Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
MHICM Celebrates 10 Years of Service to Veterans
The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System (EOVAHCS) Mental Health Intensive Case Management (MHICM) Program celebrated its 10th Anniversary on Oct. 5 by holding a luncheon for Veterans at LaFortune Park in Tulsa.
MHICM is an integrated multidisciplinary home and community based team dedicated to recovery efforts. The program offers a change in treatment approach allowing for more comprehensive, proactive, evidenced-based, culturally competent, long-term services that are better suited to the Veteran and complexity that recovery requires.
MHICM initially began in October 2007 with a team in Tulsa and now includes additional teams in Muskogee and Vinita.
“We were able to expand our intensive case management services to our rural Veterans,” said Jacqueline Chambliss, MHICM Social Worker. “We serve Veterans with chronic mental illness and our goal is to keep them out of the hospital and to be as independent and healthy as possible.”
MHICM provides treatment for approximately 100 Veterans. The team includes a Psychiatrist, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Registered Nurses, Peer Support Specialist and Support Staff who partner with Veterans to identify needs and coordinate care.
Billy Simmons, RN with the MHICM Program, visits Veterans in their place of residence once a week to provide care and assist with medication.
“A lot of the Veterans have a difficult time managing their medications,” said Simmons. “So we will fill their pill organizer. Some of them, we give injections every two to four weeks, which is easier than them remembering to take a medication daily.”
Simmons said weekly home visits are vital to helping MHICM identify potential issues.
“Frequent contact lets us know if the Veterans are having some deterioration,” he said. “We can get them in to see the doctor for maybe a medication change or counseling before they end up in the hospital.”
MHICM staff also provide transportation for the Veterans for not only their appointments, but for daily activities.
“A lot of the Veterans don’t have transportation, which can be related to their mental illness,” said Simmons. “We provide transportation for their appointments, or even if a Veteran needs to get groceries or go to the bank, we will help them.”
“It has saved my life because I wouldn’t be here today”
Vietnam Veteran Jerry Dildine was one of the first Veterans to join the MHICM program in 2007 and credits the program with saving his life.
“I love them,” he said. “I think they started in October and I joined them in November 10 years ago. They’re a good bunch of people. They really care about you.”
Dildine was born in Enid, Okla., but grew up on his family’s cattle ranch in Kellyville. With no interest in college, he knew he was likely to get drafted to serve in Vietnam. So he decided to enlist in the Army, so he could pick his military job.
“At the time, I thought ‘well I’ll go to Engineers to where I won’t have to go into too much fighting.”
Dildine was sent to Vietnam in 1968, 60 miles north of Saigon. As a Combat Engineer, he operated a Caterpillar D7 Bulldozer and was tasked with clearing the jungle.
“We had 15 dozers and maybe 25 engineers in the group,” said Dildine. “We had four tanks for security and if we were in a real ‘hairy’ place, they would send one dozer into the jungle first and run a tank behind it. If it wasn’t too bad, they would run two dozers in and run a tank behind it. We went in before the soldiers did.”
During his year in Vietnam, Dildine was shot twice and his unit was under constant fire while operating the bulldozers.
“We were just sitting out there in the open,” said Dildine, who received two purple hearts. “My dad taught me to weld before I went. Anytime I found a piece of scrap metal, I would weld it on that dozer for armor.”
On one occasion, Dildine said the engineers were engaged in a battle all night.
“We were working in what they called the Iron Triangle, a real rough place,” he said. “We were in one firefight one night and I used up over one thousand rounds. We got hit really bad that day.”
When not under fire, the unit constantly hit landmines.
“Practically every day, somebody hit one,” said Dildine. “There’s no telling how many landmines I actually hit with that dozer.”
The horrors of war have never left Dildine.
“I can’t tell you how many guys we loaded on choppers with their arms and legs blown off,” he said. “We were lucky we only had one in our outfit who was killed.”
For years, Dildine has used alcohol to cope and even considered taking his life. In 2007, his life finally turned around when he began receiving treatment through the MHICM program.
“It has saved my life because I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “I use to drink a whole lot. I have quit drinking. I quit smoking. They saved my life because I tried to kill myself and they talked me out of it.”
When he first started receiving treatment in the program, MHICM staff visited his home twice a week and he had an appointment with a psychiatrist once a week. Due to his improvement, staff visit his home once a week and he now meets with a psychiatrist once every three months.
“They put me on medication and I don’t have nightmares now and I can sleep,” said Dildine. “I take medicine for PTSD, and it keeps it, what you’d want to call it, under control. Before I joined them, I didn’t like myself because I was mean. I enjoy being around people now.”