is the best way to gain an understanding of how systems within your community can work together to effectively help others.
Favorite place in Northeast PA? I truly love everything about Northeast PA, especially spending the day fishing on Lake Wallenpaupack in the fall.
Favorite quote? Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. -Marcus Aurelius
Family: Wife, Gina Constantini and daughter, Alivia.
Education: Valley View H.S. & Penn State University