Shut the Front Door

May 25th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Think before you speak or just ‘Statazit’

Nick Jacobs

Columnist

As a kid, we were never allowed to say ‘shut up.’ My Italian grandmother would, however, sometimes playfully say statazit (Sta ta zeet) to my grandfather. Yeah, in Italian slang that meant ‘shut up,’ or her English translation, ‘Shut up-a u face.’ But if I ever said that in public, my Presbyterian-Quaker mother would literally end that expression with a swift kick to the pants.

Depending on who or why you say it, ‘Shut up’ can be fighting words, but gosh knows there are several times a week where it is a suppressed response. Statazit, however, is sometimes a fun way to get around being punched.

When you hear a young childless person say something like ‘I believe all kids should always eat whatever they want like gummy worms, chocolate cookies, and soda pop.’ The correct response from anyone anywhere who has any understanding of diet essentials would be, ‘Statazit.’

There was a time when we, as human beings, understood there were areas of experience and expertise about which we had little or no knowledge. That lack of knowledge rendered us as unqualified to express our opinion about the subject.

For example, I don’t know how one goes about preparing a meal that includes beef bourguignon. In fact, I’m not even sure what’s in that recipe except beef and whatever bourguignon is. Consequently, I’m not willing to consider stating my opinion about how to prepare that dish. That, however, is no longer a problem. People now continuously loudly shout out their ideas about things about which they have no knowledge. It’s like some type of arrogant ignorance.

Short of a replacement for the named devices below, I’m not an expert on what it takes to fix the garbage disposal, garage door opener, or for that matter, the front door. Therefore, you will never hear me criticizing or belittling someone who has fixed or replaced any of those things correctly multiple times.

Here’s my point. If we can agree that individual human beings are capable of developing skills from training, repetition, guidance and education that are not skills we have had the opportunity to develop in our lifetimes, we should also be willing to admit they have some deeper understanding of certain subject areas that we don’t have.

That is not a serious idea to comprehend.Do you, for example, know what complex mathematical formulas it takes for an engineer to design and build a skyscraper? No? Then, ‘Statazit.’

Why is it we are being consistently inundated with people on both sides expressing their usually baseless opinions about things they don’t understand, or about things that require knowledge they don’t have? The majority of those topics are not only complex, they are also figuratively and sometimes literally brain-busters.Yes, of course we have the right to free speech, but we shouldn’t expect society to pay for the consequences of our incorrect decisions, decisions that can both harm us and others around us for life. If you’re not sure about something, just ‘Statazit.’

Here’s the bottom line. Go to a hardware store and look at their large selection of filters. We have filters for a good reason. They protect us from dirt, germs, dust, polluted water, and other potentially harmful elements. Unfortunately, they don’t have filters for our words or our thoughts and therein is where the problem lies. Take one second and think before you speak. It’s an amazing way to appear sane, to keep from getting punched, or from having your car keyed. Sure, you can have opinions, but do some serious homework before you choose to die on any particular hill.

Just take a step back once in a while and consider what you’re passionately screaming about. It could be that you should just ‘Statazit.’ Of better still, carefully say it under your breath because someone might understand Italian and give you a Will Smith whack across the mouth.

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Guide to Good Health

May 4th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »
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The Integrative Journey

March 28th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

 

After having returned from the Ornish Coronary Artery Disease Reversal program in Sausalito, California, my life, my mental health, and my view of healthcare had been changed forever. Having previously been selected as the CEO of a traditional hospital that, like all hospitals, was all about sickness, I now realized I had new tools in my toolbox, new arrows in my quiver, and new eggs in my basket. . . you get the idea.

That workshop had taught me that there is no one right way to go through life, to achieve a better quality of life, to deal with health issues, and to survive this journey. I came home armed and informed that sickness could be stopped or reversed, and this concept did not just apply to heart disease. There was significant evidence that Type 2 diabetes, some autoimmune diseases, erectile dysfunction, some prostate cancers and other diseases could be positively impacted by diet, exercise, stress management and group support.

As Americans in one of only two developed countries that permits advertising of pharmaceutical products on our air waves, we had been carefully trained, pruned, mentally shaped and, if you will, brainwashed to believe in the “heal to the pill” method of care. We get sick, go to the doctor or hospital, are prescribed pills, and move on. Or we get a shot, or get the offending body part cut out, and life goes on, or not. Those were the options previously permitted on the proverbial healthcare menu.

It was only a few years later when the chief scientific officer of a major drug company explained his world to me like this, “You don’t understand the pharmaceutical industry. We’re like the movie business. We only want the blockbusters. We want to give you a pill that you’ll have to take from the time you’re five until you die at 75 or 80 that will never make you better. It will just help control the symptoms.”

In 1987, I was working toward another Masters Degree at Carnegie Mellon University, and our epidemiology professor challenged us to find something that would significantly alter the health, lives, or future of at risk people in our hospital’s catchment area. I decided to have our physicians give pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines to our at-risk senior population.

When I told my CEO of that plan, he suggested I present it to the primary care physicians at their monthly meeting. I boldly stood in front of a room full of internal medicine and family practice physicians and made my pitch. You would have thought I asked them to bring in their first born child to be assassinated. I was very nearly strung up. I heard cries like, “How are we supposed to pay or bills? How can we pay off our loans? What am I supposed to do, pull my kids out of college? Treating those patients is how we make our livings.”

Ironically, in 2017, I found myself in front of the leadership of a major health system with 125 cardiologists, and I informed them we were going to enter into the coronary artery disease reversal program. The spokesperson for the group put up his hand and said, “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, do we really want these people to get better?”

Bottom line, we have created a medical industrial complex that is dependent upon sickness, and what I had learned in California was, “Yes, we’re all going to eventually die, but why not give your body a chance and live as healthy as you can for as long as you can?”

Interestingly, the Ornish program was not yet being offered in many places in the country, and when I asked if we could bring it to Western Pennsylvania, there was a long pause on the other end of the line, and Dr. Ornish asked,”What do you want?” He explained that he was working on a licensing project with our local Blue Cross, and I was not going to be able to bring it into my hospital, but that didn’t stop me.

We worked out a deal with some local churches to bring elements of the program that were available to the public just to test the water. Within weeks, we had heart disease participants in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s doing stretching exercises, meditation in whatever form they selected, nonjudgmental group support, and vegetarian covered dishes to church halls and basements.

The amazing thing about this program was that people who were suffering from angina pectoris (chest discomfort) found relief in sometimes less than a few weeks. They were no longer living in fear of dropping dead, and more importantly, they were taking control of their life without having to be afraid of the outcome. It was giving their bodies a chance to do what those bodies are so great a doing, healing.

Of course no good deed goes unpunished, and those non-believers, or those individuals who were potentially most negatively impacted by a health and wellness program began to identify me as a zealot, a fanatic, a vegetarian warrior. I was openly mocked at board and physician meetings when I ate my specially prepared vegetarian meals, and when I started holding meetings on the indoor track we had created with our new wellness center, those who would not benefit from my new found center for wellbeing went on a mission to discredit these ideas.

At one point the powerful head of a local Baptist Church began to take steps to have various conservative sects actually picket our hospital for teaching yoga and trying to take away the souls of our participants. (Their interpretation of yoga.) One of our powerful physicians sent emails on a regular basis to our staff with the intention of discrediting me and my programs for wellness and prevention. It was not unlike Salem, Massachusetts for a few years. Then something incredibly powerful occurred.

I was, for only the second time in my 30+ year career in hospital administration, invited to have dinner at a physician’s home. At that dinner, I was seated beside our local congressman, John P. (Jack) Murtha. The host’s wife did not know what to prepare for my meal so she gave me a large white plate with two egg whites on it. When the Congressman saw it, he asked, “What the heck is wrong with you?” I carefully explained my experiences in California with heart disease reversal, meeting patients who had successfully stopped and or reversed their disease, and how well they were living. He leaned back and said, “We’re spending a billion dollars a year on heart disease in the military. Maybe if you got to Bethesda or Walter Reed and find someone who would work with you, I might be able to help>”

We knew that his 25 plus years in Congress had given him some seniority, but what I didn’t realize was that he was in charge of the subcommittee on appropriations for the department of defense. His committee was responsible for well over $300B dollars of government spending. Well, my board chair was a former Navy airman and he flew me to Bethesda where we met with and were politely turned down by the Navy. A few months later when I was in D.C. for a meeting, I got in a cab and, without any knowledge of military life, command, or structure, I showed up at the front door of Walter Reed Army Military Hospital which became Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda several years later.

When I walked inside, I saw hundreds of soldiers, family members, and medical personnel, but I didn’t have an appointment. Consequently, I walked up to the first white coat I saw, explained who I was, where I was from, and who had suggested I come there. Serendipitously, he was the only physician who had ever received a federal earmark and it was about $75M from Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska to create a center for the study of prostate cancer. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Follow me.”

After meeting with a Walter Reed cardiologist, I went home, wrote a white paper, and several months later we established two Ornish Centers, one at Walter Reed and one at Windber with a grant that was made possible through Congressman Murtha. The reason you need to understand this back story is that without these grants, there would have been no way a hospital our size could have supported a program featuring integrative medicine.

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The OTHERS

February 4th, 2022 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

When I was a little boy, I remember hearing a loud explosion, looking out our kitchen window and seeing a cross burning in front of the Catholic church. My mom, a daughter of the American Revolution whose relatives had been in the U.S. Congress, attorneys, and military officers, and my dad, a first- generation Italian born to immigrant parents, told me not to be afraid. They told me it was just people who liked to celebrate on Friday nights. (By setting off dynamite and burning crosses?)
By the time I was a teenager, this home-grown terrorism toward Catholics had reached a new peak as the first Catholic was elected president, and the United States traditionalists said that the pope would take over running Washington. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and John F. Kennedy became one of the most beloved presi- dents to serve our country.
As an adult, I once asked my mother if she ever knew anyone who was in the Ku Klux Klan, and she very ca- sually said, “Only my dad when he was very young.”
Growing up it was not unusual to hear derogatory
from some of the teachers toward the students. Consequently, I began to treat my non-white students from the Philippines and China, or the African American, or LGBT very special.
I was their guy because, as a musician, I didn’t see differentiators and didn’t care. All I wanted to know was how they played their instrument.
My liberal approach to these minority kids became so obvious to them that one of my gifted African American students came into my office one day and said, “Mr. Jacobs, I need to tell you something.” She went on to say that her friends desig- nated her to be the one to tell me to stop treating the Black kids so differently. She said, “Mr. Jacobs, we just want to be treated the same as everyone else.” That girl was 13 years old, but she taught me a lesson that has lasted for my entire life.
As the president of a re- search institute with brilliant scientists from all over the world, and as a student at one of the most diverse schools in America, Carnegie Mellon, I saw first-hand that intelligence, ability, and more importantly work ethic, drive,
and ambition was not limited to only one race.
The only thing one has to do is watch some of the reality TV shows to see messed-up people, and that’s not race- based. There are gifted, kind, and not-so-kind people of all races.
That statement “of all races” is really where the problem begins. There truly is only one race, the human race, and liking people be- cause of skin pigmentation, hair texture, eye shapes, or any other differentiator should be a nonstarter for any of us, but hatred is definitely taught.
Some of the absolutely most beautiful people in this world are amalgams of all races, colors, and creeds. So, if you’re a hater, look in the mirror and try to determine what it is you hate. It may be looking back at you. Oh, and do 23andMe genetic testing. You may be a part of one of the races you hate.
As Albert Einstein said, “What a sad era when it’s easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”

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Happy New Year

December 31st, 2021 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

 

One of my favorite songs is titled “Come in From the Rain,” and I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately.
Having evolved from a humble home with humble relatives and goals, I must say with complete sincerity that I am grateful for the things I have both experienced and accomplished over the past nearly 525 dog-years. In fact, when I review the history of that journey, I sometimes marvel at that completely unpredictable somewhat off-the-wall list.
If anyone had ever told me I would have ended up running hospitals and a few research institutes after having been a school band and orchestra director, leading an arts center and being a tourism CEO, not even I would have believed it.
It’s been quite a journey, and thankfully, however restricted it has been recently, it’s still going on today, and that is more than I can say for dozens of my friends and relatives. So, there’s definitely that. When it all boils down though, I can honestly say I wish everyone could experience the peace of mind and contentment that comes from a look back at a life fully lived.
I do continue to have dreams and wishes for the future. The most important wish I have for 2022, however, is for you, your loved ones, family and friends. In my case, my two kids and their mates plus our six grandkids, and my wife who all need special attention as we try to dodge round five of this virus-filled, chaotic time in American history.
I’m praying for order. That’s it, plain and simple. If I had to describe my premier New Year’s wish it would just be for order, free from the chaos that enveloped us these past several years. All I’m proposing is that we embrace that order over chaos. Let the plague end. Let the fighting end. Let the misunderstandings and hatred end. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with you.
Oh, wait, those were also lyrics from a song.

New Year from a Boomer

2-O 2-1 is now fading away, and so are the memories some happy, some not.
With the new year approaching and daylight extending, let’s celebrate the good things we’ve got,
Like our family, our friends, like our pets and our homes, and our health and that favorite chair.
If you’re older like me, love the fact that you’re free and you still have some small clumps of hair.
Love the sunshine, cool breezes, the snow-covered mountains, the Sheetz stores wherever you turn.
Love the fish fries in Lent, and a clean dryer vent, and the fact that you’re not in an urn.
The economy’s booming and jobs are rebounding while normal life makes its way back.
We continue to learn the full value of sleep, and what time we should hit the ole sack.
If you’re reading this, it’s ’cause you’ve made it through Christmas, in my case that’s 74–
Right, 74 times I’ve hung out with Santa, and snuck him in through the front door.
Set your goals now for 2-0 2-2 if you can, drop five pounds and drink some red wine.
Eat some dark chocolate, and don’t get the COVID and make sure your blood pressure’s fine.
Turn off cable news, and wear comfortable shoes, and make sure that you go for a walk.
Live your life with ambition and make sure permission is not part of anyone’s talk.
’Cause we’re finite on earth, and we know that’s a rule that even the rich can’t escape,
So we might as well do all the good that we can, while we can, that would be no mistake.

Now stand tall and straight with your shoulders flung back and cry out with the most gleeful strain:
Happy New Year my friends, have a wonderful year and for gosh sake come in from the rain.

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A PERSON COULD DEVELOP A COLD

December 3rd, 2021 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

The song writer, Frank Loesser wrote the now politically incorrect song titled “Adelaide’s Lament” for the Broadway Musical, “Guys and Dolls” which first came out in 1950.  In the song he refers to the stress a woman faced “back in the day” who had not yet found a husband. So much stress in those days that, “A person could develop a cold. La grippe. La post nasal drip. With the wheezes. And the sneezes. And a sinus that’s really a pip!”  It also said, “You can spray her wherever you figure there’s streptococci lurk. You can give her a shot for whatever’s she’s got, but it just won’t work.”

 

So, my seven-year-old Petri dish grandson developed a cold. He passed it on to pretty much everyone he knew including his first grade significant other. That cold ran through his house like California brush fire until it landed safely in his grandfather’s nose. Unlike 1950 however, a cold is no longer a cold. You see, I had two important meetings coming up and I was supposed to teach a three-hour leadership class on Friday, and I surely didn’t want to infect anyone with whatever is going around.

 

I drove to the local Rite Aid and bought a quick COVID test which came up negative, but how dependable are the quick tests? My son had had two negative tests and when the PCR came back, it was positive. Consequently, I masked up for the meetings and kept my distance. It was not until the night before the leadership class that things got tense. You see, after having had a slightly sore throat, and sneezing my way to oblivion, I developed a fever. That’s when I decided to go all out and find out what the heck was going on with my body. 

 

Now three years ago that would have meant, take it easy, blow my nose, drink plenty of fluids, take Tylenol as needed, get plenty of rest, and chew on some Vitamin C tablets. But today we have to be concerned about COVID, Flu, Strep throat, a Strep blood infection, and even Lyme. Having had a strep infection from a 32-year-old root canal earlier this year, the possibility of a reoccurrence and 42 days of IV antibiotics was still on the table.

 

The other thing that is different now is the hospitals are full, and they usually can’t let you in if they’re testing for COVID or you think you might have COVID. So, all of these tests that I described for all of those potential ailments had to take place in a 30 degree parking lot with dainty snowflakes drifting slowly from the sky. Let me be clear, I was in my running, heated car, but the laboratory technologists and nurse had to stand outside my car in their light-weight scrubs while they swabbed my nose, drew my blood five different ways from Sunday, and did all the things they had to do to rule out these numerous potential invasive bugs.

 

During my first year of teaching, I had nearly 150 students in my marching band. I alone would load them into five school buses with only me and the bus drivers as chaperones. My last year of teaching I had 120 students, an RN on every bus, parents on every bus, a brief case filled with the prescription drug permission slips for each student, and parental permission to allow a student to be treated at any emergency room. Oh, and did I tell you?  That was 1979. 

 

Now that 80% of the deer in Iowa have been diagnosed with COVID, and it may be cross-over COVID. That could mean that for the first time, deer would be thinning the human herd rather than humans thinning the deer herd. What a complicated world we live in because “A person, could STILL just develop a cold.” 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering 9-11

September 9th, 2021 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

The 10 minute drive to work was routine. It was one of those amazing September mornings where, no matter your age, your work responsibilities, or your lifestyle, you had to be in awe over the beauty and brilliance of the nearly cloudless, luminescent blue sky. It was warm, sunny, and what could only be described as a perfect morning. In fact, every time I experience those same stunning atmospheric conditions of that Western Pennsylvania morning, a tinge of telltale PTSD chemistry runs through both my connecting neurons and my bloodstream because what unfolded not two hours later  evolved into an emotional catastrophe for our country.

 

The very nature of my position as the CEO of a hospital often revolves around one’s ability to cope with tragedy, heartbreak, and trauma.In fact, having spent the previous five years at the Level 1 Trauma center, communicating and dealing with tragedy had somehow become, at a certain level, just part of the job. That morning, however, was different. It was a virtual body blow to the soul on every level.

 

My 8AM meeting with a former Mossad agent and a U.S. Ranger was a discussion of the possibility of utilizing our sophisticated proteomics and genomic analytical equipment from the DoD funded research institute that was a part of our health system in detecting the presence of anthrax.  It was a topic that I had hoped would never need to be broached in little Windber, Pennsylvania, but world matters, terrorism, and various political miss-steps had gotten us to this point in our international relationships.

 

In the middle of this meeting, my assistant politely interrupted our meeting to suggest I step into the administrative conference room to watch the television that had been tuned into the Today Show. As I stood to walk there, my cell phone rang.

It was my wife who said, “Are you watching this?”

My response was, “What?”

To which she replied, “A plane just hit the twin towers.”

“I’m on my way to the TV right now,” I replied.

 

And as I entered the small conference room, plane number 2 hit the second building. No one was really sure what was happening at that time, but that second plane did not seem like the first hit was a fluke. We watched for a few minutes more and then returned to the meeting where we continued our previous anthrax discussion.

 

Several minutes later, I received a call from the Trauma Center that they had just been notified that a plane with 157 passengers on board had reported a bomb on board and were headed toward the Johnstown airport. The caller suggested that I put our hospital on full trauma alert. My mind immediately sorted through those numbers and realized that at least 100 of those potential patients could not be cared for immediately in the three local hospitals due to staffing and capacity issues. I called an immediate full-alert which meant getting extra gurneys, calling in off-duty emergency room physicians, and preparing for a full disaster response.

 

A few minutes later when people described my complexion as a dull shade of gray, I received another call, and that call was more stark. Cancel the trauma alert, the plane has crashed near Shanksville, your paramedics will be needed onsite. By then, the word of the attack on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and what some referred to as Fort Murtha because there were so many DoD funded plants operating in this area had painted a picture of warfare, and we were told there were approximately 1200 unaccounted for airplanes in the sky of the United States and we should be on the lookout for stolen ambulances and other emergency vehicles potentially containing terrorists.

 

Our paramedics were deployed and spent the day at the site of the crash. When they returned, they told me the following, “We have bad news and worse news. Everyone on that plane was killed, and no one there took precautions in the event there was anthrax or any other potentially lethal substance on board that flight. We could all be dead by the end of this week.”

 

Ironically, by the end of the week, the hospital was filled with sneezing, coughing employees who had either psychologically manifested an anthrax infection or had not taken proper precautions against a common cold.  And that was the beginning.

 

A few weeks later I received the call from then County Coroner, Wallace Miller, asking about out capacity to house the remains of the victims found at the site in our minus 180C freezers at the research institute. Obviously, we were ready and willing to accommodate his request, but those remains were sent to the Bethesda area where all other victims remains were being held and genetically analyzed.

 

Our involvement with those first responders continued with the help of our in-house psychologist who was made available to them over the next several months. Since then, life has not been nor will it ever be the same for the United States of America. Our perceived impermeable status would forever be history.

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An Answer to the Question, “How are you doing?”

August 25th, 2021 by Nick Jacobs 9 comments »

Hey Rox,

I’m doing okay now, thanks.
I’m just bored with COVID restrictions brought on this time by the recalcitrant warriors of the uninformed.  With 20+ years of experience working with RNA specialists, I’m totally dispirited that social media and politics have homogenized to form some type of perverse love-match to place us in this Ground Hog Day-type circular firing squad again created by massive conspiracy theories about mRNA and tracking devices.
I anxiously watched my six-year-old grandson get on the bus to head to an “It’s up to you if you want your kid to wear a mask” school district, and I pray he doesn’t become a pediatric statistic in one of the hospitals that is totally understaffed, overworked, and psychologically drained.
Then I got a call from my kid that someone else in the office who chose to avoid the “satanic vaccine” is infected with COVID and that may mean going into quarantine.
It’s like re-living the political and racial turmoil of 1968 capped with the fear of the Black Plague of 1346, topped by the Afghan situation with the Taliban’s religious beliefs of the 7th Century.
We may have smart phones containing access to all of the knowledge ever accumulated in human history but our tribal instincts and irrational thinking are reminiscent of an evening of chair throwing at a WWE fight combined with a fiery day at NASCAR, all wrapped up in the garbage left behind at a Pittsburgh Heinz Field, Kenny Chesney concert.
I love the James Baldwin quote, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
Wow, I guess that was a long answer to a short question.  No need to reply. Sometimes it’s good to be older!
Take care,
Nick

 

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As the Pandemic Wanes, Our Youth Cry Out for Help

July 28th, 2021 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Western PA Guide to Good Health Summer Edition
Suicide, Social Media Addiction, Mental Health Issues Result of Covid Isolation and Stress
By Nick Jacobs
As we as a society examine the negative impact of the past 15-plus months, one group that needs specific atten- tion is our young people.
A recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review helped sound the alarm as hospitals are inundated with kids attempting suicide. As stated by Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Aurora, Colorado, her pediatric emergency and inpatient units are being “overrun with kids attempting sui- cide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”
If that’s not a societal and cultural statement, nothing ever will be. The article went on to explain there has been an increase of 90 percent in the demand for behavioral health treatment.
The combination of isolation and stress from the COVID pandemic has contributed to this phenomenon and turned what would have been low- level anxiety and depression into suicide attempts. The chief medical offi- cer of this Aurora-based Children’s Hospital went on to explain that the top reason for emergency room visits over the past several weeks has been sui- cide attempts. He went on to explain, “The kids have run out of resilience – their tanks are empty.”
One of my long-time physician friends, Dr. Scott Shannon, a pediatric psychiatrist from Colorado, says, “We need to take action. Physical inac- tivity, deteriorating diet, lack of adequate sleep, and fraying of family rela- tionships are similar threats pounding our kids. This has been a long train coming.
“We tend to ignore the issues of children and women in our culture and this is an example of that and what denial and avoidance brings when a syn- ergistic crisis arrives to stress an unprepared, poorly funded and non-func-
tional system.”
Nor is this challenge limited to Colorado.
Not long after my contact with Dr. Shannon, another close friend and
pediatrician, Dr. Matt Masiello, called me from Massachusetts where he said the challenges are similarly alarming. He indicated that young patients are sometimes kept in holding situations for days at a time before they can find psychiatric beds.
I then spoke with a local administrator from Southwestern PA and was informed they are seeing a situation that is also approaching the emergency level with the primary challenge of finding appropriate facilities and pro- fessionals to help these kids.
We have all become critically aware of the challenges this pandemic has created when it comes to the lack of socialization, required home school- ing, and the loss of significant activities such as dances, sporting events, and recognition and celebratory ceremonies. Besides that, if you’re a teenager challenged by living with parents who are insensitive, abusive, or just stressed from attempting to deal with the pressures of working all day from home, the level of isolation experienced can be overwhelming.
Beyond these first, most obvious causes feeding this wildfire of psychi- atric challenges among our young people, can we point a finger at anything else? Maybe we should look at the addictive nature of social media as another potential contributor.
To quote a friend and Ph.D. Psychologist Gregory Rys, “Media is now deliberately designed to be addictive. Especially since we have entered the age of instant feedback via phone, table, PC, internet, and cable TV.
“Marketers are deliberately using principles of neuroeconomics and learning theory to economic decision making and consumerism at a macro and micro level. Social media platforms know how to effectively utilize these principles for advertising.
“Once you have someone addicted to a device and platform you can shape their emotional state and influence their behavior. There is a newly emerging disorder that psychologists are treating. It is called Social Media Addiction, and just like other addictions, you can use the addiction to weaponize its users. And it occurs on a daily basis: to suppress facts or to invent them. And the addicts will believe what they are told as long as the drug keeps being delivered.
“The ironic thing is, most of us don’t believe these principles apply to us, just other more gullible people. That is exactly where the architects of social media drugs want us.”
Of course, you don’t have to be a physician, a scientist, or a behavioral health professional to realize we are in a time of significant turmoil where the primary societal infrastructure has been significantly disrupted, and it is time for serious change. Otherwise, we risk losing a whole generation to the residue impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If that happens, we effectively can say goodbye to any chance we have of ever returning to “normal” – whatever that is.
> Nick Jacobs is a partner with SMR, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He was a founding member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. A former hospital CEO and founder of two
genetic research institutes, Jacobs maintains a website, Healinghospitals.co

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July 5th, 2021 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Crying Out for Help

By Nick Jacobs

Let me begin with a caveat. In this article there will be a proposed “beginning of a solution” that you’re going to read about but it is not in place yet. This article is a solicitation to help our elected officials know how much and why we need their support to make this happen.  We need everyone to help make it a reality.

Many of us have been touched by the challenges presented from the COVID-19 epidemic, but it has wreaked special havoc on those with behavioral health challenges. Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Aurora, Colorado, said in a recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review that her pediatric emergency and inpatient units are being “overrun with kids attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”There has been an increase of 90 percent in demand for behavioral health treatment.

Because of stress, isolation, and family challenges what might have been low-level anxiety and depression has become suicide attempts. When a poor diet, inactivity, lack of sleep, and challenging family relationships enter the picture, life can become too much to handle.

There are no easy fixes for this, but we are backing an opportunity to at least begin to address the issues before they become more serious.

In the United States, we depend on the police to respond to mental health emergencies. This requires an enormous amount of resources and can often result in a negative outcome for the victim and for the police.  For example, in 2017, over 20% of police staff time was consumed responding to individuals with mental illness. The most disconcerting statistic is that people with mental illness that has not been treated are over 15 times more likely to be killed during police encounters with other citizens.

In 2020, Congress passed legislation that would create an easily remembered phone number that can be used for a mental health emergency, a three-digit mental health crisis line, 988 which is an easily remembered alternative number to 911. The problem is one that we are all too familiar with, funding.  Every State needs to pass the necessary legislation to help ensure that a fully-funded crisis response system supporting 988 will be in place and operable.

This system would include call centers available 24/7, mobile response teams, and crisis stabilization services that connect patients to care.

The actual system will become available nationwide by July 2022, but this system will not be functional in Pennsylvania without your help. Advocates like you are needed to call or write your representatives to encourage them to enact this supportive legislation. It can’t and won’t happen without you.

Highlands Hospital is a well-recognized center for behavioral health treatment, but this effort to put a functional State-wide system in place takes more than the encouragement of one healthcare organization.  It takes you, the public, to let your elected representatives know how important connectivity to 988 could be for you and your family, your friends, and your friends friends.

This is about saving lives, preventing broken hearts, and helping not only our caregivers but also our police. Please reach out to your elected official and ask them to support 988.

Nick Jacobs is a partner with Senior Management Resources, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He is a co-founder of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium. He was a former hospital CEO, founder of two genetic research institutes, and a Trustee at Southern California University of Health Sciences. 

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