COVID-19 Induced Insomnia

COVID-19 induced insomnia is just one of the physical and psychological effects taking place during this global pandemic.

Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of LSF Health Systems and clinical psychologist, talks about how much life has changed during this unprecedented time and how anxiety is rising since COVID-19 has spread globally.

Dr. Cauffield describes that people are reporting an increase in anxiety and fears related to uncertainty. Those feelings often translate to sleep disturbances. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep disturbances are characterized by abnormal sleep patterns that interfere with physical, mental, and emotional functioning. Stress or anxiety can cause a serious sleepless night.

While Anxiety is a necessary response to stress that manifests, Dr. Cauffield reminds us there are two different ways—normal anxiety, which occurs usually in response to an immediate threat, and pathological anxiety, where the threat is not obvious or immediate. Either kind can cause sleep disruption.

The National Institutes of Health says that in anxiety disorders, the individual is submitted to false alarms that may be intense, frequent, or even continuous. These false alarms may lead to a state of dysfunctional arousal that often leads to persistent sleep-wake difficulties.

Financial fears may keep you up at night or concerns about the welfare of workers across the world. You may be worrying about getting infected or having a loved one get sick, or you may become obsessed with symptoms related to the virus, even if they are minor. Anxiety-related sleep disturbances include bad dreams and difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. And experiencing sleep deprivation is particularly scary during this time because disordered sleep can cause a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to the virus.

Dr. Cauffield explains the importance during this time that people are extra vigilant about their behavior. And that while people are in a quest for sleep, it’s possible to become counterproductive. She recommends these strategies:

  • Avoid sleeping in. For those working from home or sheltering in place, it may be tempting to stay in bed longer than usual, but it’s not conducive to a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  • Don’t fear the bed. If you’re anxious to begin with, the health crisis may make you especially anxious about getting enough sleep. Learn to think as if you don’t have a sleep problem. The bed is not your enemy.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep-wake routine. Keeping a regular schedule for bed and wake time has been shown to help stabilize sleep patterns, a necessity in warding off anxiety.
  • Don’t use alcohol to fall asleep. This is a self-medication strategy that might seem like a good idea but may instead have negative long-term consequences such as sleep fragmentation and daytime impairments
  • Take work out of the bedroom. Now that people are working at home, it’s important to maintain a routine. Set up a separate workstation in your home. Keep work and sleep separate.
  • Stay physically active. When you’re stuck at home, it can be a challenge to exercise. Given the difficulties of working out in a small space and without familiar equipment or routines, it’s important to find ways to be physically active.
  • Plan your day. Try to keep things as they were before the threat of COVID-19. Get dressed. Connect with friends, write letters, and check on neighbors.
  • Don’t catastrophize your sleep disorder. There’s enough catastrophe outside your head. Of course, worries about the health cost of a chronic insomnia or another sleep disorder is natural. But it doesn’t help to panic over a couple nights of lost sleep.

Dr. Cauffield also shares insight on how journaling can be a powerful tool used to combat anxiety, sleeplessness, and help with other aspects of managing mental health during this crisis. She explains there have been numerous studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of journaling for health, happiness, and stress management. Add a journaling habit to your life, whether you journal daily, weekly, or on an as-needed basis when stress gets to be too intense.

LSF Health Systems works with several partner organizations that can provide help for people in need of mental health care.

If you have concerns, call our crisis line at any time at 1-877-229-9098.


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Connecting in a Time of Isolation

“Socially distancing doesn’t mean we are emotionally distancing.”

Many, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have raised concern about the long-term effects of isolation across all ages. Specifically, concerns have been raised about the potential for increased suicides. Suicide prevention experts say it’s reasonable to think the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to increased suicide risk for certain populations. CEO of LSF Health Systems and clinical psychologist, Dr. Christine Cauffield shares how important it is to find balance as a community in protecting the spread of the virus but also having an enhanced focus on mental health.

Dr. Cauffield explains that increased isolation can be a trigger for those already struggling with mental health problems, but she says there is hope in connection. And to remember that just because we are socially distancing doesn’t mean we are emotionally distancing.

While facing COVID-19, she reminds us that it’s important to get creative with how we communicate and show support to one another. Connection is key to combating isolation, and thankfully, we live in a day and age where there are more ways to connect than ever before. Dr. Cauffield believes people who receive support – even virtual support – from caring friends and family, and those who have access to mental health services are much less likely to act on their suicidal impulses.

The easiest way to check in on someone who you think may be struggling is to pick up the phone – whether it’s a traditional call or a video chat. Try setting up regular calls with your loved ones so that they have a time to look forward to connecting with you every day. This is also a key time to gauge their mindset and behavior and potentially ask some of those more difficult questions.

Another way to connect, is sending a meal to someone’s doorstep. While you may not be able to go out to a restaurant together, a surprise meal delivery may brighten someone’s day and it also expresses love and concern. The CDC says it does not believe the virus can spread through food but ensure the driver and your loved one take appropriate precautions and employ contactless delivery if possible.

Dr. Cauffield shares warning signs that a loved one may be thinking about suicide and adds that during this challenging time, it’s important to be in tune with any concerning behavioral changes.

Signs a loved one may be thinking about suicide:

  • Extreme or unusual agitation or calm
  • Withdrawal
  • Excessive drinking or drug use
  • Talking about wanting to end their lives
  • Saying goodbye to others
  • Giving away belongings

If you feel a loved one is suicidal, Dr. Cauffield says to start a conversation expressing concern and asking questions. It’s important to remember that talking about suicide does not cause someone to take their life. You can be sensitive, but also direct by asking:

  • How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?
  • Do you ever feel like just giving up?
  • Are you thinking about dying?
  • Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
  • Are you thinking about suicide?
  • Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?

If you find yourself struggling with suicidal thoughts, give yourself some distance between thoughts and actions.

  • Make a promise to yourself, “I will wait 24 hours, or one week, and I won’t do anything drastic during that time.”
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Suicidal thoughts can become even stronger when you take drugs or drink.
  • Make your home safe. Remove things you can use to hurt yourself such as pills, knives and firearms.
  • Share your feelings with someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. Don’t let fear or shame prevent you from seeking help. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.







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Social distancing and Alcohol/substance abuse

The mounting stress from self-isolation and social distancing — combined with the recent announcement that Florida bars and night clubs will be closed for 30 days — has many experts concerned about a potential spike in alcohol and substance abuse.

Research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that alcohol consumption typically increases dramatically during and after catastrophic events like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina.

Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of LSF Health Systems and clinical psychologist, shares her concerns that the coronavirus could trigger a similar uptick in alcohol use disorders as well as share signs that you or a loved one may be consuming alcohol at unhealthy levels.

The connection between an increase in drinking and drug use following national catastrophes:

    • Very similar to the links we’ve seen between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans and drug abuse, studies show a significant link between Alcohol Use Disorder and disasters — both natural and man-made.
    • More families are working from home and balancing homeschooling and related childcare issues, which has the potential to increase stress levels even further. Not to mention the financial stresses this may put on local families.
    • All these factors can increase stressors and lead those prone to alcoholism or drug abuse to lean more heavily on those substances.
    • State officials made the decision to close bars and nightclubs for 30 days. This may limit alcohol consumption among social drinkers, but those with tendencies related to alcohol and drug abuse may become even more vulnerable.
    • For these individuals, drinking at home — often alone — can be even more dangerous than drinking at a bar or nightclub. That’s because bartenders and waitresses are trained to stop patrons from drinking too much.
    • Drinking alone at home is also often associated with depression and other related problems.

The body reacts to stress and alcohol can compound that stress:

    • Physically, when the body is challenged by stressful events, it responds by shifting normal metabolic processes into high gear. The brain directs key changes in the levels of hormones in the body.
    • These changes target specific organs, preparing the body to fight stress factors.
    • The hormone cortisol increases available energy by increasing blood sugar levels and mobilizing fat and protein metabolism to help the body respond quickly and efficiently to whatever is stressing it out.
    • Heavy drug and alcohol use exacerbate the hormone imbalances and impact how the body responds to stress. It can create a vicious downward spiral.

If your drinking, or the drinking of someone you know, shows signs of becoming a problem?

There are many organizations in our area that offer help to those fighting alcohol or drug use problems. If you prefer to try self-help strategies before you take the step of seeking professional help, there are many proven strategies.

    • Keep track of how much you drink. Find ways that work for you. Make check marks on a kitchen calendar or enter notes in a mobile phone notepad.
    • Find alternatives. If drinking occupies a lot of your time, then fill that time by developing new, healthy activities, hobbies, and relationships.
    • Avoid “triggers.” If certain people or places make you drink even when you don’t want to, avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan something else to do instead of drinking.
    • Know your “no.” You’re likely to be offered a drink at times when you don’t want one – even at home. Have a polite, convincing “no, thanks” ready. The faster you can say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in.

LSF Health Systems works with several partner organizations in Northeast Florida that can provide help for people in need of mental healthcare and substance or alcohol abuse issues.

Call our crisis line at any time at 1-877-229-9098 

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Sarasota veteran gets a surprise of a lifetime

“This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever had.” Jay, a Vietnam veteran born and raised in Sarasota, said as he put his feet up on his new couch. “I just can’t believe anyone would do this for me!”

Today is moving day for Jay, a Vietnam Veteran born and raised in Sarasota suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). LSF Adult Advocacy Services has handled Jay’s finances for nearly 20 years. He was living in deplorable conditions for some time, but wouldn’t move because of anxiety and triggers from his PTSD. He is also legally blind and did not want to leave his current trailer park because it is familiar to him with his limited eye sight.

LSF employees Tammy and Renee wouldn’t give up on Jay. They convinced him now was the time. The two women found a newer, cleaner mobile home in the same park then got busy finding local donors, nonprofits and businesses to make this Jay’s very own home.

Thanks to Heroes Welcome Home, Shelby Estate Sales, Wal-Mart, Knights of Columbus, Tom Latronica, Sarasota Senior Advocacy Council, Debbie Cole, Community Resources Council, Sarasota County Aging Network, Manatee Habitat for Humanity Jessup’s Appliances and many others, this has now become a reality!

Today was certainly a day of celebration. Jay’s former mobile home was about 100 sq feet with no air conditioner. It was so small and cluttered that he literally had to shimmy around furniture to move from the kitchen to the bedroom. His new mobile home is a sprawling 1000 sq feet with an outside patio decked out with furniture. A place for him to relax in the fresh air.

“This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever had,” Jay said as he put his feet up on his new couch.

“I just can’t believe anyone would do this for me,” Jay exclaimed!

Every time someone new showed up to install appliances, set up cable or bring food, you would hear, “Tammy!” That’s Jay yelling for the one person in the world he trusts – his Case Manager.

“He doesn’t understand the enormity of the fact that this home and everything in it is his. He owns it,” said Renee, Community Liaison for LSF in Sarasota.

A New beginning

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LSF Health Systems Developing a New Weapon to Combat Florida’s Opioid Epidemic

A powerful new weapon is emerging in the fight against the opioid epidemic in Florida.

It’s not a new overdose antidote, treatment therapy or zero tolerance law. It’s people who have experienced drug addiction or mental illness now trained and certified to help others recover, and it’s a game-changing movement for those on the frontlines of this deadly battle, said Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of LSF Health Systems, one of the state’s largest networks of behavioral healthcare providers.

“The early success we’ve seen in recent pilot programs has convinced us that certified peer recovery specialists could finally give us the upper hand against this devastating epidemic,” Cauffield said.

LSFHS has been working with Jacksonville-based Gateway Community Services and Ascension St. Vincent’s on Project Save Lives – a pilot program using certified peer recovery specialists as part of integrated emergency room teams. The tremendous success of the pilot has led to plans for expansion into other hospitals in Northeast and North Central Florida.

The Florida Legislature this month passed legislation that could greatly expand the use of certified peer recovery specialists in part by eliminating background screening barriers for peer specialist needed in hospitals and treatment centers. The bill, which is awaiting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature, also authorizes the Florida Department of Children and Families to manage the credentialing and certification processes for peer recovery specialists.

These changes are crucial, said Danielle Rice, a certified peer recovery specialist who completed LSF Health Systems’ Certified Recovery Peer Specialist (CRPS) training program last June and now works with individuals recovering from addiction.

“If certified peer recovery specialists, clinicians, hospitals, jails, substance abuse professionals and mental health facilities all learn to work as a system, the sky is the limit for recovery programs,” Rice said. “It’s a powerhouse for mental wellness, to have support from all angles, that will raise individuals’ chances for recovery to remarkable levels.”

The certified peer recovery specialist concept dates back to the 1960s anti-psychiatry movement in the mental health field. It’s widespread use in substance abuse treatment began in the mid 2000s when the federal government called for a transformation of the existing system.

Despite extensive clinical research showing peer support specialists provide a path to lower relapse rates, decreased psychotic symptoms and reduced hospitalization rates, earlier pushes for peer recovery specialists in states like Florida faded as those trained in the field could not find employment.

“There were thousands of certified peer recovery specialists in 2007, but by 2011 the number had dropped to a couple hundred,” said Rice who first became a certified peer recovery specialist in 2008. “The problem was that you couldn’t get work if you had a felony on your record, no matter how long ago that offense was.”

Unsurprisingly, there were few people with real-life drug addiction experience who had no felony convictions. That catch-22, which doomed past peer specialist movements, has begun to change. And Stevenson’s pending legislation would be a huge step forward for certified peer recovery specialists in Florida, Cauffield said.

Another roadblock that is changing relates to the inconsistent credentialing for peer recovery specialists from state to state. A 2016 national study by the University of Texas found that 41 states have programs to certify peer recovery specialists. However, each state’s criteria vary.

To become certified in Florida requires a high school diploma, attestation of lived experience, 40 hours of training, 500 hours of supervised work or volunteer experience providing peer-to-peer recovery support services, and letters of recommendation — as well as passing the Florida Certified Recovery Peer Specialist Exam. A recent review from the federal Government Accountability Office highlights that as the demand for peer recovery specialists grows there is a need for “increased attention to standardizing the competencies of peer specialists through certification.”

To help meet this growing need, LSF won a 2016 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to develop a CPRS training program at Jacksonville University. The first class of 52 certified peer recovery specialists graduated last year. The course, now in its second year, provides participants with the state-required training, testing and 500 hours of experience providing peer support services. The grant provides funding to train up to 70 peer specialists a year for the next three years, which will greatly address the dearth of peer specialist in Florida.

Through the Project Save Lives pilot program, LSF’s state-certified peer recovery specialists work alongside emergency room doctors and nurses and then serve as advocates for patients as they progress through treatment programs. When overdose patients arrive in ERs, once they are stabilized, they meet with a certified peer recovery specialist who advises them through their withdrawal and recovery if they accept the assistance. The results have been impressive, said Christi Smith, MSN, RN, nurse manager of the emergency department at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside

“Our emergency room at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside was the first in the area to use certified peer recovery specialists as part of Project Save Lives,” Smith said. “They provide our nurses and physicians with a valuable new service that helps us provide compassionate, personalized care to patients who have overdosed and need treatment.”

Rice, who now teaches for LSF Health Systems’ CPRS program, said she knows better than most the value that certified peer recovery specialists offer in initial consultations and ongoing therapy for drug addicts and overdose patients.

“I know that in my case, I had no respect for the medical professionals because of my history with psychologists,” Rice said. “They were giving me homework to do, but they didn’t understand what I was going through. I’d be Baker Acted, I’d lie, and they’d send me home. Then I’d just lose it all over again.”

The conversations between addicts and certified peer recovery specialists are very different, Rice said. “They need someone who really knows what they are going through, who can relate and advocate for them,” she said. “They need someone they can call 24/7 when they can’t get in touch with a doctor or psychiatrist. That’s what the certified peer recovery specialist provides – not a friend, but an advocate.”

LSF believes its CPRS program is ready to expand to more hospitals and areas of the state in order to meet a tremendous growing demand in the mental health and substance abuse areas, Cauffield said. The training curriculum LSF developed has been approved by Florida’s Certification Board. The pilot project is expanding to Baptist, UF Shands and Flagler hospitals. And the certification program is coming to Volusia and Orange counties.

This expansion is happening thanks in large part to recent changes in attitudes among Florida’s medical and mental healthcare professions. In 2008, some physicians and psychiatrists saw peer recovery specialists as a threat or a potential interference, Rice said. That view is evolving.

“Times are starting to change, but we’re still not 100 percent understood,” she said. “A lot of clinicians still feel threatened, but an increasing number of them are now opening the door to letting peer specialists come in and do our jobs.”

That trend is why LSF Health Systems and its parent organization, Lutheran Services Florida, see the CPRS as a true game-changer in Florida’s fight against the opioid epidemic, said Sam Sipes, CEO of Lutheran Services Florida.

“We have an important destination, and we can only get there by creating innovations driven from our organization’s mission, vision and values,” Sipes said. “Expanding this program will reach more clients and help answer their prayers. That’s why it’s important.”

LSF Health Systems is a division of Lutheran Services Florida, a statewide non-profit organization transforming lives by ensuring safe children, strong families and vibrant communities since 1982. Read more about both organizations at

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Preventing the Financial Exploitation of Seniors

A success story

Financial exploitation is the leading form of elder abuse and thrives through silence.

*Mary had $250,000 in a trust, a pack a day smoking habit and an incapacitated mind. She was living in an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) that was charging $4,000 a month and staff were using her ATM card to make frivolous purchases. Stopping financial exploitation of the elderly is hardly easy, but a traveling nurse visiting the ALF did something that changed Mary’s life.

When this traveling nurse walked in on a meeting with a relator, investor and ALF staff member who were coaxing Mary to sign over her condo – for much less than the value – she immediately called LSF Sarasota Guardianship for help.

Our staff were able to step in and protect her dwindling finances. $25,000 was left after leaving the ALF. We were able to sell her condo for a good price and put the money into a guardianship trust. Mary has cut back on her smoking drastically and most amazingly she has been able to nearly walk across the room, the first time she has taken steps in five years.

While exact numbers are hard to come by, a recent study estimated that 2.9 billion dollars each year are exploited from older Americans and 10 cases of elder financial exploitation go unreported for each case reported.

*Name changed to protect the rights of our client

About Guardianship

At any given time, there are men and women, across the state of Florida, whose lives are in jeopardy because they are unable to care for themselves. People who can’t care for themselves and have nowhere else to turn would be left with no hope without Lutheran Services Florida’s (LSF) Guardianship services.

LSF Guardianship program focuses on three areas:

Protection – stepping in to protect the individual from potential abuse neglect or exploitation by completing an initial assessment to determine care needs and protect the person, property and assets

Coordination – promptly applying for benefits, coordinating services, overseeing care plans, medical appointments and any necessary treatments plans.  All efforts are made to adhere to the ward’s wishes and support the least restrictive safe environment.

Advocacy – Educate the ward, their family and the community about guardianship and the alternatives. This includes facilitating the Family Guardianship Course in partnership with SCF twice a year, and providing community education to individuals and groups.

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Love Truly Has No Age 

Valentine's Day Seniors
Valentine's Day Seniors

Valentine’s Day is not only a day to celebrate romantic relationships, but all friendships and connections that bring you joy. While you are making preparations to pamper your loved ones this year, don’t forget about the seniors in your life. Valentine’s Day can bring mixed emotions for many, including seniors who no longer have their partner by their side. Whether its grandparents, friends or mentors, make some time to share your love and appreciation.  Here are some quick ways to make this day special for seniors: 

    • Bring dinner: This simple act can boost morale and bring happiness together with food.  
    • Write a hand-written letter: Writing a letter will not only make someone feel good, but they will keep it forever. 
  • Make Valentine’s Day decorations: Surprise your loved one with decorating their space into a Valentine’s Day wonderland.  

LSF’s Guardianship program focuses on protection, coordination, and advocacy. For over 25 years, LSF has provided guardianship services for people who are unable to care for themselves. Guardianship services include assessment and overall case management, 24-hour on-call availability, ensuring safe living conditions, and much more. LSF’s guardianship program provides caring relationships to ones in need.  

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Spring Cleaning Tips (For Seniors)

Kathleen Houseweart, MBA
Director, Lutheran Services Florida Sarasota Guardianship Program

Spring is the traditional time for cleaning. Many of us take time to clean out closets, clean up the
yard, and deep clean our homes, all in preparation for spring. For older adults, downsizing our
living space and reducing the number of possessions can be an inevitable part of aging. Yet
studies suggest that while most seniors agree that they have too much stuff, most have made little
effort to give away possessions within the last 12 months.

Downsizing can be particularly difficult, especially if we have held on to things in hopes of
leaving them to children or grandchildren. Most senior move specialists advise that in many
cases, children and grandchildren are not interested in keeping most of the keepsakes that mean
so much to many of us. For many of them, they just don’t have the room, for others, they do not
have a permanent place to store them. In short, when you are gone, those items that you have
held on to for so long will be sold or donated to a local charity. A better option might be to plan
ahead. Here are some easy steps

  • Ask your children and grandchildren what keepsakes they might want. Keep those items
    for them, or better yet, give them to your family now to enjoy.
  • Look around and see what is “in the way” and make arrangements to sell or donate or gift
    to someone who can use it.
  • Honestly ask yourself what you no longer need, or have not used on over a year and let it

Cleaning out can make your life and your home less cluttered now, and in the long run, is a gift
to your loved ones.


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LSF Health Systems Participates in the 2017 European Community-Based Mental Health Services (EuCoMS) Conference

On January 15-17, 2017, I was privileged to attend, on behalf of LSF Health Systems, the second European Community-Based Mental Health Services (EuCoMS) Network conference, which took place in Belfast, Ireland. It was my honor to showcase our team’s incredible work to the EuCom group. The purpose of the meeting was to advance EuCom’s goal of implementing community-based care as the main system of care for Europe. Presently, European countries’ primary mode of treatment for mental health issues is inpatient psychiatric care. The system is driven by psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses. Psychiatrists are incentivized for filling inpatient beds and are, therefore, resistant to shifting to a community-based system of care.

The meeting was attended by 14 European countries and 32 provider organizations. The countries present were the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Moldova, Northern Ireland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Romania, Croatia -and the USA! They are eager to learn more about our community-based system of care as they work to identify and implement innovative, best-practice models of outpatient programs. The group has developed two draft documents to date: A Shared Value proclamation and a Consensus paper (attached). Final drafts will be drawn up for the next meeting, which is scheduled for September 2017.

The meeting began with a reception at a provider’s headquarters in Belfast on Sunday. The next three days were filled with developing the Shared Value proclamation and Consensus paper, participating in presentations and tours of three programs in Northern Ireland. We also attended two riveting workshops on trauma recovery/complex and PTSD issues presented by a Clinical Psychologist in Belfast who is administering a PTSD Recovery Clinic as well as a Psychiatrist in Croatia who runs groups for individuals suffering from PTSD post atrocities in Croatia.

The highlight of the trip was a visit from Chancellor Brian Kingston, Lord Mayor of Belfast. He offered his support to the group for their efforts to focus on Community-Based Care. I was then asked to meet with Chancellor Brian Kingston; Dr. Rene Keet, lead organizer for EuCoMS (The Netherlands); Dr. Peter McBride, CEO of Inspire Mental Health (Belfast); and Dr. Hugh McKenna, Dean of Medical School, Ulster University (Belfast) to discuss the high rate of suicide in Northern Ireland (the highest of all European countries), PTSD crisis, as well as plans for transforming their current system of care. They were very interested in the work we are doing with the FL LINC project, our trauma-informed collaborative, and our many innovative, community-based services. I thank you for the honor of representing LSF Health Systems in helping other communities implement behavioral health best practices on an international basis.

Dr. Christine Cauffield
Vice President, LSF Health Systems

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Finding Protection after being Exploited and Abused

“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. For some, it’s a lighthearted, playful commercial from Life Alert. For others, it’s a frightening reminder of the daily dangers faced by the elderly—dangers that go far beyond a simple fall.

For Dee Ann Thomas, it’s the latter. Five years ago, her uncle faced dire circumstances.

“He was suffering from alcohol abuse, had been financially exploited, and was in need of medical care,” Dee Ann sorrowfully recalled.

Dee Ann didn’t know the first step to a better life for her uncle—a life that, at the time, included living out of a car. In the past, Dee Ann hired others to care for her uncle, but they had all vanished while leaving him without a dime. Now, she was seemingly out of options. Fortunately, Dee Ann took the right first step after all: she came to Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) to look for a healthier, happier, and hope-filled tomorrow.

Upon arriving at LSF, Dee Ann and her uncle were paired with a case management team. They guided Dee Ann and her uncle through the entire process, putting her uncle on a path to recovery and a better life.

“Every day from sunup to sundown: when I needed them they were there, handling everything from clothing and physician selection to settling family disputes,” Dee Ann blissfully remembers.

Today, public nonprofit guardianship programs face a shortage of case management workers and spiking caseloads. Still, LSF strives to provide one-on-one attention and keep clients with their same case management teams, all thanks to our generous donors.

“We have had the same dedicated case management team from the beginning, and I am glad to say that my uncle is doing better than ever,” Dee Ann shared.

Dee Ann’s uncle continues to enjoy a high quality lifestyle with the help of LSF. However, not everyone is as fortunate as her uncle, and there remains work to be done.

In Florida, the number of verified cases of elder abuse and neglect has climbed 74 percent since 2011, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. This number may be lower than reality, as approximately only one in five cases are reported. Even worse: nearly 90 percent of the substantiated cases of elder abuse and neglect happened at home, according to a 2004 survey by the University of Kentucky that was conducted on behalf of the National Center on Elder Abuse.

We, at LSF, will continue to do everything we can to create healthier, happier, and hope-filled tomorrows, thanks to the strong support from our donors. More importantly, we call on us, as a society, to step up and properly care for our older family members, because everyone can make a difference and “Be the One.”

Dee Ann concluded: “Public nonprofit guardianship programs such as LSF are in this for the right reasons, to help those who are unable to help themselves.”

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